What is a plant-based diet? This term can be interpreted and used several ways.  So, to be honest, it’s confusing.  Read on to find out how people use it.

Types of Plant-based Diets

The strictest interpretation is a diet made up of plants. That means no meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, or honey.  In this way, it is a descriptive, appealing phrase to describe following a vegan diet.  Cookbooks, blogs, and restaurants commonly select the term “plant-based” rather than vegan because it sounds pretty.

However, many people use the term more broadly.  For example, the well-known culinary expert Mark Bittman has a “vegan until 6 pm” rule where animal products are only eaten at the evening meal.  He promotes a plant-based diet without begin a strict vegan or vegetarian.

Another less strict interpretation includes being vegetarian: no meat, fish or poultry.  Even more loosely, some people consider “flexitarian” diets to be plant-based.  Flexitarians primarily avoid eating meat but eat it upon occasion.  One example might be eating meat when invited to someone’s house (but not at home).


The intent behind the phrase is to encourage people to enjoy a plethora of plants.  Some organizations even simply state “plant-based” to indicate meat is used as a condiment or flavor component rather than the bulk of the meal.

Why would someone follow a plant-based diet?

Personal reasons for choosing a plant-based diet vary.  For example, health, environmental concerns, financial costs, ethical concerns, or even religious reasons influence choices in foods. Many people who reduce the amount of meat they eat talk about environmental and health concerns.  People who avoid animal products entirely often talk about ethical and religious concerns.  However, some people have multiple reasons choosing plant-based meals.

Whatever you choose, remember there is no perfect answer.

Need some resources to explore? Keep reading.

Recipes and Inspiration for Plant-based Diets

Meatless Mondays: Meatless Monday began to help reduce global warming. They promote avoiding meat on Mondays.  Numerous bloggers and organizations participate.  Resources include recipes, e-books, and examples of institutional meals.

Forks Over Knives: A documentary about the food system, FOK grew to include handy supporting materials for those trying a plant-based diet.  Look for items like guides on best budget picks, how to travel while on a plant-based diet, and tips for gradually transitioning into eating more plants.  Reader alert: some of the blog posts should inspire some gentle skepticism.

Oldways: Oldways promotes traditional eating patterns associated with healthier lives.  Many of their recipes and resources highlight plant groups.  Check out some of their food specific handouts for ideas (under resources).

American Institute for Cancer Research: Access their recipe database of well-tested recipes featuring healthful ingredients.  The organization works to encourage many healthy behaviors that prevent cancer.

Purple Carrot: A meal delivery service, this company also posts useful information about plant-based meals for home cooks.  Just expect a little sales pitch.

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