Why move away from the terms vegan & vegetarian?

Angela, a new reader asks a very good question…

I’m curious.  Why “a movement to get away from the terms vegetarian and vegan”?  I am adopting a vegan lifestyle.  Why would we want to move away from those terms? Best, Angela

Dear Angela, Good Question. In my case, I would bet that I eat more fruits and vegetables than any man in Connecticut, yet I don’t refer to myself as vegetarian or vegan. Here’s why.

Let me begin by explaining that my primary focus, in this blog and in our book, is on the mainstream—the 95% who do not wish to be vegan or vegetarian–for whatever reasons. In reaching that group, I don’t want to use words (labels) that might inadvertently turn them off. So, here’s my thinking:

Diet Coke and potato chips. Vegan? Yes. Healthy? No way.

  1. Many people think that vegetarians and vegans are weird; anything with an “ism” on the end is not attractive to lots of people, me included.
  2. The words vegan-ism and vegetarian-ism don’t describe what you DO eat; they’re mostly about what you’re avoiding.
  3. Many, if not most, vegetarians eat a very unhealthy diet. Most eat dairy and eggs and the vast majority eat way too many refined carbohydrates with lots of salt, sugar and fat. So vegan is not necessarily healthy; after all, you could eat nothing but Diet Coke and potato chips and call yourself a vegan.
  4. So we created the 4Leaf Program that features the positive—maximizing the percent of your calories from whole, plant-based foods—still in Nature’s package. How simple is that? And it’s easy to explain what you DO eat. Whole Plants.
  5. We have found that people like the clarity, the simplicity and the flexibility of our 4Leaf concept.
  6. We have started a few 4Leaf Potluck Supper Clubs in our area; you can read about them on my blog. And we’re attracting many people who would never have dreamed of joining a vegan or vegetarian club.

The other half of that “not-so-healthy” vegan meal.

Bottom Line: If you’re eating at the 4Leaf level (over 80% whole plants), I bet you’ll be eating better than 90% of the vegetarians out there—and you’ll probably be high in the top one percent of the healthiest eaters nationwide.

You might enjoy this blog post that I wrote almost one year ago—back when I was first beginning to get my “voice.” Why do some vegetarians get fat?

Have you bought our book yet? You will like it. I look forward to hearing from you again soon.

Want to receive some occasional special news from us? You may wish to join our periodic mailing list. Also, for help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page.

If you’d like to order our book on Amazon,  visit our BookStore now.

J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

And if you like what 4Leaf eating is doing for you and your family, you might enjoy visiting our new “4Leaf Gear” store. From the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at HealthyEatingHealthyWorld.com

SHARE and rate this post below…One more thing, occasionally an unauthorized ad may appear beneath a blog post. It is controlled by WordPress (a totally free hosting service). I do not approve or personally benefit whatsoever from any ad that might ever appear on this site. I apologize and urge you to please disregard.

J. Morris Hicks — Member of the Board of Directors — Click image to visit the foundation website.

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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7 Responses to Why move away from the terms vegan & vegetarian?

  1. Pingback: Vegan — a weighted word? | Car-free, meat-free runner

  2. Mitzi says:

    “4-leaf” is inclusive instead of exclusive. A man who still has a steak on his birthday, or a bit of turkey at Thanksgiving, but is “vegan” the rest of the year, could still qualify. Putting a positive spin on it helps you get your message across without offending, and you communicate it in a way that allows a person to transition up to the 4-leaf standard. That is good. It took me years to do so, as I learned to cook more at home. I do not self-identify as vegan, because we still eat a little fish, a few eggs, and a bit of cheese once in a while. But most of what we eat is straight from the produce section and dried-beans-and-grains aisle. So I like the “4-leaf” philosophy. Keep up the good work.

  3. I can see both sides of this argument. I call myself vegan because I like identifying with a community that I’ve found to be supportive and generous. That being said, I realize labels can be off-putting and there are so many negative connotations with the word. I’m trying, however, to be a good example of a healthy, happy and caring vegan. 🙂

  4. Craig Holman says:

    I like your comment about being a vegan eathing potato chips and coke. I give a talk where I use my favorite movie, The Jerk, as a starting point. Navin R Johnson has his favorite meal as a Twinkie, tuna fish on white bread, and a Tab. This is the SAD diet. To become vegetarian, it only means going to a cheese sandwich with the Twinkie and Tab. Healthy? Hardly. To go vegan take away the cheese and make the sandwich peanut butter and jelly. Healthy? Hardly. Consider going to a wrap with veggies, an apple, and iced hibiscus tea. Healthy? You bet. It goes with Fuhrman notion of nutritarian. I agree that labels can be a challenge. I have watched John McDougall give a lecture about the fat vegan.

    It is easier to say one eats a whole foods plant based diet.

  5. huracan says:


    I’m glad you have added rabe to your broccoli! 🙂

  6. And still, I have to explain to people that ask, “What is plant food?” My response, “Any thing that grows: From the ground, from a tree, from a bush.”

    But I still like the sound of the word: Vegan.

    sligg (eat more broccoli rabe)
    Sal Liggieri

  7. Diane Borg says:

    I enjoy your blog, and agree with this one. I think Dr. N. Barnard also addressed this in one of his books, something along the lines of labeling one a “vegan” somewhat implies a “philosophy”, or lifestyle, or personality, rather than a way of healthy eating. Certainly, you can be a vegan, and eat healthy, but as you said, many do not. I prefer eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet, to be honest, about 90% of the time. And no, I do not worry about the other 10%, but it does include coffee, wine, and a very occasional piece of wild salmon.

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