Vegan, Vegetarian or Plant-based?

The other day I was with my dad and he began talking about the lovely experience we had at a vegan restaurant in Lisbon last month. We had a visit planned to the capital and while deciding where to have lunch, I innocently (!!) slided the suggestion of taking him to the Ao 26 Vegan Project, which I’d visited a few weeks prior.

It was a lovely decision and he absolutely loved it. Even now, many weeks later, my dad keeps pointing out that the food was not only tasty but gorgeous, with all the colourful veggies and different flavours. I find this absolutely fantastic because my dad is a well-known picky-eater. If he could (and many times he can) he lives of tuna sandwiches and iceberg lettuce (for the crunch, he says!)

Because of this gastronomical experience, my dad ended up asking me the difference between vegan, vegetarian, ovo-lacto, cruelty-free and plant-based. So, and since I’ve been asked this question in other occasions, I will shortly try to clarify it here.

In terms of eating habits, the ones usually called vegetarians, are people who don’t eat meat or fish, but will include dairy, eggs and honey in their diet. Now, there can also be called ovo-lacto vegetarians, lacto or ovo vegetarians (depending if they exclude either dairy or eggs but not both). The term can be also used related to 100% vegetarianism, which is veganism. If one says he is 100% vegetarian, the diet is a vegan one. Now, since the term vegan came around in the 40’s, it is used to refer to those who don’t consume any animal products or by-products, which includes dairy, eggs, gelatin, honey, etc. A plant-based diet, means precisely that, based on plants and whole foods.

Now, the tricky part that usually confuses people. A vegan diet can be a plant-based one, but it is not mandatory. Also, for instance, many vegans actually eat honey. The thing is, with any diet you choose, you can either eat whole-foods or processed foods, and the same happens with vegan diets. You can be vegan and eat only mock-meats, oreos and chips! On other level, the products we choose, a product can be 100% natural and not be vegan. It can also be cruelty free and not vegan. Or a person can be on a plant-based diet and not be a vegan or choose vegan products.

So, how to understand this? Veganism is not only a diet but it is also a lifestyle. It means that that person will try to consume and choose only products which have no animal components or by-products or was tested on animals. As I’ve said, a product can be cruelty free, meaning that it wasn’t tested on animals and still have animal products, such as carmine – a typical animal ingredient in red lipsticks! [If you are interested, you can find more about animal ingredients in cosmetics here and here]. I also know vegans who use products containing beeswax, considering that it is a sustainable product, from organic producers, or wear wool from organic and cruelty free sheep or alpaca farming.

The point here is that, many times, it is not easy to establish a clean border between some of these definitions. As I’ve said previously, we should try to make our best and be as respectful as we can while respecting the animals and the environment. For instance, Nectar & Bumble is an online shop dedicated to bees, their protection and preservation, which happens to sell PETA certified vegan lip balms containing beeswax. Also, The Body Shop has always been against animal testing and has many products containing beeswax or honey. Personally, I really like both brands and support their work and ethos.

So, how to choose? In my opinion, both in food and in choosing products, the more natural and sustainable the better. No-one is perfect, so try your best to just nurture yourself with plant-based whole foods (with the occasional cake or fries!) and choose few but great natural plant products to use on yourself and your family. Search for the leaping bunny logo, which attesting that that product is not tested on animals and the Certified Vegan logo to make sure there are no animal components. Choose wisely and consciously, read labels, search the brand FAQ’s, ask questions. The more we search and know about the ingredients on what we eat and use, the more we are aware of the amount of unknown and unpronounceable ingredients that so many things have. Let us choose with kindness, wisdom and commitment to ourselves, the animals and the environment.


Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions about the products used are my own and not influenced in any way.

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