What’s the deal with… “plant-based eating”?

So first things first, let’s talk about me. Am I a vegan? Nope. That’s a good few Instagram followers gone. I am mostly a vegetarian – I don’t tend to eat meat or fish for a variety of reasons - some of which are taste-based, some are ethics-based, some are money-based. It’s a multi-faceted thing. Because I also don’t have dairy and I don’t like eggs I am also a sort of accidental semi-vegan. I phased out honey because of my love for bees (I have one inked on my wrist to make strangers aware of how deep this love is), but I still wear wool, I have a leather bag and I own leather shoes. Next batch of Instagram followers gone. Also, as a full disclaimer, I did eat marshmallows about a month ago because they were right there and I was ravenous… If I am ever forced to label the way I eat (and it happens surprisingly often) I refer to my diet as “plant-based”.

Plant-based eating is often seen as a synonym for veganism, and many use the term interchangeably, but I believe there are some  real differences between the two. I see veganism as falling under the umbrella of plant-based eating, but not the absolute definition of what it is. I remember seeing Laura Thomas (a nutrition-science-crush of mine – yes, that’s a thing) speak at VegFest last year in London. When talking about the variations of scientific studies on the subject she explained that ‘plant-based’ means different things to different people - some researchers include dairy, others some meat. There were audible gasps.

But this attitude to the concept of a plant-based diet is much more my cup of tea. The clue is in the word “based”. The idea that most of the food we eat should be ‘based’ around plants is a good one – fruits, veggies, wholegrains – all good stuff. This is reflected in the advice us dietitians give people, and the basis of the EatWell plate and its equivalents around the world. If you start with plants you have got a solid foundation of good nutrition. But this probably won’t make up your diet alone, it certainly doesn’t make up mine.

It is easy to get bogged-down with labels, especially in a world where a hashtag is everything. We divide the world into clean or dirty, vegan or paleo, high carb or keto, but this is not how most people eat, and neither should it be. Do I try to avoid relying on ready meals and attempt to make most things from scratch? Yes. Last Thursday did I get home and eat a big piece of cake and order takeaway pizza? Also yes. A healthy diet isn’t one without wiggle room, it doesn’t demand you align yourself to a tribe, a healthy diet is the diet that fuels you, nourishes you and makes you feel good. So when I am forced to announce myself as a plant-based eater it means I eat mostly plants, but it also means I eat plenty of not-plants too.