Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Ever since I started my vegan diet the year before last, I've been looking for a good word for what my diet is called. This search was intensified when Lawrence Lessig started a similar diet and insisted that he didn't like the word "vegan" - although that is what he currently is. The problem with "vegan" is that it has some political overtones and the vegan diet includes high-calorie-low-nutrition foods such as refined starches and oils.

The problem with this is that when you request a vegan meal on a plane, you end up with something like a pile of pasta with tomato sauce - which is really not the point. The point of our diet is to eat as much healthy whole foods as possible. One of the problems with refined starches, oils and meats is that they have much less nutrition per calorie than plant-based whole foods. So while cutting down on animal proteins and "bad fats" is part of the deal, a huge part of the deal is cutting down on "blank calories".

Anyway, I've decided that the current working name for my diet is "Plant-based whole foods". If anyone can think of a better word for this, let me know. I have yet to find one.

PS If you're a PMOG player, I made a Veganism mission. The problem with "Plant-based whole foods" is that it's a bit long to make into an "ism" - Plant-based whole foodsism... hmm


That's much better than vegan. You can even drop the 'plants-based' part because the term 'whole foods' implicitly refers to plants. No such thing as whole meat.
Speaking of pasta, what is the take in your diet for whole-grain organic pasta?

Hmm... so whole fish and stuff isn't considered whole food? If that's true, you're right.

I take a bit of whole-grain pasta, rice, oatmeal etc. but I try not to eat too much. One of the things I try to do is have as much variety as possible and sometimes with the grains I end up filling up on just that. ;-)

I'll ask my sister who've very much into these things.

But I don't know why the term "whole foods" doesn't refer to meat either. Let n be the percentage of the cow or pig that go into a hot dog. Let m be the percentage of a wheat plant that go into the so-called whole wheat bread. I'm pretty sure that n>m. There are huge parts of the wheat plant that aren't included in whole wheat flour. Everyone forgets about the stalk or the root structure. They're not traditionally edible but maybe that's only tradition. Potatoes are undigestable unless they're prepared correctly. Maybe there's a good way to prepare wheat roots too?

The term is so misleading because we rarely consume close to the whole item. Well, except perhaps for soft-shell crabs and even then that's only an accident of timing. Wait a few weeks and the shell will be inedible again.

I've been on something similar, and I always tell people that my goal is to eat things that are as close to the way God put them on the planet as possible. Perhaps you could call it the "God Diet."

-- Bret

If the point is that you don't like to sound being political / too stoic, how about "Veg-hedonism"?
Or if focusing on the "cutting down on blank calories" part, "High performance vegan"?

I would suggest calling it the green diet.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman coined the term "Nutritarian" according to Wikipedia.

"Plant-based diet" has never ever worked for me...

How about "Pure Foods Diet" - although I really like the previous suggestion, "Green Diet" or "Green Foods."
How about "Real Foods Diet" - I think I have seen that before. - hmm "realism?" that term in taken : - )

Hello there.

I'm one of these political (pronounce: ethical) vegans, infact, the term vegan does originally not refer to food at all, but to rational ethics of which vegan nutrition is one of several consequences.

So the issue is actually the other way round: (Ethical) vegans are concerned about the term vegan being colonized to describe a method of eating only.

Ethical vegans do not consider vegan dieters as vegans, as many vegan dieters wear wool, silk, leather or consume avoidable products known to have been tested on animals. Since veganism encompasses things beyond food, the usage of vegan for food only creates mixed messages. I just recently learned this when I politely asked for a vegan chair not covered with skin, and got the reply "well you're not suppose to eat it". It was funny, in a way, and in a way not.

We actually dislike having to use the adjective ethical in front of vegan to explain our status, as that is a symptom of how much veganism has been colonized to mean other things. Vegan dieting has a motivation based in self-advantage (health), while veganism has a purely altruistic motivation. The Wikipedia entry does not fully represent these differentiations, infact, many lifestyle vegans from the leftist hipster scene would attack me for "claiming vegan equates ethics". They've been most aggressive in appropriating veganism as a leftist teenage trend, and they got tattoos to prove it :-)

So we fully support and appreciate when vegan dieters who don't follow vegan ethics look for their own term.

As for the aptest term itself, difficult, since English happens to be not my primary language. Most vegan dieters I know who eat a plant based diet for health reasons call themselves health vegans. It's not optimal, as it suggests that a standard, balanced vegan diet is not healthy. Which is what many people believe. Many people believe even that a well planned vegan diet is not healthy. Which can be true, if you got the wrong plan:-) This can happen easily, the net is brim-full with misinformation around the vegan diet, to be able to sort facts from distortion one almost needs to acquire information on par with the knowledge of a nutritionist. The actual vegan diet is much simpler to do healthy.

Vegan foodist sounds off a bit or raises mental images of a grocery for vegan delicatessen.

Plant based whole foods diet is correct but quite a mouthful. Instead of describing your diet, describe yourself. Vegan dieter already focuses on the diet, and it makes clear that you are not a vegan, but a dieter. And since the focus is on diet, logic implies that health plays a role without being specifically mentioned. This description is sympathetic to (ethical) vegans as well.

