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difference between vegan and vegetarian

As of now when I’m writing this it’s been ten days since I went plant-based(ish). I’ll explain the “ish” in a bit. Maybe the better term is “vegan”(ish) or maybe it’s “clean”. Maybe it’s better not to have a “name” for it at all because it doesn’t fit perfectly into any of those categories. The point is, I am massively changing the way I eat. And in true blogger fashion, I will be documenting the journey. First, let’s talk about the difference between vegan and vegetarian, plant-based and clean eating. Then, I’ll talk about why and how I am doing this.

What is the difference between vegan and vegetarian, plant-based and clean eating?

In short, a vegetarian diet simply means “meatless”. Vegetarians do not consume meat as part of their diet. There are some variations of vegetarianism including: “lacto-vegetarian” – still eats dairy, “ovo-vegetarian” – still eats eggs, and “pescatarian” – still eats fish.

Those who follow a plant-based diet eliminate all animal products including meat, fish, dairy, eggs, gelatin, and other animal byproducts, and tend to avoid processed foods. A plant-based diet consists primarily of whole, plant foods including fruit, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. Sounds vegan, right?

Nope. Vegan differs from plant-based in that veganism stretches outside of the kitchen and into all areas of life. A true vegan has a deep conviction rooted in animal rights, and would even go so far as to avoid lip balm with beeswax in it.

You have probably also heard the term clean eating thrown into the mix. Someone practicing clean eating will consume more whole foods (fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats) and limit highly processed snack foods, sweets and other packaged foods.

plant based eating

What does my new “plant-based” diet include?

When you look at the difference between vegetarian and vegan, the biggest difference is just that vegans do not consume any animal products or byproducts at all, while vegetarians in general only eliminate meat itself. Someone on a plant-based diet excludes all animal products from their diet, but not from their entire lifestyle for moral reasons like a vegan would. While I respect all of these styles of eating, I also believe a person’s diet is very personal to them and there is not a “one-size fits all” answer. For me, I am taking the aspects that I know make me feel good and healthy to me and not worrying about whether there is a label or name for it, or if anybody else is doing it.

My diet now includes:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Grains
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Eggs
  • Fish (occasionally)

I will avoid the following:

  • Meat
  • Dairy
  • Processed foods

As you can see, my new way of eating will be almost completely aligned with plant-based eating, with the exception of eggs and the occasional fish.

vegan foodSide-note: The rest of my family is not going plant-based. However, I love that having fresh, raw veggies around at all times and eating healthier myself naturally makes it so that my kids eat healthier.

Related: Magic Spinach Smoothie Bowls

Why plant-based specifically?

I once did a true Whole 30 month, and at the end of it I felt amazing. If you don’t know, Whole 30 is basically eating meat, vegetables and fruits only (supposed to be for 30 days). It cuts all processed foods, grains, dairy, etc out of your diet. I felt so good, energized, and like a totally different person all around at the end of that month. 

At a different time, I went dairy free for a month. During that time I was breastfeeding baby number two, and she was having a lot of gas issues. I eliminated dairy in a desperate attempt to stop the daily colic. It didn’t work, but two other things happened. One was that I learned there is milk or milk products in almost all processed food. It’s weird, guys. And two, I lost a lot of weight (still eating a ton of other stuff) and felt really good.

So why wouldn’t I just go back to Whole 30 if I loved it so much?

During my last pregnancy with baby number three I discovered the true meaning of the term “food aversion”. I had heard talk of it before, but never experienced it during my other pregnancies. Turns out, it’s really real. For months I couldn’t even walk in the general vicinity of the meat department of the grocery store without dry heaving. I couldn’t smell chicken my entire pregnancy without instant gagging.

Something strange happened when I stopped eating chicken though. For years I have battled dry, red patches of skin on my face. I have been to dermatologists, tried crazy products, exfoliated my face off, all with no improvement. To my surprise, when I stopped eating chicken my face cleared up and has been soft and smooth ever since. Over the past 10 days of eating no meat whatsoever I have noticed an even bigger improvement. My skin is so soft now!! 

Add that to the fact that I was just never a huge meat eater to begin with (I didn’t eat red meat for over a decade), I’m just cool with letting that go. Bacon, you are the exception, and I will miss you.

plant based vegan nourish bowl

Why am I drastically changing the way I eat by going plant-based?

Cue the crazy looks and questions about why on earth I would want to do this to myself. Well, there are several reasons why I have made this change, best organized in a list.

