Difference Between a Vegan Diet and a Whole Food Plant Based Diet

WFPB Vegan Diet Difference

The difference between vegan and whole food plant based diet (WFPB) is that a WFPB diet does not include processed food in any form, including oil and refined sugar.

If you follow a vegan diet, then vegan cookies, vegan ice cream, vegan potato chips, and vegan candy bars are A-Okay. When following a whole food plant based diet, those foods are avoided.

Whole food plant based diet is a term coined by Dr. T. Colin Campbell.

Dr. Campbell has written numerous New York Times best-selling books, including The China Study and Whole – Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, and has been at the forefront of nutrition research since the 1970’s. (Before my ass was even a concept.)

His research has been vital for understanding the relationship between food and disease. I urge anyone interested in nutrition and/or health (the two are much more connected than you may realize) to check out his work – he’s the real deal.

According to Dr. Campbell, a diet filled with a variety of whole fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds is the most effective way of preventing, treating, and in some cases, even reversing the most common ailments today, including certain types of cancers, heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and obesity.

There are lots of reasons why this knowledge isn’t making its way into government policies and health care reform, but the main reason is that big profits don’t come from whole plant foods. Big profits come from pharmaceuticals (the very thing you’ll need if you avoid whole plant foods).

Since the government isn’t pushing healthy food as a way to prevent illness and disease, this must be a grassroots change; one individual at a time, one plate of healthy food at a time.

Maybe it starts with one person cutting out soda and turns into their entire family cutting out junk food completely.

Maybe one person’s choice to cut out meat for a month turns into starting an organic garden in their backyard and that turns into green juices aplenty.

Or maybe the change to a whole food plant based diet is a tiny one.

It doesn’t have to be a drastic all-or-nothing approach. It can be the decision to read The China Study or watch Forks over Knives. Or maybe sign up for our weekly plant based Meal Plans.

My point is, everyone is on a different journey with food and health – and that’s okay. 

Everyone has to start somewhere.

I wanted to showcase the main difference between vegan and a whole food plant based diet since we get asked a lot.

There are times that I indulge in a greasy Chinese meal – it happens! I am FAR from perfect. But when it does happen, I wake up the next morning and get back on track with a huge green juice for breakfast, miso soup for lunch, and lemony chickpea salad for dinner. It’s not about perfection. It’s about taking baby steps to a healthy lifestyle that will stick.

I created Clean Food Dirty Girl because I want everyone armed with the information that Dr. Campbell (and others like him) have put out into the world. Because when we’re armed with knowledge we can make the very best choices for ourselves and our families. And when we have support, it’s even easier. That’s why our private Facebook group is the best group out there. Whether you’re vegan or just starting on your whole food plant based diet, we’re here for you.

I will leave you with a recipe that proves that eating truly healthy does not have to be bland or boring. This plant based mac and cheese recipe is the mother of all plant based mac and cheese recipes

If you prefer to make this in your Instant Pot, check out my 5-minute Instant Pot version here.

Enjoy EVERY mother-loving bite!

We hope we cleared up the difference between vegan and whole food plant based diets

In summary, both diets do not contain animal products. A whole food plant based diet goes a step further and excludes all oil and overly processed foods.

Take the next step with our plant based Meal Plans

We create incredible plant based meal plans and recipes are perfect for vegans or people simply trying to eat more plants. With over 300 Meal Plans and thousands of delicious, whole-food recipes – you’re bound to find something you like. So after you devour the best plant based Mac and Cheese, start a free trial to Plant Fueled Life.

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Our Sweary Saturday Love Letters are written by our ex-boozer, ex-smoker, plant-loving co-founder, Molly Patrick.


  1. Devra Pomeroy on July 9, 2014 at 5:12 am

    Forks over Knives definitely changed the way my husband and I eat. We are not there yet by any means, but we eat so much healthier than we used to. Our biggest problem is sugar; we both really like sugar. lol. But we steadily eat healthier and healthier. =)
    Thanks for this post! I am really passionate about helping people make better food choices. WFPB and vegan aren’t for everyone, but even cutting out soda and most of your processed foods makes a difference. I believe in the power of menu planning; many people eat processed, convenient things because they don’t plan ahead.

