What Does It Mean To Be Plant-Based?
Nowadays, more and more people are switching to plant-based or vegan lifestyles. Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers are household names. There’s more vegan products on the shelves than ever before.
If you’re like me, your Instagram feed is absolutely chock full of vegan food and new products coming out what seems like daily. While it’s a really great thing that more people (and business) are adopting this way of life, there’s still a lot of confusion out there to what exactly plant-based is and how it differs from vegan.
I wanted to share this article with everyone to clear a few things up about plant-based diets and point out some pitfalls to watch out for.
What Is Plant-Based Really? And How Is It Different Than Vegan
There is no one definition of what it means to eat plant-based, and even less on what a plant-based lifestyle is. For some people, they’re cutting out animal products for the majority of their meals. Others like myself completely eliminated all animal products from our diets.
However, one thing is for sure that plant-based is focused around diet and the drastic reduction or elimination of animal products in meals.
Being vegan is a different story. Veganism is instead focused on lifestyle and the complete elimination of animal products from all aspects of life. This includes products tested on animals, items made from animal products such as clothing, as well as consuming food with animal products.
Additionally, people who go plant-based and people who go vegan tend to have different motivations for doing so. If your motivations are centered around curbing animal cruelty, you’d probably be more inclined to go vegan. If you’re more focused on cleaning up your diet, you might focus on plant-based. Of course, there’s always exceptions to the rule and fluidity based on what your goals are at any given time.
The Pros Of An Open Definition
While veganism has a very clear cut definition, plant-based does not. Instead, plant-based diets and lifestyles rely on the habits and motivations of the person. While this can lead to a little bit of confusion, it’s great for shaping the life you want to have and how plant-based is going to be a part of that.
Honestly, this is probably one of the most things I find so fascinating about plant-based. If you’ve been following Live Grow Green, you know I write A LOT about creating a plant-based lifestyle and why that’s a key to making a long-lasting lifestyle. Personally, I think it takes a lot of pressure off people to be plant-based because you can focus on implementing this into one area of our life, rather than your entire life. However, it can also be a great springboard to go fully vegan as well.
Having a flexible definition is also great for those starting to shift away from eating animal products. While I recommend following a subset of plant-based or vegan diet such as whole-food, alkaline or many of the other diets out there for guidance when you’re first starting out, it’s also equally as important to make this your own once you’re comfortable enough with cooking and eating plant-based.
Since plant-based doesn’t have as rigid of a definition as vegan, you can easily adopt this into a lifestyle or diet to the level that you feel comfortable. With no strict guidelines, eating plant-based is really what you want to make of it.
You may also find that what you want to accomplish by switching to a plant-based diet changes over time. With an open definition, you have a lot of fluidity in how you choose to incorporate this diet and lifestyle into your life, and how it evolves.
Why It Can Have Some Challenges
Having an open definition is one of the greatest qualities about plant-based, but it’s also one of the most challenging. Everyone’s definition is different. With that in mind, it’s really necessary to clarify what exactly you mean when you say plant-based.
You may be thinking to yourself, is this really necessary? Surprisingly, yes.
When I first switched, no one knew what plant-based was. Whenever I would say I was plant-based, people were always really interested in what exotic diet that was. You can imagine how much their enthusiasm fell when I said I ate vegan.
Even now that plant-based is becoming more and more popular, it’s even more crucial to be clear on exactly what exactly you’re eating. The reason now is business. For some, vegan food is a passionate and others it’s profit.
According to an article published by Forbes, plant-based food products totaled about $3.1 billion (yes, with a b) in 2017. Now that Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are widely available in fast food restaurants and grocery stores, it’s understandable that everyone else wants in.
So, what does profit have anything to do with the drawbacks of the definition of plant-based? At the end of June, there was a great article published by Entrepreneur regarding Tyson’s 100% plant-based nuggets, which contained egg and possibly milk.
While the protein (made from peas) is 100 % plant-based, the rest of the product is not safe for anyone choosing to not consume dairy. However, this raises a great question of whether this product can be considered plant-based or not. Does it depend on the amount of animal products within the food? Should plant-based be held to a vegan standard when it comes to food products?
At some point, there’s going to need to be an industry standard definition of what plant-based means, at least in terms of products. However, for right now, it’s really fluid for both individuals and businesses, which can cause a lot of confusion.
Overcoming The Challenge
No matter where you are in your plant-based journey, I wanted to put together some tips for those of you trying to navigate the shifting landscape that is plant-based.
Read Your Labels
No matter how much animal products (if any) that you’re incorporating into your diet, knowing how to read ingredient labels is a great skill. I’m always a big fan of knowing exactly what’s in your food, especially if it’s packaged.
If you’re diligent about reading your labels, this will solve a lot of challenges for you in the grocery store, like the predicament that Tyson presents.
Know Where Your Food Was Cooked
If you’ve been plant-based or vegan for sometime time, you know that it can be difficult to find a restaurant that can serve you something other than salad. Depending on where you live, there are more and more vegan alternatives appearing on the menu.
Whether it’s a fast food place or a fancy restaurant, it’s important to know where your food was cooked. Was it cooked on the same grill or next to animal products? Did they use the same utensils?
Some people are perfectly fine with their food being cooked next to animal products or on the same grill. Other people aren’t. It’s really important that you have the information so you can decide for yourself what you’re ok with.
If only for yourself, be clear on what your own definition of plant-based is. If you can create a standard or roadmap (depending on where you are) for yourself, this will help you not only transition, but solidify this into a lifestyle that lights you up everyday.
I hope you found this article helpful in navigating what it means to plant-based and some of the challenges it presents, as well as use it to create the lifestyle and diet you want to have.