  1. Health: I’m not in a super healthy state right now. After having a rough pregnancy (if you didn’t know I had my appendix taken out during pregnancy and then dealt with high blood pressure), I have had a rough time recovering and getting back to “myself”. I don’t feel great. I know I need a change in the way I am eating for my energy levels, to nourish the sweet baby I am feeding, and for my overall health.
  2. Mental Health: Going along with my overall health, I need to do this because I can’t continue to eat my emotions. I’ve been using food as an emotional bandaid my entire life, but it’s gotten worse since my mom passed away two years ago. Guess where that has gotten me? In the same emotional state with some more pounds on me. I truly believe, and know to be fact, that the food we eat also affects our overall mood. When I finish eating a bowl full of real, “clean” food I feel good. I feel energized, positive, as if I literally ate a rainbow. When I eat the opposite, I feel heavy, tired, and usually regretful. 
  3. I need to not fail at something. It may sound odd, but it’s been a long time since I have done something and not given up. I really, for so many reasons, need to not fail at something right now. And since what we put into our bodies impacts every area of our life, I figure this is a pretty good place to try to succeed.

Changing the way you eat changes your entire life. I truly believe this.

To put it simply, I need change. When you look at your life and you believe you are a certain person at your core, but your daily habits don’t align with who that is, you find yourself in a constant circle of frustration and regret. I want to feel good because I care enough about myself to take care of myself. I want to be happy because I am dealing with my emotions instead of trying to drown them in a pint of ice cream. I want to have energy because I’m fueling my body, instead of crashing because I rely on sugar rushes to get me through to the next. I want to really live and I think that eating real food is a good way to ensure I can do that.

plant based vegan fruit bowl

How am I going to stick to plant-based eating?

Sticking to a certain “diet” or way of eating has never been easy for me. I love sweets and I cannot lie. The good news about sweets is that as you change your way of eating, over time your taste buds change. I’ll never forget before I started Whole 30 my friend Brandie said to me, “You can have a banana if you need a sweet treat.” A banana? A banana was not sweet to me at the time. She told me that after a few weeks it would be, and sure enough, it was.

To the point, STACKING. I am going to succeed at living a plant-based lifestyle by stacking.

My husband, Chris, is a big football fan. He listens to a lot of player and coach interviews. This is where I heard about stacking. As Chris explained it, coaches will talk about stacking good practices, good games. So for instance, Player X had a really great practice, now it’s all about stacking another good practice, and then another and another. And then before you know it, you have a really amazing player. STACKING spoke to me.

All I have to do is stack one good choice after another. One good day of eating after another. When I’m tempted to get off track with how I want to eat, I say to myself “STACK” (not to be confused with snack). Stacking. If each day I stack one good eating choice after another, I will get the results I set out for: a healthier mind and body, more energy, a chance to be proud of myself, confidence in feeling more like myself again, and bonus that will just fall into place – lose the baby weight from baby number three.

And as always, preparation is the key to success.

This is going to be a learning process for me, and I am excited to try new recipes and really dive in. What has worked for me so far is to be prepared. I buy a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as things like chickpeas and sunflower seeds. Then I wash, cut and prep all of the veggies and store in containers in the refrigerator. Throughout the day I can just grab this and that easily, and easily make big bowls full of an assortment of whatever I’ve prepped. It’s sort of like mixing and matching from your closet. 

At restaurants, I am looking at it as a fun challenge to see what’s on each menu that will work for me. So far, I haven’t had a problem finding things at all restaurants I’ve been to that fit within what I am eating. 

What I am NOT going to do when it comes to my plant-based diet:

For me, this is going to be a lifestyle change. I do plan to “stack” good choices and stick to my plan. Like I said, I need to not fail at this for many reasons. Therefore, I refuse to beat myself up over food choices. That means, for example, that if a little dairy gets into my diet when I’m at a restaurant, I am not going to throw my hands into the air in defeat. If I taste a bite of my kid’s food and it’s not something that is on my “list” above, I am not going to resolve myself to the fact that all is lost, I’ve ruined everything and I might as well give up and eat a pint of ice cream after the kids go to bed. Nope. Not doing it this time. 

My new relationship with food is a good one. And that means no guilt, no evil cycles. 

I am really excited about how eating plant-based is already changing my life, and how it’s just going to keep getting better from here! Of course, in true blogger fashion, I will be documenting my journey with plant-based eating here on the blog and on social media. I’ll be sure to share my favorite recipes as well!

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plant-based eating



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