The biggest misconception when it comes to plant-based diets is that it is just another term for a vegan diet, but that is not the case. These terms are not meant to be used interchangeably. With a vegan diet, you never eat any animal products whatsoever, while people on plant-based diets, might occasionally, though it is much less than on a traditional diet.
Here are some of the bigger comparisons between plant-based and vegan diets so you can decide which one is right for you.
What is a Vegan Diet?
Let’s start by defining each of these diets. First, a vegan diet is one where you eliminate ALL animal products and byproducts from your diet and lifestyle. To start with, you of course no longer eat any form of beef, pork, other red meat, poultry, or fish. Since you are a vegan and not a vegetarian, you also want to remove eggs and diary products from your diet. Vegans also do not consume products made by animals, such as honey, which tends to be more of a surprise by people. Other surprises include no more gelatin, and possibly changing your lifestyle, like no longer having anything made from leather.
What is a Plant-Based Diet?
With a plant-based diet, most of your diet consists of whole, clean, plant-based foods, but you are still allowed a very minimal amount of animal products. Everyone is different, so while one person might enjoy the occasional burger or piece of chicken, others have their own rules, like no red meat, or eating eggs, but no other meat products. For the most part, plant-based people who are not vegans or vegetarians, will have more of a flexitarian lifestyle, where 80% or more of their diet is vegan, but the rest might contain some limited animal products.
Plant-Based vs Vegan
The more important thing about going plant-based is eating a lot of foods that are whole, fresh, and clean. This means removing most frozen and processed foods, buying organic, shopping local, and just trying to eat as whole as possible.
How Strict Do You Want to Be?
The first question to ask yourself when choosing between a plant-based or vegan diet is how strict you want to be. If you have a history of eating disorders, you don’t want too many restrictions, so a vegan diet might not be the best fit for you. However, if you handle restrictions well and prefer a set of hard and fast rules, choosing a vegan diet over a plant-based diet can be a great option for you. Someone looking for more flexibility would be better suited to the plant-based lifestyle.
What Does Your Current Diet Look Like?
It is also good to look at your current diet, and see which of these diets is most similar to it. Some people find that vegan is easy, because they already don’t have a lot of animal products. Maybe you prefer almond or oat milk to cow’s milk, you love Beyond burgers or veggie burgers, and rarely eat eggs anyway. On the other hand, if you love vegetables and fruits and plant-based foods, but want the occasional fish or chicken sandwich, try plant-based instead.
Plant-Based Diet Benefits
Plant-Based Diet Tip: Eat Your Greens!
As you start researching what foods to eat and what to avoid while on a plant-based diet, one thing is for certain – vegetables are key! They are filled with nutrients, inexpensive, easy to find anywhere, and fill you up to keep you from excessive snacking.
This is especially true with your leafy greens, which is why greens are at the top of the list for foods you want to eat more of when you are on a plant-based diet.
Benefits of More Greens in Your Diet
First of all, let’s go over some of the health benefits of eating more greens on a regular basis. Greens are going to help a lot with keeping you regular, thanks to the increase in fiber they contain. Many people don’t eat enough fiber if they are not on a plant-based or meatless diet, and therefore don’t have the extra encouragement to eat their veggies.
Dark, leafy greens contain a lot of vitamins and minerals that are great for your body, including antioxidants, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. They help fill you up so you eat less snacks in between meals, and are very nutrient-dense. Plus, eating more greens allows you to eat more whole foods, which is important when you are on a plant-based diet.
When people think of eating dark, leafy greens, kale is often at the top of the list. It is extremely nutrient-dense, providing well over your daily minimum for vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. It also has a good amount of antioxidants that your body needs to prevent infections and various illnesses. If you aren’t a fan of using kale in salads or as a side dish, try adding a handful to your smoothies. You won’t taste the kale, but still get all those nutrients.
If you enjoy salads or want to add greens to your smoothies, spinach is a really easy way to go. The great thing about spinach is that it has a really mild flavor. You won’t really notice the taste if you are making a salad, since you will have other veggies and healthy plant-based toppings on top. You can also add spinach to soup, chili, quiche, eggs, sauces, and so many more things. It is an extremely versatile, healthy green to get on a regular basis.
You can also add more arugula to your diet, which is another leafy green that has a mild flavor and works amazing in salads. Arugula has a bit of a pepper flavor, so it is best when used in salads, and not added to other dishes like spinach or kale. Many people like to use multiple types of greens, adding other leafy greens with a little arugula for this unique flavor and the added health benefits.