plant-based nutrition

Plant-Based or Vegan?

What’s the difference between being plant-based and vegan?

There are a couple of ways to approach this comparison.

First, plant-based, or plant-based nutrition, describes a diet consisting of whole plant foods and minimally processed plant foods.

A plant-based person does not eat animal parts or products such as meat, bone, eggs, milk, butter, gelatin, etc. Generally, the plant-based approach does not include refined or processed foods, which are considered “plant fragments.”

What is a “minimally processed” plant-based food? Salsa, nut butters, applesauce, hummus, vegetable broth, oatmeal and guacamole are some examples of foods that are no longer in their whole food form, but have been minimally altered.

Condiments are generally accepted as minimally processed, as are corn tortillas, whole grain breads and pastas.


The vegan approach is the same in that no animal parts or derivatives are eaten.

But there are a couple of distinctions.

Veganism is a lifestyle and an ethical and political stance against anything that involves the use of animals or animal products.

So in addition to food, vegans abstain from wearing leather, fur, wool and silk, and using products (household, cosmetic, etc.) that are tested on animals.


A person can be vegan and not plant-based.

The other distinction is in the food chosen.

Vegan eaters don’t eat anything with animals or animal products in it, but that doesn’t mean they’re eating plants.

Potato chips, candy, soda, and vegan cookies are considered “vegan” as long as they don’t contain eggs or dairy. (However, mass-produced white refined sugar is not considered vegan because of the bone char used in processing.)

Not all vegans eat processed or junk food, but the premise of the vegan approach alone doesn’t restrict those foods, so it is possible to be an “unhealthy” vegan.


A person can be plant-based and not vegan.

While plant-based eaters might choose that approach with the environment and animal treatment in mind, it’s possible they are doing it more for the health benefits.

It’s even becoming more common for doctors to suggest a plant-based lifestyle to help manage high cholesterol, heart disease, type II diabetes and hypertension.

So the term plant-based doesn’t usually have the political and ethical pull to it like vegan does.


If you are worried that plant-based eating is going to be super boring or taste like cardboard, I have some mouth-watering news for you: Pulled BBQ Mushroom Sandwich.

It’s the new favorite in our household. And it is SO easy to make (and I used to consider opening a macaroni and cheese box “cooking”).


If you are interested, for any of the reasons, in learning more about how to reduce or eliminate animals from your diet safely and deliciously, the upcoming Plant-Based Nutrition series is a great place to start.

If you already dabble, this will be an opportunity to expand your recipe base, check in on your nutritional requirements and hang out with some like-minded eaters.

Plus there will be taste tests each week!

If you have any questions, just ask.

Register here.


pulled bbq mushroom sandwich

"What do you eat?"

This is a question I get all the time. All the time.

Thankfully, there's a whole world of creative, simple and delicious dishes that don't include animals.

And for someone like my boyfriend, who stopped eating meat about a year ago because of the environmental impact animal ag has on the planet, but loves meat, this sandwich is redeeming!

Mushrooms in general have a more hearty, "meaty" consistency and are a great source of protein, fiber and many important vitamins and minerals.

These trumpet and king oyster mushrooms eerily mimic the texture and look of pulled pork.

What really makes this sandwich for me is the slaw -- kale, carrot and red onion. It's the perfect tang to the spice of the BBQ sauce.

pulled bbq mush.JPG

This recipe is adapted from Chef Chris Rubenstein's of the same name. The original calls for smoking the mushrooms; I marinated them for a few minutes in liquid smoke and baked them. I also decreased the sugar and lightly steamed the vegetables for easier digestion.

The organic fries were a splurge and added the perfectly salty compliment.

I thought this was going to be more work than it was -- it was simple and quick.

Let me know if you make it!

And if learning more about how to reduce or eliminate animals from your diet is your jam (no pun intended), check out my upcoming Plant-Based Nutrition series.


Pulled BBQ Mushroom Sandwich

Servings: 4-6
Prep: 30 minutes
Total: 50 minutes


1 pound whole trumpet/king oyster mushrooms
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
1/8 cup water
1 each head kale, finely sliced (chiffonade)
2 each carrots, peeled and grated
1 each red onion, julienned
3/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup BBQ sauce
4 each sandwich rolls


1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Clean the mushrooms and leave whole. Toss with the liquid smoke and a small amount (about 1/8 C) of water in a bowl and marinate for 10-15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, to prep the slaw, lightly steam the veggies: the carrots and onion together for 6-10 minutes and the kale for 3-5 minutes. Then mix the kale, carrots, and onion in a large mixing bowl and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

4. After marinating, place mushrooms and any remaining liquid on a baking sheet and cook for 10-15 minutes until darkened, but do not allow them to burn. When mushrooms are done cooking, allow them to cool slightly, then shred with a fork.

5. Mix vegan mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, sugar, and crushed red pepper. Whisk to combine, then pour over the slaw and stir. Place back in the refrigerator. 

6. Heat oil in a saucepan, add mushrooms and BBQ sauce, and sauté until sauce is caramelized and has coated the mushrooms.

7. To assemble the sandwich, place kale slaw on the bun and top with mushroom mixture. Option to top with sprouts or microgreens. Bon appetit!

Notes: You can find liquid smoke at health food stores and the flavor/quality of the BBQ sauce will reflect in the dish.