The Plant Rx

Your resource for a plant-based diet

What is a Plant-Based Diet?

Plant-based Diet

Definition: A plant-based diet is a diet that excludes animals and animal by-products (=Meat & Dairy). A diet of this type eliminates all red-meat, poultry, fish, seafood as well as cow’s & goat’s milk, cheese, yogurt and eggs.

*Note: most definitions focus on what is excluded from the diet (meat and dairy) rather than focusing on what is included.  So, what is included? What do you eat?


Jenna’s Diet:

I eat a whole food, plant-based diet.  This means that I eat whole or minimally processed plants (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, tubers and legumes) and exclude meat, dairy, and refined foods such as unbleached flour, refined sugar and oil.


Evolution of Dietary Terminology:

  • The term “Vegetarian” first appeared around 1840.  It was first formally used on Sept. 30, 1847 by Joseph Brotherton in Kent, England at the inaugural meeting of the Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom.  At the time the word Vegetarian was defined as: the practice of not eating meat, poultry or fish or their by-products, with or without the use of dairy products or eggs.
  • Often the term Vegetarian was broken further down into Ovo-Lacto vegetarians and Lacto Vegetarians.
  1. Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian = A vegetarian who consumes eggs, milk and milk products
  2. Lacto Vegetraian= A vegetarian who consumes milk and milk products (No eggs)
  • The term ” Vegan” was coined in 1944 by Donald Watson because he was frustrated that the term “Vegetarian” had come to include the eating of dairy products.  The word starts and ends with the first three and last two letters of VEGETARIAN, representing that Veganism begins with Vegetarianism and then takes it to its logical conclusion.  Thus, the term “Vegan” was originally coined to differentiate those vegetarians who sought to eliminate all animal products in all areas of their lives from those who simply avoided eating meat.
  • The term “Vegan” as it was intentioned to be defined back then excluded all animals (meat, poultry, fish and seafood) and animal products (eggs and dairy) as well as the wearing and use of animal products such as leather, wool, lanolin and gelatin.
  • The term “Dietary Vegan” was later developed to categorize those people who avoided animal products for reasons of health benefits ( eg. due to allergies, or to avoid cholesterol), rather than compassion.  Thus, a dietary vegan follows a vegan diet but does not necessarily try to exclude non-food uses of animals.
  • This brings us full circle back to the term, Plant-based Diet.  Over the past few years this term has increasingly been used to refer to a diet exclusively of plant material.  Therefore, a Plant-based diet is the same as a Dietary Vegan.

Other confusing terminology:

  • Pescetarian – A vegetarian that consumes fish.
  • Fruitarian – A vegetarian that only eats foods that do not kill the plant (apples can be picked without killing the plant, carrots cannot)
  • Herbivore – Mainly eats grass or plants.  Not necessarily a Vegetarian.
  • Non-Dairy – Does not have enough percentage of milk fat to be called dairy.  May actually contain milk or milk derivatives.
  • Non-Meat – Made without meat.  May, however, include eggs, milk and/or cheese.  Sometimes may even include animal fats, seafood, fish and fowl.

Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: (Vegetarian & Vegan diets)

Source: J Am Diet Assoc. 2003 Jun;103(6):748-65.

American Dietetic AssociationDietitians of Canada

It is the position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence. Vegetarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein as well as higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and phytochemicals. Vegetarians have been reported to have lower body mass indices than nonvegetarians, as well as lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; vegetarians also show lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood pressure; and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer.

2 Responses to “What is a Plant-Based Diet?”

  1. steffanl said

    Wow. The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada’s position statement is very clear about benefits that I think any thinking person would want to enjoy. Are these credible organizations?

    • Jenn said

      Yes. Very.

      About ADA
      What Is the American Dietetic Association (ADA)?
      The American Dietetic Association is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. ADA is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: