Plant-Based Diet vs. Vegan Lifestyle - Whats the difference?

Plant-Based Diet vs. Vegan Lifestyle - Whats the difference?

The internet was at it again with the vegan frenzy this week… the debate on veganism and plant-based lifestyle really boils down to two questions in my opinion - 

What is your driving factor to move away from a standard American diet? 

Do you want to view your food options as restrictive or in abundance? 

Before I get into my own lifestyle and diet I want to lay out the facts, because facts are important and matter more than emotionally driven perspectives. 

There is a difference between a vegan and plant-based lifestyle. Abiding by a plant-based lifestyle is very simple and inferred in the name, it’s a lifestyle where your diet is centered around whole food plants, legumes, grains etc. People who follow a plant-based lifestyle do not center their meals around animal by-products which include dairy, eggs, meat, etc. Those who follow a plant-based diet primarily focus on health as being a driving factor behind their food and meal decisions. Plant-based diets are not the same as vegetarian or vegan diets, those who are plant-based may eat eggs, dairy, seafood, etc on sparing occasions such as holidays, travel, religious gatherings, etc. With all of that being said it is completely possible for someone to promote a plant-based diet while consuming animal product on a sparing basis. 

People who follow plant-based diets are typically not driven by environmental or sustainability factors.

A vegan lifestyle is a lifestyle. A lifestyle that extends beyond what you put on a plate. A vegan lifestyle is one that does not include any animal-based products. Vegans are typically driven by factors such as suitability, environmental factors, and cruelty-free animal spaces. Those who are vegan don’t consume or buy any products that are a product of an animals labor ie honey, or an animals life ie leather.  

Even though these terms are very nuanced in conversations around pop culture and wellness the terms and lifestyles themselves are very straightforward. 

Here are my personal thoughts on these lifestyles -

I personally identify with the term whole food plant-based diet. I have eliminated animal products from my diet solely because of health reasons. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts or often on twitter I love food and come from a lineage of women chefs. Due to the fact that I love food and it’s a passion driven product I wanted to have food be a tool to fuel my body, mind, and spirit. I’ve struggled with eating disorders in the past and a whole food plant based lifestyle has allowed me to change the relationship that I have with food. I find it to be a lifestyle that allows for an abundance of flavors and new styles of cooking. I haven't had red meat in 7 years, I haven't had chicken in 5 years and probably will never incorporate those meats into my diet again. I eat what makes me feel good and eliminate foods that make me feel sluggish or irritated my digestive system, it was truly that simple for me to decided my diet. 

With all of that being said I probably will never consider myself apart of the vegan community or adopt a vegan lifestyle. I’m driven by promoting healthy alternatives to food and often times a vegan lifestyle requires harsh rigid lines of what you can can cannot purchase or indulge in. As someone who studies race and its complexity for a living, it is also so very difficult for me to fully appreciate the vegan community because it is charged with clear racial and class basis. I have seen so many terrible comments by people who live a vegan lifestyle towards those who eat a standard American diet and the judgmental/elitist attitudes set my soul ablaze. Food is a love langue to me and my personal morals conflict with the harsh criticism of the vegan community. 

My main goal is to show people that it is possible to heal the relationship that you have with yourself through food. It is a passion project of mine that is near to my heart. This community is full of people who eat a standard American diet all the way to the other end of the spectrum to people who eat a raw whole food diet and in my mind that is the beauty of food. Food has the ability to speak to people regardless of their lived experiences or background. 

If you choose to live a whole food plant-based diet that's great, if you live a vegan lifestyle that’s wonderful. I don’t think it’s my role as someone who lives a plant-based diet to reprimand people who don’t eat the way that I eat on a consistent basis. I encourage everyone to educate themselves on big agriculture companies, the dairy industry and the ways that meat consumption impacts the planet. 


Here are the resources that I’ve used for this post and I hope you take the time to educate yourself if you’re interested in the difference between a vegan and plant-based lifestyle. 

Plant Powered Life by Sharon Palmer

Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment

by David Pimentel and Marcia Pimentel 

How Not To Die by Michael Greger

With love, Breanna