The Difference Between Plant-based and Vegan

vegan vs plant based

Vegan food is often considered healthy. But nowadays there is an abundance of processed vegan junk food. All the big food manufacturers are making vegan products and jumping on the growing vegan popularity. Most are high in unhealthy fats, additives and heavily refined nutrient void ingredients.

Plant Based Diet

A plant-based diet is short for a whole food plant based diet. It’s focused on whole foods and excludes foods that aren’t healthy or not from plant sources. The kind of foods excluded is refined sugar, flour, additives and deep fried as well as animal products. A plant-based diet is focused on eating whole ingredients like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes and avoiding anything heavily refined. Everything that is plant-based a vegan can eat, but not everything vegan is suitable for a plant-based diet.

Carrot Cake Truffles with Vanilla Bean Icing Recipe
My Raw carrot cake truffles are vegan but also plant based as free of nutrient void ingredients

Plant-based and Veganism Are Not Interchangeable

I understand the desire to have an alternative word to vegan due to the bad connotations. I did grow up vegan in the 80s and back then people looked at even vegetarians as if they came from space. But these two words do have different meanings and it’s beneficial to retain them.

Some of the most harmful foods for health can be considered from plants – like hydrogenated fats full of transfats and refined sugars. These certainly aren’t health foods so wouldn’t be part of a plant-based whole-foods diet.

On the cover of my book Healthy and Easy I deliberately wrote plant-based to show that it was healthy vegan food.

It’s very possible to be both plant-based and vegan but at the same time, and many are, but this doesn’t mean they are the same.

Plant-based diets are far more restrictive – they avoid any refined ingredients that aren’t beneficial for health such as sugars and oils. Plant-based is just about having pure unrefined food. There are many vegan cheeses out there but they often contain a plethora of unhealthy oils so aren’t suitable for a plant-based diet. My cashew cheese and all of my hard vegan cheese recipes are suitable for a plant based diet.

There are many health benefits of a whole food plant-based diet. The same can not be said for vegan junk food. People often talk about “vegan food” as if it’s something very special. However, no one eats deep-fried chips and ketchup saying “this vegan food is good”.

Many junk foods are naturally vegan just because it’s cheaper to use low-quality ingredients that are free of animal products and certainly aren’t healthy. A prime example of something “vegan” due to low-quality ingredients is Oreos. More information about palm oil products like Oreos later.

smoked cashew vegan cheese recipe for firm sliceable dairy free cheese
Most vegan cheeses are full of unhealthy oils but my smoked cashew cheese is oil free so is both vegan and plant based

Veganism is a Lifestyle

It’s important not to class veganism as a diet when it’s a lifestyle. It’s currently very popular and fashionable and this could all change in the future. Veganism isn’t just a fad diet.

The definition of veganism according to the Vegan Society is “Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

Plant-based is a Diet

Someone plant-based maybe just interested in the health benefits so could avoid eating all animal products but still buy a fur coat.

There are many different splinters of veganism – raw vegan, fruitarian, high carb low fat, low carb high fat and so on.

It’s important to keep the distinction between plant-based and vegan as they are two different things and it’s a useful to have different names.

Quinoa Avocado Chocolate Fudge Cake Recipe
My quinoa chocolate fudge cake is free of refined sugar and flour

Palm oil – Vegan or Plant-based?

Palm oil is very controversial as huge amounts of the rainforest are chopped down each day in order to make way for palm oil. The rainforests are home to some of the most biodiverse nature and the long-term effects for the planet could be catastrophic. As it’s very high yielding it can be lucrative to grow. Many common products from soaps to biscuits contain palm oil.

Palm oil could be argued as not being vegan due to the damage of deforestation. Some believe sustainable palm oil is beneficial as it’s so high yielding and if grown correctly reduces the amount of land needed, this was the stance of an exhibition in the Eden Project Rainforest biodome.

Some products are “accidentally vegan” meaning that they weren’t designed to be vegan but just be coincidence are. These products are usually very low quality and almost always use the cheap unsustainable refined palm oil that is neither healthy nor minimising cruelty to animals. Making it not vegan either.

Veganism is a journey and many non vegans are always trying to find fault as to why a vegan isn’t perfect. This isn’t helpful at all – we are all learning and try to do the best we can.

Vegan Not perfect

One thing many vegans will find is someone questioning their veganism. “What about x or y?” this probably comes from a place of defensiveness and take you not eating a food as an attack on their lifestyle. Veganism is about minimising cruelty to animals, not being perfect.

