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Plant-Based vs. Vegan: What's the Difference?

plant-based vs vegan

2020 is quickly coming to an end. Have you made a resolution to change your diet or lifestyle to be more plant-based or vegan? Maybe you think these are the same – it’s not your fault, many people use these terms interchangeably. Let’s break down the difference between the two.

The term “vegan” has been around since the 1940s, while “plant-based” is a term that was introduced much later, in the 1980s (read more of that history here)

‘Veganism’ Defined

Being a vegan, while the lifestyle is often reduced to simply a diet, is actually a lifestyle. If you are a vegan, it typically means you live a life that totally avoids using, consuming, or exploiting animals.

In terms of diet, vegans do not consume any animal parts or byproducts. In addition, vegans also often are careful not to purchase or use other items that are made from or tested on animals – this can include clothing, personal care items (like soaps, shampoos, and makeup), shoes, accessories, household items, and even medications or immunizations.

If you are a vegan, you task yourself with the responsibility of finding ethical and animal-free products to use, eat, drink, and wear – usually less out of a need to lose weight or eat healthy, and more because you feel it aligns with your own moral code and value set.

‘Plant-Based’ Defined

“Plant-based” is usually used to define a specific diet, not a lifestyle per se. You will often see “whole foods, plant-based” used as well. These terms are used to describe a diet that is either completely or mostly made up of plant products.

Plant-Based vs. Vegan

You’d think, since a plant-based diet is made up of plants, that it would be easy to say all vegans eat a plant-based diet, right?

Not quite! When we talked about the “whole foods, plant-based” diets, there is some area here where certain vegan foods do not meet the criteria for a plant-based diet.

For example, certain oils and processed grains and other foods are excluded from the plant-based regimen. Many varieties of vegan bacon, mac and cheese, hot dogs, and ice cream are not considered an accepted part of a plant-based diet.

On the other hand, whey protein is ok to eat when on a plant-based diet, but it is derived from milk and therefore not vegan. And while many plant-based diets are comprised entirely of plant products, the diet does allow you to still eat animal products and byproducts (like honey), you just eat a lot less than you would on a non-plant-based healthy diet.

An easy way to remember the difference is that a vegan diet is more plant-exclusive than plant-based, and a vegan lifestyle is more than just making sure there are no animal-based items on your plate – you are typically choosing to exclude animal products from all facets of your life wherever possible.

While plant-based and vegan diets can look very similar, there are many ways these two lifestyle choices differ. Here’s a handy infographic, in case you need a quick reference guide.

Rep Your Vegan Lifestyle with GVR

Up your lifestyle game with some cool vegan shirts and stickers! A few favorites of ours include the We Can Do It, Go Vegan sticker and Vegan Roots shirt (to satisfy your inner movie nerd!).
Go Vegan Revolution
Go Vegan Revolution


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