The term “plant-based” is a relatively new term, and one that is consistently misused. It sounds like plant-based means you only eat a diet made of plants (such as a vegan diet), but that’s not actually what it means. While many people on a plant-based diet don’t eat any products from animals, it is not another way to say you are on a vegan diet.

Plant-Based Diet

Let’s start with a basic definition of the plant-based diet. This type of diet means the majority of your diet is made from plant-based food, usually whole and clean foods. You will create meals around plants, instead of meat as the main source of protein. This might mean lots of whole grains like rice and oats, potatoes, vegetables and fruits, healthy fats, and dairy-free alternatives like nut milk and tofu.

However, you can also add in some animal products, like small amounts of fish, chicken, or beef. You probably won’t have them at every meal, or even every day in many cases. It is more similar to a flexitarian lifestyle, though often with more whole, plant-based foods.

Vegan Diet

With a vegan diet, you are committed to consuming OR consuming no products that might come from animals. This means absolutely nothing is consumed that came from a living thing, starting with any type of meat, poultry, seafood, or milk. It also includes some derivatives of insects, like honey and beeswax. Many people who eat a vegan diet also follow a vegan lifestyle, which means you don’t use products that came from an animal, like fur coats, wool clothing, or handbags and shoes made of leather.

It is possible to be vegan but not plant-based if you eat a lot of processed and packaged foods not made from plants. For example, did you know Oreo cookies are vegan? But they definitely don’t come from plants.

Choosing the Right Diet for You

The main difference between these diets is in how often you consume animal products, between rarely or never. This is a big lifestyle choice based on many factors, including your health, personal preferences, moral obligations, and your thoughts on the meat and seafood industries.

Consider why you are making this choice – if you care about the animals and that is your main objective, a vegan diet is the best choice. However, if it is more about health, a plant-based diet might end up being the better option since it also removes most processed foods from your diet.