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You Don’t Have to Go Vegan to Be On a Plant Based Diet – Here’s Why

The purpose of this article is to get one thing straight: a plant based diet is not the same thing as being vegan. I’m so glad we cleared that up. Let’s talk about the differences between a plant based diet and veganism.

While both a plant based diet and veganism center around eating plants instead of animal products (i.e. meat, dairy, fish, etc.), they are absolutely not the same thing. For starters, a plant based diet is, well, a diet. Veganism is a lifestyle.

What’s a Plant Based Diet?

A plant based diet, as well as the offshoot “whole foods plant based diet,” is a diet choice. Proponents of this diet, including Dr. Esselstyn, claim it can reverse many diseases that affect Americans today. These include heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and, in some cases, cancer.
Even though humans have been eating plants in various amounts for forever, the plant based diet has been getting a whole lot of buzz lately. This could be, at least partly, because of the release of the documentary Forks Over Knives in 2011. This documentary follows the lives of several people trying to get well, and instead of medication they are prescribed this diet.

The Plant Based Diet: Do’s and Don’ts

If you decide to adopt a plant based diet, you’ll be swapping processed foods for plants. The idea is that these foods, in their most natural form, can really heal your body by giving you all the nutrients your body needs in a way it can easily digest. It also vastly reduces the amount of cholesterol and unhealthy fats you consume on a daily basis.
Here are some food staples of the plant based diet:

  • Greens (lettuce, kale, spinach, you name it!)
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Whole Grains

Here are foods typically avoided with a plant based diet:

  • Oils
  • Sugars
  • Additives (like dyes and preservatives)



What’s a Vegan Lifestyle?

While the plant based diet is a defined way of eating, veganism is a lifestyle. Sure, it includes a diet of plant based foods, but it goes beyond what’s on your plate. The vegan lifestyle avoids animal products at all costs.
A vegan aims to end animal suffering on all fronts – from what they eat to the daily products they consume. Vegans avoid leather, silk, furs, wool, and other animal-made products in every aspect of their lives. Many vegans even aim to replace phrases like “to kill two birds with one stone” to “to feed two birds with one seed.”
Often, people choose a vegan lifestyle because it’s not only great for your body, it’s great for the environment. Replacing animal products with plant based ones vastly reduces your carbon footprint and opens you up to a whole new world of sustainable living.

The Vegan Lifestyle: Do’s and Don’ts

Where the vegan lifestyle can be more strict beyond your plate, I think it’s definitely more lenient on your plate. For example: a vegan could eat french fries (as long as they are prepared in a dedicated fryer), while someone on a plant based diet could not because of the oil.
Here are some vegan lifestyle do’s:

  • Be compassionate, to humans and animals alike
  • Load up on nutrient-packed veggies, and get creative with them!
  • Be open to learning new things, and adjusting the way you think

Here are some vegan lifestyle don’ts:

  • Contribute to the suffering of animals by consuming their flesh or by-products (this includes leather, fur, beeswax, honey, silk, wool, gelatin, and palm oil, among others)
  • Place one being’s life over another’s – put another way: if you have to degrade or devalue someone in the name of animals, that’s not cool
  • Judge other people for where they are in their life journey . . . we all start somewhere


The Plant Based Diet vs. Veganism: The Takeaway

Really it boils down to this: while all vegans are plant based, not everyone on a plant based diet is vegan. Veganism is a lifestyle that goes way beyond what you choose to eat or not eat – it reaches into every nook and cranny of your life.
If you don’t already identify with one of these, I sincerely encourage you to look more into both and maybe even try them out! Either way, eating more veggies can only help your body and get you to all of your health and wellness goals . . . well, at least most of them!

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Morgan Casavant

Morgan is a graphic designer and yoga instructor committed to inspiring compassion, balance, and centeredness - on and off the mat. She loves minimalism, the zero waste movement, and all the things working to protect the environment.

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