PLANT-BASED or VEGAN
What the hell is the difference? Believe it or not I’ve been in a lot of seemingly silly conversations about this lately. Most people assume that it’s the same thing - and it’s easy to see why. There’s a lot of overlap in the venn diagram that is the discussion. And even amongst the people IN those groups there’s a lot of disagreements over the definition. So, for the purpose of this article/blog/whatever-the-fuck-it is, allow me to give you MY definition. And if you don’t agree with it, well… fuck… I don’t know - go eat a cookie and move on with your life.
Vegan: Someone who does not eat or use animal products. It’s a philosophy devoted to animal rights that involves diet, politics, and ethics. Example: for them an Oreo cookie is a perfectly acceptable snack because it contains no animal products.
Plant-Based: Someone whose diet focuses around whole plant foods in their original forms and eliminates not only all animal products from their diet, but also any foods that are processed. Example: for them an Oreo cookie is an unacceptable snack because it is made from processed foods. (also referred to a Whole-Food Plant-Based or WFPB)
I’ve had the (ridiculous) argument with several people on message boards that you can consider yourself plant-based and still eat some animal products. I don’t know what fucking plant their animal products are growing on - but for me the phrase ‘plant-based’ is pretty fixed in not having any part of an animal. If you’re one of those people who like to make up your own magical definitions for things based on what is more comfortable for you, then I guess go for it - make up your own definition - or just simply say, “I’m eating a mostly plant-based diet” (which is still way healthier than most people). You have to do what’s right for you. There’s no vegan or plant-based police that are going to crash your door down for breaking any arbitrary rules. You do you and fuck anyone who has a problem with it.
Personally, I don’t consider myself a vegan - though I eat the same foods a vegan does. And it’s not that I don’t give a shit about animals - I think animals are awesome and we shouldn’t murder things to sustain our energy when non-murdery things will do just as well. I do my best to avoid animal products in clothing, etc… but I couldn’t say that I’m 100% free and clear in that regard.
I eat whole, unrefined or minimally processed plant foods which includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds. It excludes animal products as well as refined grains, refined sugars and added oils. My primary motivations for the way I eat/live are environmental and for my own personal health - which is why a whole food plant-based approach works better for me.
As a Plant-Based eater I avoid processed food at all costs. Oil being one of the primary ones. I know there are those who will cry out that things like coconut and olive oil are good for you! Well, I don’t fucking buy it. It’s still a highly processed food that is low in nutrient density. A tablespoon of any oil is roughly 100 calories that does not satiate you - which is to say: it doesn’t fucking fill me up.
If you’ve got those extra 100 calories to spare, fucking go for it. Drink the shit by the glass for all I care - I’d rather have those 100 calories in real food from the source. I’d rather have the sixteen olives in their natural state or have 2/3 cup of shredded coconut on top of my breakfast. I’d rather have 1 1/2 peaches, or 100 raspberries, 25 strawberries, 128 blueberries, 30 grapes, 12 orange slices, an apple or a banana, a slice of whole grain bread, a handful of nuts, or a tablespoon of nut butter. All of which are the same amount of calories of 1 tablespoon of oil.
And for those who think they need to use oil for cooking or baking I hate to tell you - you don’t. For cooking you can use water, veggie broth, etc… to sauté your veggies, and in terms of baking there is not shortage of replacements you can use from mashed bananas or applesauce. Both are far less calories and way fucking tastier.
I also don’t use processed sugars. Pretty much the only sweetener we use in our house is maple syrup and dates (either chopped up or pureed into a syrup or paste). And from time to time we’ll add some dairy-free dark chocolate to our baking to treat ourselves.
Generally speaking we like to have our food look and taste like the food that it comes from.
This, personally, was my biggest reason for starting on the path that I did. I think it’s safe to say most people know that the world is heading down a path of environmental shit storm collapse if we don’t change some of the stupid things we’re currently doing. And if you’ve been paying attention to any news outlet you know that a lot of the spotlight has been on how much animal agriculture impacts the environment and what a destructive, inefficient, and arguably unnecessary technology it is. That’s right - think of meat as a food technology. And it’s a terrible one for SOOOO many reasons more than just it’s not fucking great for your health. In fact plant-based meat companies like the people at Impossible Burger have goals of replacing the needs for animals as a food-production technology by 2035.
Generally speaking a whole-food plant-based diet requires 96% less land, 87% less water, and creates 89% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a diet where animal products are a staple. The simple fact that the destructive nature of animal food products versus those made from plants simply can’t be denied. And if you care about our planet and it’s future you need to realize the impact of what you put on your plate.
I could post a dozen more reports and news articles, but do some research for yourself. If you don’t give a fuck about animals I totally get it. You can argue that most of the animals used for food production would be extinct if we didn’t raise them for food. But denying the importance of the environment and our world just feels fucking suicidal and selfish. If that makes you feel shitty to read I’m okay with that. It should feel shitty. Even reducing your animal product intake by half of what it currently is would make a huge difference. Don’t be one of those assholes who says, “I’m one person - it doesn’t make a difference.” It does. Be the fucking difference.
Junk Food Vegans
People automatically assume that if you’re a vegan you’re healthier. We live in a time where if you’ve decided to become vegan but still want to eat the same stuff you used to eat it’s super easy - you name it there’s a vegan version out there - french fries, burgers, pizza, burritos, oreos, swedish fish, donuts, cookies, cakes, ice cream, cheese and more can all be vegan! You can be just as unhealthy and obese eating a vegan diet as you can as eating the SAD diet that gets most people into trouble. Animal Free products have flooded the market, which is really really awesome - but all of the fast food Beyond, Impossible, etc… products are NOT healthy. They are vegan junk food and heavily processed. They’re full of unnecessary and addictive oils and salts and sugars - and while they are healthier than the meat alternative they’re nowhere near as close to healthy as just eating real goddamn food.
I get the appeal of these things - I indulge in them myself from time to time - but I do so knowing that it’s a treat - a ‘sometimes food’. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that simply ordering off the plant-based menu in a fast food restaurant automatically makes you healthier. It’s a baby-step in the right direction at best.
There’s TONS of ways to make a plant-based veggie burger where the food is closer to it’s natural source. If you want to have some fun with creating your own check out this BUILD A BURGER recipe I made.
So you have to ask yourself, “Why am I eating vegan or plant-based?” If it’s solely for the ethics and principals around animals than by all means, eat whatever the fuck you want - but if you’re doing it to be healthier as well then you need to strongly consider the whole food plant-based approach as your standard every-day practice and keep the ‘vegan junk food’ options as occasional treats. The irony is that the more plant-based you eat the less you’ll enjoy the heavily processed vegan foods anyway.
You have to decide what’s best for you, for your situation, your feelings on health, and your personal beliefs. You don’t have to land squarely on anyone’s definition of anything if you don’t want to. Create a system that works for you. The only thing I ask that you strongly consider is how you can potentially use your lifestyle to vote for the future of our planet. I initially went vegetarian to help reduce my carbon footprint, and the more I read and the more I knew, I knew that I could and should do more - which is what’s lead me to my whole-food plant based situation that I’m currently in - and plane to stay in for the rest of my life.
I also recognize that it’s easy for me to do. I have a family that is supportive and loves this lifestyle as well. I live in a country and a city that has all of the things I need to make it possible. Start with what the minimum is that you can do and go from there. Expand at a pace that works for you. Every baby step is a victory. Do better than you did the day before. The world belongs to those who try… just fucking try.
Smash this way of living and eating into your life.