Veganism Versus A Whole Food Plant-Based Diet: What's The Difference?

Written by Molly Patrick

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A vegan diet is not the same thing as a whole food plant-based diet. I’m going to make this super easy for you and break it down.


People who eat a vegan diet do not eat animal-based products, including meat, dairy, eggs, or animal-derived ingredients, like honey. This lifestyle extends beyond excluding food and ingredients made from animal products and is carried over to everyday life stuff.

Shoes, clothes, accessories, makeup, shampoo—anything made with materials that come from animals, like leather, silk, wool, gelatin, beeswax, lanolin, etc., is off the table.

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Whole Food Plant-Based

Just like the vegan diet, people who eat a whole food plant-based diet avoid animal-based products, including meat, dairy, and eggs. Unlike the vegan diet, processed foods, including oil, white flour, and refined sugar is not part of the diet. This way of eating is based around unprocessed or minimally processed veggies, fruit, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Here’s the easiest way to remember the distinction between the vegan diet and the whole food plant-based diet: people who are vegan can eat Oreo cookies (yup, by some weird glitch, Oreos aren’t made with animal ingredients), and people who are whole food plant-based cannot eat Oreos (well, they can, they just choose not to).


Generally speaking, people’s motivation for adopting a vegan diet and lifestyle is prompted by animal rights issues and the ethical treatment of animals.

People who follow a whole food plant-based diet generally do it for their health—either to prevent chronic illness and disease or reverse chronic illness and disease; this is why processed food isn't included in this way of eating.

Even though they both have the word “diet” in them, neither the vegan diet nor the whole food plant-based diet are diets at all. They are both styles of eating that have nothing to do with calorie restrictions or counting things like carbs and protein.

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Related Class

The Ultimate Guide To Plant-Based Nutrition
The Ultimate Guide To Plant-Based Nutrition

Choosing what's right for you

One way of eating isn’t better than the other; it all depends on the motivation behind transitioning how, what, and why you eat. If your main motivation is losing weight, pumping up your immune system, and getting ridiculously healthy, the whole food plant-based diet is the way to go.

If your main motivation is the ethical treatment of animals, the vegan diet is perfect. And if you want both, the whole food plant-based diet is a win-win. There are also lots of people who dabble in both, and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially in the beginning. Faux meats, faux dairy products, and even faux eggs can be a blessing for people who are transitioning to a diet free of animal protein, so take the steps that you need to in order to eat the way you want to.

So whether you lean more toward the whole food plant-based diet or the vegan diet, there are huge benefits to both. There’s room at the table for everyone, and dinner is guaranteed to be delicious.

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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