I’m going back to basics with a pop question for you. Can you tell me what the words on the image below mean, off the top of your head?

Chances are, whether you’re a vegan or a soon-to-be vegan, the meanings of some of these terms may not roll off the tip of your tongue — despite how often you may say them yourself. So to help you to have a general understanding of these 10 common vegan and vegan-associated terms, here are their definitions.

  1. Vegan (pronounced “vee-gun”) — Someone who does not eat any animals or animal products (including chicken, fish, turkey, beef, pork, duck, milk, eggs, and cheese). And someone who does not eat or use animals or animal products (including for clothing, skincare products, and furnishings), and does not support the use of animals for entertainment (including zoos, circuses, marine parks, and aquariums) or for research and testing. There is disagreement about whether people who don’t eat animals, but do use animals or animal products in other ways are actually vegans. In my view, they are vegans. People enter into veganism for health, animal, environmental, spiritual, and/or other reasons. And many times, the longer people are vegans, the more likely they are to expand their practice of veganism to multiple areas.
  2. Plant-Based — Usually used to describe food that comes exclusively or mostly from plants and contains no animal products. Typically, people use the words vegan and plant-based interchangeably. However, many people refer to themselves as plant-based instead of vegan to make a distinction between eating plants for health reasons and eating plants for animal advocacy or animal rights reasons.
  3. Vegetarian — A person who does not eat the meat of animals, but does consume the milk and eggs of animals, or products made with them, such as cheese.
  4. Whole Food — Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds that are eaten closest to their natural, unprocessed, and nutrient-rich state. For whole grains, that means black, brown, or wild rice; quinoa; oats; millet; barley; and more. These whole foods contain an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and essential fiber.
  5. Processed Food — Food that is packaged in boxes, cans or bags, and often contains additives, artificial flavorings, and other chemical ingredients. For processed grains, it refers to white rice, white pasta, white bread, and bakery products made with white flour that have had most of the essential fiber, vitamins, and minerals removed.
  6. Organic — A set of practices used by growers that promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity by not using pesticides, fertilizers, irradiation, industrial solvents or synthetic food additives. Commonly used to describe fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients grown using these practices.
  7. Conventional — A term commonly used for fruits and vegetables that are not organic, but typically have been sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides.
  8. GMOs — Genetically Modified Organisms are plants, animals, and microorganisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. This is done to food crops to create a resistance to the direct application of pesticides. Almost 80% of non-organic processed, packaged foods in the U.S. contain GMOs. Bioengineered is another word for GMO.
  9. Gluten-Free — A label that indicates that the product does not contain gluten, which is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. If a product is gluten-free, it does not mean it’s vegan (although many people seem to think so!). The product can be gluten-free and contain animal ingredients.
  10. Cruelty-Free — A label that indicates that the product (typically cosmetics, skincare, and hair care) does not contain animal-derived ingredients and was not tested on animals. Not all vegan products are cruelty-free. Some are tested on animals, even though they don’t contain animal ingredients.

So there you have it. Ten common vegan or vegan-associated terms you now know, for wherever you are on your vegan journey. Now go out and give someone else a pop quiz! 😉


Much Love,

  1. Mike says:

    Thank you.

  2. Karen Rudolph says:

    Thanks this is very helpful.

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