It’s virtually impossible to avoid everything that might contain a tiny amount of animal products (roads and tyres for instance) but what matters is people are doing their best.

Small changes made by millions of people add up to a big change.

nest and glow popular recipes
Over 200 healthy and easy vegan recipes on nest and glow

Final Thoughts

  • Veganism and plant-based are two different things.
  • Veganism is a lifestyle concerned with excluding all forms of cruelty where possible.
  • Plant based is a diet concerned with not eating animal products or anything refined or otherwise not beneficial for health.
  • It’s not helpful to use them interchangeably as it dilutes the terms.

What do you think of my thoughts? Have I missed something? Please comment down below as would love to hear what you think, I’m apprehensive about posting this but do want to share my view on the issue of plant based and veganism being two different things.

17 thoughts on “The Difference Between Plant-based and Vegan”

  1. Hi Bastian, Thankyou for your thoughts….I am glad you did post this as I found it really interesting and educational. I have been a Vegetarian since a baby myself, I could not drink any milk, when old enough to eat solid would vomit when fed meat, egg etc. I never realised until old enough I was a Vego. Until the last few year, I tried to eat cheese and yoghurt to please my mum who worries I will get weak bone but now find myself making or trying to make Vegan Cheese. I love all things Vegetable and Fruit, but find they are not that filling unfortunately. Once again, thankyou for your Wonderful Recipes and Information, Have a lovely week.

    1. Thanks Kathryn, glad you found it interesting. If you find plant based food not filling enough I would try to up your amounts of fats and carbs. I find salads and meals based on watery vegetables not that filling – but add in some nuts or quinoa and they become very filling. Leafy greens and sesame seeds are high in calcium but do get your levels checked if you are woried. Hope that helps 🙂

  2. Very interesting read, thanks for posting. I had been vegetarian for about 25 year’s but after I had a very bad digestive system for a while I learnt that certain foods helped more and cutting out others so becoming vegan.. But I was wondering about plant based as fruit, veg, and salad have always been my favorite even as a meat eater. I will try and do this plant based and let you know how I get on…

  3. I LOVE this post! I get so tired of people claiming to be healthy eaters just because they are vegan. There’s so many vegan products on that market that are stuffed full of additives and unhealthy ingredients. Eating a plant based diet is totally different. Thank you!

    1. Thanls Mel, that’s exactly why I wrote this – so much confusion over plant based and vegan. They are so very different and it useful having two different words.

  4. Hi, Nest & Glow!

    I would suggest or make clear that veganism concerns all use of animals by or for the benefit of human animals. Cruelty or its classification shall not play a role. Using (anyone) is abusing.

    Thank you for everything!


    1. Hi Susana, I’m quoting the vegan society definition of veganism “Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” Do you think that could do with being expanded more? Thanks for reading and your feedback!

  5. Great article, very interesting, thank you. I do eat meat, however I don’t eat anything processed. Now I need to look for how to buy your recipe book 😊

    1. Thanks glad you liked the article. It’s at or on amazon if you search for Bastian Durward. Thanks for your interest in my book!

  6. Thank you for your post Bastion. I have struggled to understand the difference. I have done a health boot camp with a cardiologist who uses the term plant based. He is very strict, not even allowing nuts and oils. He can absolute reverse heart disease with this diet. I am also protective of animal crutelty but I don’t think I do anhthing perfectly! Progress not perfection and try not to beet myself up when I get off track.


    1. Glad that helped you. I just love “Progress not perfection and try not to beet myself up when I get off track.” it’s so true – we do the best we can and don’t dwell if we fall short. Gosh I’m not sure if I could go nut free, I guess it’s a journey and we never stop learning and opening up to new ideas.

    1. Great! That is so nice to hear! Often with things like this it’s best to not even say its healthy / plant based – many won’t notice!

  7. Great article, very clear and to the point. Many people do not realise that there is a difference between a healthy plant diet and a vegan one.
    Also it’s interesting to note that non vegans can be quite aggressive towards vegans. One can only follow one’s conscience, do one’s best, and try to make the world a better place, now and for the future.

    1. “One can only follow one’s conscience, do one’s best, and try to make the world a better place, now and for the future.” that is so true, thanks for sharing. Glad that you liked the article.

  8. I ordered the E version of your cookbook, but unfortunately have not received the link to download it. How long does that take? I ordered it 11/12/18. It is now 11/14/18.
    Thank you.

    1. Thanks so much for buying! Just checked and it was sent out a few minutes after you bought, but have just sent it again. So sorry about that and not sure what went wrong. Please do let me know you’ve got it ok. Thanks again!

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