What is "plant based" anyway?

Hello friends, I hope you are all well this week and enjoying the dry weather. Today's post is a slightly different one. We are going to talk about lifestyle and food labels.


At the weekend a question was asked at our workshop, which got me thinking about how I describe the way I eat, my lifestyle and food choices.


The question was what is a "plant based" diet anyway?. This is a term I often use to describe my own diet so it got me pondering.


When we talk about veganism and vegetarianism, they have clear definitions as described by the relevant societies, organisations and representative bodies BUT "plant-based" is left open to interpretation.


The Vegan Society website states:


"Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, cruelty to animals for food, clothing or other purposes" https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/definition-veganism


This description goes further:


"There are many ways to embrace vegan living. Yet one thing all vegans have in common is a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat (including fish, shellfish and insects), dairy, eggs and honey - as well as products like leather and any tested on animals."


In describing veganism above, the word "plant based" is used but this is followed by a description of what is avoided and the definition is not left as "plant based" alone. I don't equate "plant-based" as equivalent to vegan but I've realised it could mean that for some people.


There is plenty of information to support the fact that plant-based is not equivalent to vegan but it's also an ambiguous description which seems to have extended to cover many ways of eating. I'll share some of the quotes I found below and also explain why I use this term when talking about my own choices.


The Vegetarian Society says:


"A vegetarian is someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, fungi, algae, yeast and/or some other non-animal-based foods (e.g. salt) with, or without, dairy products, honey and/or eggs. A vegetarian does not eat foods that consist of, or have been produced with the aid of products consisting of or created from, any part of the body of a living or dead animal. This includes meat, poultry, fish, shellfish*, insects, by-products of slaughter** or any food made with processing aids created from these."


The above definition doesn't include "plant-based" and is quite specific in terms of what a vegetarian diet includes/excludes.


Labels are something I use but I feel wary because I know that my interpretation could differ from the next persons. It's easy to interpret things differently and this can cause confusion.


I use labels to describe the food I make, so others know whether a recipe is suitable for them. I often describe something as "vegan", "gluten free", "veggie" or "plant based". I also use definitions to describe where I am in my lifestyle, health and food journey because it's hard to explain anything without referring to labels.


I am not 100% vegan and I'm still trying to find a balance that works for me. I want to feel aligned with my values and not worry that I might slip up or go against what I promised myself.


Sometimes it takes time to for me to make decisions, especially when it entails committing to something that is a whole lifestyle change and not just a momentary whim or short term plan.


I'm in a place where I don't feel I need to conform or do things because others think it's right/wrong BUT I'm aware that as my social media presence grows, I'm likely to experience questions about what I believe.


Openness and honestly are really important to me and that's why I think it's important to consider terms like "plant-based" and what they mean for me and others.

After the discussion at the weekend I started to wonder if I'd been mistaken in my interpretation of "plant based" and this is why I decided to do some research.


I assumed the term "plant based diet" (without further qualification), meant just that i.e. a diet that is based mostly around plant foods but may include small amounts of animal products.


The word "based" to me, implies "mostly" but not solely and from what I've read over the weekend, this appears to line up with the general consensus i.e. plant-based = low animal products.


The Wikipedia definition I found appears to align with this:

"A plant-based diet is a diet based on foods derived from plants, including vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruits, but with few or no animal products....


The use of the phrase has changed over time, and examples can be found of the phrase “plant-based diet” being used to refer to vegan diets, which contain no food from animal sources, to vegetarian diets which include eggs and dairy but no meat, and to diets with varying amounts of animal-based foods, such as semi-vegetarian diets which contain small amounts of meat.”




The Forks over Knives description says:

“A whole-food, plant-based diet is centered on whole, unrefined, or minimally refined plants. It’s a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil.”




I use plant based to describe my diet & lifestyle because where I am doesn't fully align with definitions of veganism or vegetarianism. I think I am somewhere in between the two.


I don't eat any meat or fish and I choose not to eat dairy unless I'm eating out and I might have a little cheese, milk or cream if it's incorporated into a meal. I choose maple syrup over honey wherever I can. I eat free range eggs occasionally when I make pancakes and sometimes I have an omelette.


I don't knowingly buy anything made with leather or including palm oil. All my skincare/personal care/cosmetics are vegan certified. I try to ensure our household cleaning items are cruelty free or vegan where possible. I still wear/use old leather items, which I owned previously. Sometimes I forget and I don't check when I buy something, I get preoccupied and I'm not perfect. It's not what I think about on a daily basis.


We still buy meat in our weekly shop because my husband and son still eat meat. I am open with my family about how I feel and vice versa but I believe individuals ought to make their own choices.


My space here and on my vlog is about being healthier & happier and that doesn't mean being "vegan" or "vegetarian". Those terms alone do not mean a person is healthy or happy and they may not necessarily eat a plant based diet either. You could eat fast food every night and still be classed as vegan or vegetarian.


I hope to make plant-based foods appealing & accessible with my recipes & tips. I hope to help people see that living a healthier lifestyle is about small changes and not one big scary overhaul.


I want to share helpful information and I would be interested to hear what others think when they hear the term "plant-based". Do you think labels matter? Comment below if you have any thoughts on this.


Have an amazing week everyone.




Jo x







Write a comment

Comments: 2
  • #1

    Marie-claire (Tuesday, 13 March 2018 23:06)

    That message is very encouraging and non-judgmental for all those trying and seeking answers !I love the way you present the whole subject,Well done.Love and Light to you.

  • #2

    Jo (Wednesday, 14 March 2018 08:02)

    Thank you so much for your comment Marie-Claire and for reading. My aim is to create a non-judgemental space so I am glad it comes across that is what my Blog is about. It's lovely to connect with you. Love to you too.