From vegan to vegetarian and flexitarian to Mediterranean, there are more ways than ever to define plant-focused eating patterns. And let’s face it: it can get confusing. Should I be eating “plant-forward” or “plant-based” – and what do those terms really mean, anyways? Am I allowed to eat meat or dairy if I want to be plant-forward? Let’s clear things up.
The Produce for Better Health Foundation and California Walnuts recently partnered together to define what these words actually mean in Have a Plant: The Plant-Forward Eating Guide. Because at the end of the day, eating more plants, more often should be simple, easy and enjoyable. Here’s where we netted:
Flavorful fruits and vibrant vegetables, satisfying whole grains and a variety of wholesome, nutrient-packed foods such as legumes, nuts and seeds, edamame and tofu, are the mainstays. Low-fat milk and dairy products, seafood, lean meat, poultry and eggs are also parts of this balanced diet and complement plant foods deliciously and nutritiously. A plant-forward diet is not about excluding or limiting food groups; it’s about being more mindful of how to add and enjoy more plants on the plate.
We use the term “plant-based” to define plant-based foods on the market. Any food product made with 100% plants is a plant-based food, such as chickpea-based chicken nuggets or pea-protein burgers made entirely of plants, or nut milks and soy products. It also includes produce in any form (fresh, canned, frozen, etc.).
There is no single way to achieve a plant-forward eating pattern – plant-forward eating is a flexible and customizable approach to eating that is inclusive and less restrictive than vegetarian or vegan eating patterns. There are many paths to a plant-forward style of eating — but at the heart, it’s all about making the most of a plant-powered plate. Below are a few plant-centric styles of eating and how they fit into a plant-forward eating pattern defined.
- A vegetarian diet does not include poultry, seafood, beef, pork or other animal meats. While vegetarians restrict certain animal-based products, plant-forward eaters swap in animal products and proteins into their diet, rather than eliminating them entirely.
- A vegan diet excludes all animal-based products, as vegans can only consume plant foods. While a vegan diet is more restrictive, a plant-forward diet allows for the consumption of poultry, lean meat, seafood, dairy and eggs. A Mediterranean diet is a plant-forward style of eating. It’s less restrictive of the consumption of animal proteins and has a higher overall recommended intake of good fats.
No matter your cultural traditions or food values, a plant-forward eating pattern can work for you. So, go forth and eat more plants!