The popularity of health-related reality shows in recent years has brought about more discussions than ever before about the topic of food...food as nourishment, fuel and sustenance. Food simply for eating and taste enjoyment. Even food as art! Food "good" or "bad" for weight loss, health, anti-aging, disease prevention...
But, included in these discussions are various thoughts and ideas about what food people should and should not be consuming – and numerous reasons as to why, some evidence-based, others not.
And it’s not just about what food people enjoy eating, but which foods are "healthy" and "unhealthy", and which foods are considered by some to be acceptable and unacceptable to eat.
These days, there seems to be so many factors involved in deciding what people should eat. Some people base their decisions on health reasons, while some factor in religion, ethics (such as animal cruelty and rights), environmental protection and sustainability and even politics into their decisions.
This has resulted in numerous types of diets and lifestyles being developed, and the varied terminology being used can certainly be confusing. Some of the information clouding our minds are the differences between Vegetarian, Vegan, and plant-based diets.
So what are the differences between these diets?
Well, let’s jump right in and get the FAQs on these 3 similar, yet different eating lifestyles! (there are more vegetarian options but here are some most common but confusing ones)
Vegetarians consume plant-based foods but generally eliminate meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish from their meals. However, many vegetarians also consume eggs, dairy products (e.g. milk, cheese, butter, yogurt), and honey.
There are several different types of Vegetarian diets including:
● Fruitarian - yep, just fruit! (please, don't do that...)
● Lacto-ovo vegetarian
Veganism is the strictest of the vegetarian diets. Vegans only consume food from plant sources, such as vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, seeds, and nuts. They do not eat food that is animal-derived, which means no meat, dairy, eggs, or honey.
In addition, vegans generally don’t use or own products that contain anything made from an animal (e.g. leather, silk, wool, gelatin, beeswax) – this includes clothing, shoes, personal care products (e.g. shampoo, make-up), furniture, and even cars that have leather interiors.
People living a plant-based diet or lifestyle focus on fresh produce – as in, they only consume whole plant foods. This includes unprocessed or minimally processed vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds.
There are generally no restrictions in regards to buying leather and other goods made from animal products.
Still a little confused?
Here is an example: French fries are vegetarian/vegan but are generally not considered to be plant-based because french fries don’t resemble the original plant form of the potato.
A common misconception is that going vegan/vegetarian/plant-based automatically means weight loss or better health. However, this is not true. As the demand for meat-free alternatives increases, more and more vegetarian/vegan options have been produced, and these products can be equally high in fats, sugars etc.
Therefore, going vegetarian, vegan or plant-based does not make you lose weight or improve your health automatically. As with a meat-including diet, balance is key and I recommend that you choose foods that satisfy both physical hunger and cravings (i.e. foods that you love).
If you’re thinking about adopting any of these plant-based lifestyles, or any type of diet that involves eliminating entire food groups, perhaps consider your reasons for switching - and ask yourself a these questions:
(disclaimer: I am a huge opponent of anything that cuts out food groups, especially in early stages of trying to stop overeating, because this is often counterproductive and leads to binging)
Is this change realistic and doable for me on a long-term basis?
Is it a good fit for me health-wise, both physically and mentally?
Do I have the support of key people in my life?
What is the reason I want to make this shift?
Because this would be such a major lifestyle change, consider starting off slowly and consulting a professional before deciding if such a change in diet is right for you and if this is a good time to make this shift.
I am a qualified Nutrition Consultant specializing in helping women stop various forms of overeating (constant snacking, yo-yo dieting, emotional eating) and lose weight and keep it off by making sustainable changes.
And the Kickstart Strategy Package is designed to help you get started with new habits and keep you accountable.