Plant Based vs Vegan

These two terms are often used interchangeably but they are subtly different, so here’s the bottom line on the difference between being plant based vs vegan.

Let’s start with plant based as I think it is the most misunderstood of the two terms. If you google “plant based” you can get a lot of conflicting results. For example:

A plant-based diet is a diet consisting mostly or entirely of plant-based foods. Plant-based diets encompass a wide range of dietary patterns that contain low amounts of animal products and high amounts of plant products such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.


A plant-based diet consists of all minimally processed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, herbs, and spices and excludes all animal products, including red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products.


The first definition places a much higher priority and emphasis on plant based foods while still allowing low amounts of animal products. This is where the terms “mostly plant based” or “plant dominant” eating comes from.

The second definition is basically a vegan diet. The exclusion of all animal based food products from your diet – don’t eat anything that has ever had a face or a mother.

In my opinion, the first definition sums it up pretty well as the diet here is built upon a basis of plant derived foods but allows low amounts of animals products, which is an easier path to follow long term than the complete removal of everything animal based.

When you look at vegan and veganism, we can see definitions like this:

Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. An individual who follows the diet or philosophy is known as a vegan.


The vegan approach runs deeper than just the food and extends into lifestyle and consumer choices that reject the use of all and every animal for human use. There is often an advocacy element to this life choice also, which frequently bubbles up into the news headlines when advocacy groups take to the streets to push their agenda down people’s throats, like here.

Being vegan means being 100% plant based while being plant based means a bit more flexibility in your food choices, maybe 80% plant based and 20% animal based. Food and eating is such a foundational parts of being a human and to be 100% anything in life can be really hard.

Motivation is a significant differentiator here – vegans are often motivated by ethics while plant based are motivated by personal health and well being. This “why” is really important. In my experience, being a vegan primarily for health reasons and not ethics makes it harder to sustain. Choosing vegan primarily from a ethical point of view supports a deep seated belief around animal cruelty which makes choosing vegan food much easier, more of the time. None of us do what is best for our health all of the time so plant based choices will be compromised more often than a vegan motivated by ethics.

Whether you choose one or the other, the common ground here is putting a higher emphasis and priority on plant based foods, which is a win win for both you and the planet.

Be well,


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