Setting It Straight: Vegan Foods vs. Plant-Based Foods

People make decisions about their diets for dozens of reasons, but if you’re considering a change, you might find all the different approaches to eating confusing. Two terms you probably hear a lot are “vegan foods” and “plant-based foods.” Some people treat them interchangeably, but they’re really not the same thing. Here, we break it down.

What are vegan foods?

Vegan foods don’t contain any animal products. This means a vegan diet contains no meat, including fish or poultry, no dairy and no eggs. Honey is also an animal product, so strict vegans also avoid honey.

What are plant-based foods?

There are two main categories of plant-based foods: whole foods, such as a piece of fruit or a vegetable, and foods made using plant ingredients like grains, vegetables oils, nuts and seeds. Two common examples of the latter group are plant-based cheese and plant-based protein, both of which add variety and flavor to the diet. While someone who follows a plant-based diet relies primarily on plant-based foods, they may or may not choose to include some animal-based foods in their diet as well (unlike a vegan diet that will never include any animal products).

Vegan Cheese Tomato Zucchini Dish on Cutting Board

Are plant-based foods always vegan?

Although plant-based foods often are vegan, that’s not always the case. Some plant-based foods use animal products as ingredients. Even if the majority of ingredients are plant-based, the presence of any form of animal product means a food cannot be called vegan. That’s why it’s a good idea to always check the ingredients of a new product to ensure you know what you’re getting. Some brands use special certifications to make it easy for consumers to identify the foods they want. For example, Vevan includes stamps on its packaging that show it is Certified Plant Based and vegan.

What is not allowed on a vegan diet?

A vegan diet strictly avoids any form of food derived from animals, including eggs and dairy, seafood and meat. Foods that are made using animal ingredients are also prohibited. For example, cheese and butter are made using dairy and are not part of a vegan diet.

What is not allowed on a plant-based diet?

Someone who is following a plant-based diet gets the majority of their food from plant-based sources, but this doesn’t mean they never eat foods that come from animals. For example, someone who generally prefers plant-based foods might eat eggs as a source of protein. A plant-based diet is less absolute than a vegan diet.

One challenge that comes with any changes to your diet, no matter what the reason, is giving up foods you love. A plant-based option like Vevan allows someone who doesn’t eat dairy to rediscover foods they may be missing, like a gooey grilled cheese sandwich or pizza.

Vegan Red Pepper Dish

How can foods like cheese be vegan or plant-based?

Over the past few years, there have been great developments in plant-based ingredients, making it possible to adapt recipes for common foods like cheese using strictly plant-based ingredients. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly common for food companies to adapt their expertise and create entirely new product lines to appeal to plant-based consumers. Vevan, for example, is made by artisan cheesemakers but doesn’t include a drop of dairy. It is made using a blend of yeast, starch and oil – all foods that get a green light for both vegan and plant-based diets.

Are there benefits to eating plant-based foods?

Plant-based foods generally fall into two categories: whole and processed. While whole foods almost always have a higher nutritional profile, other plant-based foods have a definite and growing place in consumers’ minds, as evidenced by the growing number of products available in grocery stores across the country. It’s also worth noting that for someone who gives up cheese due to lactose intolerance, the benefit isn’t as much about comparing nutrition panels as it is still being able to enjoy the foods they love, like pizza and tacos. Thanks to brands like Vevan that celebrate authenticity, it’s possible to experience the same sense of indulgence and incredible flavor without a drop of dairy.

Looking for ideas to expand your plant-based or vegan diet? These recipes show you how to transform many popular dishes into plant-based and vegan meals.

Vegan Quesadilla