    • Molly Patrick on July 9, 2014 at 7:20 am

      Devra Pomeroy – Agree with all of it! Thank you for posting.

    • lyn jalving on January 28, 2018 at 6:55 pm

      watch ” That Sugar film” amazing good film on sugar

  2. Meg on July 10, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Forks Over Knives started my husband and I on our path to better eating as well. While we still ate meat, we took a hard look at everything we were eating. We made veggies more of a priority than something to round out a plate. And I know we are so much better for it.
    And since watching “Vegucated” right after New Years, I haven’t knowingly eaten meat (yeah, BBQ chips have chicken in the seasoning. The jerks.) Now, the Forks Over Knives cookbook as well as Dr Neal Barnard’s books are my go-to quick reference guides for ideas. (Behind the super-duper awesome Bold Vegan website, of course!)

    • Molly Patrick on July 11, 2014 at 10:45 am

      so awesome! Thank you for sharing. Dr Barnard is awesome, he wrote the foreword for our second cookbook, Food for the Body and Soul.
      Have you read Whole? It is A-the-Mazing. xo

    • Molly Patrick on July 11, 2014 at 4:25 pm

      So awesome! Thank you for sharing. Neal Barnard is awesome, he wrote the foreword for our second cookbook, Food for the Body and Soul. Have you read Whole? It is A-the-Mazing.

      xo Molly

  3. Bart on July 21, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    I read “The China Study” and tried a vegan diet for several months.

    • Molly Patrick on July 21, 2014 at 3:38 pm

      What a fantastic read! Glad you stopped by!

  4. Kathy on July 21, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    My daughter and I watched the “Forks Over Knives” documentary after breakfast one morning, and decided to go Plant-Based. That was over a year ago. I recently read “The China Study” and was so
    WOW-ed! The China Study Cookbook is wonderful, better than any other plant-based cookbook I have used this year.

    • Molly Patrick on July 21, 2014 at 6:43 pm

      Right on! Cheers to Forks Over Knives. Such an important documentary (and cookbook!)

    • Roger on January 18, 2020 at 12:15 am

      Where can I find The China Study Cookbook?


      • Molly Patrick on January 19, 2020 at 10:52 pm

        You can find it on Amazon or at most book stores 🙂

  5. Shannan_mm on July 23, 2014 at 2:53 am

    Wonderful article and recipe. I was sceptical (about the recipe, specifically the potato and carrot) but thought at least it would be an easy dinner. Wrong! Delicious.

    • Molly Patrick on July 23, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      Awesome! So glad you liked it. xooxoxoxoxo

    • Beka on October 16, 2019 at 5:31 am

      Although my kids didn’t like the “queso” with pasta they love it for quesadillas. I can’t get them off the pan fast enough. I’m so glad to have found this plant based mac and cheese recipe. Thank you!

  6. denise on July 27, 2014 at 6:58 am

    Can’t wait to try and have watched forks over knives, so yes I have heard of him!

    • Molly Patrick on July 27, 2014 at 9:02 pm

      Hi Denise – bounce back over here after you try and let me know what you think! So glad you know about Dr. Campbell! xo

  7. Teresa on April 3, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    Just watched forks over knives. Excited to get started. This will be a great way to get the kids on board!

    • Molly Patrick on April 4, 2015 at 8:50 am

      Hey Teresa!
      I’m so excited for you! This recipe has definitely been kid tested and approved. Have you hopped on board for my Saturday emails. I send out weekly recipes, tips and info. You can join us here for free 🙂

  8. Margie on April 12, 2017 at 11:53 pm

    Thank you so much for leaving these comments posted and available. They answer so many questions and just help me be even more excited about this way of eating. The biggest problem is where to go next!

    Seriously, thank you for hope!

    • Molly Patrick on April 13, 2017 at 4:17 am

      Hi Margie!
      You should definitely join our private Facebook group.
      Hope to see you over there!

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