When someone is vegan, does that mean they are plant-based or if they eat a plant-based diet is that the same as vegan? The answer is no, even though most people think they are one and the same diet.

When asked if I am vegan, I answer that I mostly eat plants. What do I mean by that and why don’t I just answer with a simple yes? The truth is I am not 100% vegan, but I do eat mostly whole plant-based foods. Non-vegan foods that I will eat are honey and ghee. Even though I am not 100% vegan, I do eat whole real plant-based foods the majority of the time, however, not all vegans eat a whole-food plant-based diet. So what is the difference? Read on……..

VEGAN DIET

A vegan diet excludes animal based foods. Animal-based foods include anything that can see, swim, run, walk. These foods include dairy products (which is generally cow’s milk) and include cheese, yogurt, butter, and milk, eggs, animal meats such as chicken, pork, and beef, along with seafood.

A vegan diet can include plants such as vegetables, fruits, beans, and grains, plus anything made from plant-based foods and other additives and chemicals. For example, potato chips, Coke or Pepsi, Oreos, soy crumbles, and The Impossible Burger are vegan products and can be consumed when following a vegan diet. These foods are more processed and not a part of a whole food plant-based diet.

With the plant-based movement, there has been an explosion of new vegan junk food products and greater availability in the grocery stores. Many people are under the assumption that because the foods are “vegan” they are healthy which is not true.

My daughter for a couple of her teen years was on a vegetarian diet. A vegetarian diet does not include meats such as chicken and beef, however, it does include eggs and dairy products and therefore is close to being vegan. This is what her typical diet consisted of:

  • Breakfast: eggs and white toast
  • Lunch: potato chips and iced tea
  • Snack: Oreos
  • Dinner: grilled cheese
  • Snack: ice cream

No whole food plant-based in that diet, so not the healthiest, even though vegetarian sounds “healthy”. I used to joke with her and ask “where are the vegetables?” She did not think my joke as funny as I did.

WHOLE FOODS PLANT-BASED DIET

A whole food plant-based diet (WFPB) consists of whole foods, meaning not processed which include the five whole food plant-based groups:

  • Whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, barley, amaranth, oats
  • Legumes: black beans, lentils, edamame, tofu, chickpeas, pinto beans
  • Vegetables: leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, green beans, eggplant, cucumber
  • Fruit: berries, apples, bananas, peaches, plums, cherries
  • Nuts/seeds: raw almonds, walnuts, sesame and sunflower seeds, natural nut butter
Green vegetables
Fresh green vegetables

A WFPB diet also keeps oils to a minimum, such as olive, oil, coconut oil, canola, etc. because these are processed oils.

A WFBP diet does not have to be 100% whole foods and this comes down to individual choices and preferences. Many people that eat mostly plants may include whole-grain crackers, whole grain pasta, and slices of bread, which are processed food, or they may eat Oreos and soy crumbles, have a soda sometimes. Check out my blog on evaluating the ingredients on a food label for minimally processed foods.

Preferably, the majority of foods during the day are whole real foods. A good rule of thumb is 70 -80% or 7-8 out of 10 food choices during the day are whole foods.

SAMPLE WHOLE-FOOD PLANT-BASED DIET

  • Breakfast: homemade oatmeal with diced apples, cinnamon
  • Lunch: tofu, tomato, basil sandwich on whole-grain bread, lentil soup
  • Snack: raw almonds and sunflower seeds
  • Dinner: Buddha bowl with brown rice, tofu, carrots, cucumber, chickpeas
  • Snack: strawberries
Buddha Bowl

DROP THE DIET LABEL

I recommend dropping the diet label such as “vegan” or ” WFPB” which can be restrictive and instead focus on adding in whole, real foods, to your day versus “I can’t eat Oreos” type of thinking.

For example, if you are eating a salad with spinach, tomatoes, and carrots, add some chickpeas and sunflower seeds, which would add a legume and nut/seed or swap in homemade oatmeal for the Quaker instant flavored oatmeal which would go from processed oatmeal to unprocessed.

Eventually, the processed foods may dwindle down but in the meantime keep it fun and positive with adding in whole real foods.

THE BOTTOM LINE

A vegan diet may consist of plants, no animal products, and foods that are highly processed. In comparison to the whole food plant-based diet, the majority of the foods are real, unprocessed, and may include a few processed foods with minimal ingredients.

Questions or comments about this article? Let me know. I would also love to hear your ideas on adding whole plant-based foods to your day.

Kim Raring

I am passionate about promoting a conscious lifestyle incorporating whole plant-based foods, sustainable food-related choices, and mindful eating practices. Want to learn about simple strategies to create a feel-good lifestyle? Check out all of the conscious nibbling tips.

2 Responses

  1. Regina says:

    Great read Kim! I don’t think most people realize vegan does not necessarily equal healthy!

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