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Plant-Based 101

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What’s the Difference Between Plant-Based, Vegan, and Vegetarian Diets?


Considering going “plant-based” but not sure if that means vegan, vegetarian, or something entirely different? Don’t fret! We’ll get to the bottom of what each diet style encompasses, as well as make sure you’re confident in understanding what you can eat on each one. Rest assured, you will no longer stare at the dairy case wondering if that plant-based label on the yogurt is vegan or not.

What Does a Plant-Based Eating Pattern Mean?

Whatever you want it to mean! Some individuals define plant-based eating to include only foods that come from plants, whereas others focus on eating a variety-filled diet abundant in plants that also allows for some animal proteins (like seafood, meat or dairy) on occasion. Unlike a vegan or vegetarian eating pattern, a plant-based diet has no standard definition just yet. Even research regarding plant-based diets has varying descriptions that allow individual scientists to define the eating pattern according to the needs of their study.

According to The Plant-Powered Dietitian, Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RD, “there is movement to define a plant-based food as 100% plant-based per the Plant Based Foods Association (PFBA), though no current standard definition exists for this way of eating. A recent survey by the Vegetarian Resource Group (VGR) found that people define plant-based in many ways: chefs usually mean vegan, yet researchers and health care professionals often mean a mostly plant-based diet.”

Palmer went on to note that she believes a plant-based diet is a diet that focuses primarily on eating foods that come from plants. She noted that there is a wide spectrum of eating patterns that encompass this, with vegan the most plant-based through vegetarian, pescatarian, and semi-vegetarian or flexitarian.

Regardless of how the individual defines the plant-based diet amongst their own eating pattern, all plant-based diets have one thing in common: eating more plants, like fruits and vegetables. And, frankly speaking, this is never a bad thing!

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