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  • Writer's pictureKat

Vegan vs. Plant-Based - What's the Difference?

If you're new to the world of veganism, there can be a lot of confusion between "plant-based" and "vegan" and I'm here to set the record straight.

Food tends to be a touchy and sensitive topic. Anyone who has gone vegan knows this. You were likely met with opposition or judgement. Vegans are usually the butt of jokes and memes. For some, it's all in good fun. But others are just downright rude about it. Once I engage with these people it's clear they simply just lack knowledge on the subject and believe what generations of people were taught (or dare I say, manipulated by the meat and dairy industry) to believe - you need milk and meat to grow big and strong. This has been ingrained in humans for centuries, so it's no wonder some people get so defensive.

Nutrition studies have been challenging that belief for years, and for good reason. The fact is we do not need meat and dairy to be healthy and strong. What we need is a balance of proper nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. All of this can be found in plants. And food companies are FINALLY starting to catch on.

The difference between "vegan" and "plant based" might seem arbitrary to those. These days when you are in the grocery store you may start seeing more "plant-based" labels on food. If you're trying to follow a vegan lifestyle, you may grab these items thinking they are made of plants, so obviously that means it's vegan right? Not exactly.

What is plant-based?

This term generally applies to diet only. Someone who is plant-based consumes a diet made mostly from plants (duh!) but it's important to understand that the term is fairly fluid and can include:

  • Vegans - eliminates all animal products from diet and lifestyle

  • Vegetarians - eliminates 1 or more animal products from the diet (eggs, dairy, fish, meat)

  • Whole Foods Plant-Based (WFPB) - limits or eliminates highly processed foods, animal products, and oils, instead focusing on whole, unrefined vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, etc.

A plant-based diet can still include small amounts of meat, eggs, or dairy. This is why as a vegan it is very important to check the ingredients of products marketed as plant-based.

Reasons for going plant-based are generally centered around health, but can also include the environment and sustainability, religion, and more. The health benefits of a whole foods plant-based diet are vast, as studies show it can be effective in disease prevention, as well as reversing disease. You also get to reduce your carbon footprint in many ways.

whole crisp organic vegetables
"Plant-based" focuses on health and wellness through diet.

What is vegan?

Vegan applies not only to food, but spills over into ethical and environmentally-conscious consumerism as well. It means:

  • No meat, eggs, dairy, seafood (and no exceptions)

  • No foods manufactured or processed using animal by-products in any way.

  • No clothes or accessories made from animals, like leather, suede and fur.

  • No products that have been tested on animals.

Reasons for going vegan may include animal welfare, environment and sustainability, health, religion, and more. Vegans tend to focus on compassion for all living beings.

cow and piglet snuggling
Veganism is rooted in compassion.


People have all sorts of different reasons for wanting to cut animal products out of their life. And there is no denying that more and more people are doing so. No matter your reasoning or the diet you follow, every little bit helps! Companies are seeing the demand and expanding their offerings. And with that it becomes our responsibility to make sure we are making the right choices and purchases that fit within our goals and morals.

I made this chart to make it easier to see the differences between the two terms and I hope this has helped clear up any confusion. Have more questions, comments, or critiques? Let me know! I love to see differing viewpoints and can chat about this stuff all day.



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