Going vegan: Vegan vs. Plant-based - what's the difference?

Posted by Steph Elswood on

While usually we want to avoid labelling people, giving our diet a label can offer a convenient shorthand to help people know what we will and won't eat. Generally when people say they’re “vegetarian” or “vegan” it’s widely understood - but what does “plant-based” mean and how is it different?

Veganism is an ethical lifestyle choice to eliminate all animal products. This includes removing makeup or toiletries tested on animals or clothing products made from wool, fur or leather.

Similarly, plant-based eaters don’t eat animal products - but their aim is to eat mostly whole foods from plants, like fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds.

Where Oreos and Quorn nuggets are vegan (and tasty!), they’re not necessarily made from plants!

So what’s in a name? Some people prefer to call themselves “plant-based” as it gives a little bit of leeway when just starting out. Maybe you’re still wearing the leather shoes you’ve had for years, using up your old make up or perhaps on holidays abroad with the language barrier you can’t be sure what you’re eating doesn’t contain a bit of butter. Being plant-based means you’re trying your best to eat more plants!

However you refer to your diet (and by diet we mean the way you eat) - or if you refuse to label it at all - here are some interesting terms to describe different diets:

Flexitarians eat mostly plants, but with a bit of flexibility when it comes to meat. They may be vegetarian most of the time but eat meat when out for dinner with friends.

Freegans eat what’s free - usually living off what would otherwise go to waste by supermarkets. This is in reaction to our consumerist society.

Eating meat, fish, dairy, eggs and plant-based products.

A cross between Paleo and vegan, the pegan diet focuses on lots of plants and healthy fats with fish and seafood in “condiment” quantities and limited amounts of beans and grains.

Eating a vegetarian diet plus fish/seafood

Eating a vegetarian diet plus poultry (chicken, turkey etc)

A person who doesn’t eat meat, but will eat animal by-products like milk and eggs. Some vegetarians do not buy leather, products with gelatin in it, or cheese with rennet, since these products are derived from the body of a dead animal.

A vegan diet plus (high welfare) eggs. The eggs give a source of protein and are good for satiety (keeping you full). Some people who keep chickens (especially rescue chickens) and treat them well are happy to eat eggs as they might otherwise go to waste.

Of course, you don't have to feel restricted by a label - it's absolutely fine to flex between different ways of eating! Sasstainable is built on the belief that small eco-conscious acts can lead to massive positive changes that span the globe. Every time you choose plants over animal products it's making a positive change to the environment - and you can feel good about that! All conscious change is beneficial to our planet.

Photo by joah brown on Unsplash

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