What is the difference between vegan and plant-based? This is a question I am often asked.
Most of us by now have heard the term "plant-based". Essentially, it's a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains and legumes, avoiding animal products, eggs and dairy. More and more the term plant-based is used instead of vegan.
For some people, "vegan" conjures up images of long-haired hippies and malnourished waif-like creatures who exist on carrot sticks and lettuce. Or perhaps protesters shoving violent images of tortured animals in people's faces and telling them how bad the meat industry is.
I am not knocking hard-core vegans. I was one for many years and without them I wouldn't be where I am today. For that I am very grateful but the world – or the word, in this case – is changing. Vegans are getting a second chance – a chance to reinvent themselves in a more consumer-friendly way by adopting the term "plant-based".
Personally, I like the term, especially if it's going to make veganism palatable to more people.
A vegan is someone who goes all in. They don't just follow a plant-based diet, they live a vegan lifestyle, choosing not to use or consume any animal products or byproducts. This means no leather shoes, no beeswax in beauty products and no wine that has used animal products in the fining process. Someone who follows a plant-based diet is perhaps more focused on what they eat and consume rather than what they wear or use.
It is important for people following a vegan lifestyle to be open-minded and inclusive of people who don't.
I know that might sound strange coming from a person who owns one of Sydney's oldest vegan restaurants. But after 30 years of being in this industry I've seen a trend or two come and go. I know plenty of people who identify as vegan or who say they are following a plant-based diet but who indulge in a bit of fish, egg or honey once or twice a year.
I've heard vegans tell those same people that if they do that they were never vegan to begin with. Ouch. People are too quick to label and too quick to judge. Extremism only attracts a certain type of person while putting the rest of us off the very message they are trying to convey.
Veganism is not a religion or a cult although sometimes it can look that way from the outside. It's a lifestyle choice made for ethical, health or religious reasons. Everyone is at different stages of a very personal journey.
I have learnt over the years not to be too hard on myself and embrace every individual who walks in my doors, no matter who they are or what they eat. Being inclusive opens many more doors than being divisive.
Heaven Leigh is a third-generation restaurateur and owner of Bodhi Restaurant at Cook & Phillip Park, Sydney.