BTW, there is nothing wrong with eating something containing starch. Unless of course you only eat starch. A plate full with vegan noodles and tomato sauce, if done right, may not be hugely nutritious (it actually is, because of the tomatoes), but nevertheless contains a very important nutrient: enjoyment. One should never underestimate the sensual aspects of eating, and to me, nothing can be as sensual as vegan nutrition, knowing that all avoidable harm has been excluded. Noodles from grain like wheat should only be avoided by people who are intolerant to/of gluten, a protein. People who have such serious sensibilities should discuss alternatives to gluten containing foods with a nutritionist.

I even bake white bread, almost a heresy in Germany, the land of many breads. But I do it with a twist. I dejuice like three carrots and use the juice as well as the pulp, and use soy milk instead of water to make the dough. I also use an extra cube of bakers yeast, because bakers yeast is a nutrition bomb. It makes a very fluffy, toast bread like bread, but not white of course but with a tint like cake. Sometimes, before baking, I wetten the risen dough and sprinkle a mild bakers soda on top as well as some salt. It gives the bread a pretzel kink.

That, and my with waterbath-heated reduced to thicken, hazelnut-chocolate-vanilla-soymilk spread is something which will bring the summer back:-)

Actually, I'm going to have that right now.

Cheers, Ava

Thanks, good review, but i not understand, why the term "whole foods" doesn't refer to meat either?

My short answer would be, if you don't like the connotations of the word vegan (which I empathise with), then work with others to change them. This would be easier in country like Japan where the word and concept is not so widely know ... and it does not carry past the sell-by date, counter-cultural baggage.

Its understandable that some individuals, with few other interests, expression or accomplishments in their lives, invest an exaggerated importance into "being vegan" whilst being unaware of any negative associations they themselves might be bringing.

Its disappointing that they feel the need to create and defend class structures within the broad church of what is vegan, e.g. "ethical vegans" being by their judgement superior to those they decry as "dietary vegans", rather than just working to improve general image, awareness and appreciation of the lifestyle.

Its unfortunate that, as a self-assigning, open society, those that consider themselves to be the "most vegan" might actually be the worst advertisements for it, forcing others such as yourself and Lessig into a position of wanting to deny their commitment to it.

Stale, internal, petty politics aside (Yes, they exist. Despite sounding like characters from Star Trek episode, vegans are human beings) ... veganism is an unavoidably political movement but not one limited to simplistic left versus right dialectics. Initially intent for its positive ecological impact, potential to address issues of sustainability and world hunger rather than self-aggrandisement, veganism strikes at the very heart of 'food politics' and all it influences. The place of intense interaction between money, politics and science that actually creates - or destroys - human health, the environment and affects our consciousness.

Eric Schlosser, of Fast Food Nation, once wrote, "food politics underlie all politics in the United States ... no industry [is] more important to Americans, more fundamentally linked to our well-being and the future well-being of our children." A nigh Trillion dollar industry whose naked self-interest has compromised not just nutrition policy, governmental regulation of food safety and the environment in the US but is and has also reshaped the economies and ecologies of other nations, such as Japan post-WII "re-education". Specific to Japan, a return to traditional near veganism is surely key to rebuilding a sustainable society.

I cannot answer your question ... perhaps you are just saying in a more polite fashion, "how can we make 'being vegan' cool, intelligent and attractive to other normal people and ditch the old baggage attached to the term?" recognising that its negative public image has been created unconsciously, most by cranks, critics and comedians.

My only advice in response to that is get out and meet some good ones. Personally, I am always surprised by the variety of individuals that adopt a vegan lifestyle, for whatever reason, and how many attractive and intelligent ones there are.

They feel just the same as you do.

herbivore ^^

or botanical diet

I have the very same problem... being french makes it even more complex to explain. So I'm use to say that I have a "alimentation 100% végétale" wich is the same as plant-based diet (with the slight difference that nodays "végétale" is quite trendy in France, so it doesn't come with negative feedback as when using "vegan" or "végétalien" the french translation for vegan diet).


The tricky thing here, and this thread has fallen into the trap, is to not politicize the name. By politicize I mean "taking a side" and somehow taking a position in a camp, of an opinion, of an eventual judgement of "we are better because we don't eat X and only eat Y"... this is the reason at the root of wanting to get away from the "vegan" label.

Suggestions like "god's diet" are even worse. The people on this planet who have been ostracized and persecuted the most as long as they have existed are those who go around telling people they are "god's chosen ones". Don't go there.

Joi's initial intuition, "Plant-based whole foods diet" is good; it names the diet according to what it involves. But it's too wordy. And that's why he posted this: he wants a shorter version! One that doesn't get politicized/arrogant.

The diet Joi is referring to here, the one he is more or less on, is based on the Eat to Live diet. That diet's main stipulation is the Nutrients/Calories equation: get as much nutrients as you can with every calorie you intake. From that basic idea, all the do's and don't of the diet flow.

It's about nutrients.

So my suggestion is just that: "I am on a nutrients diet."

This doesn't get around the having to do a bit of explaining it every time, but that's true of anything! You can't expect everyone to know everything. What you can do is reasonably expect reasonable people, when told that you are on a special diet that is not religiously or moralistically tied, but rather is about your health... to listen and try to accommodate.

"I am on a special nutrients diet, for my health. I can only eat vegetables and fruits, preferably raw. Please no animal products of any kind and I must avoid oils, salts and sugars too."

This should get you enough food to get to the next place, or better yet, home. ;)

I like the french word 'végétale' or nutritionalist either of which when used as a new label affords you the opportunity to explain exactly what it is that you're defining yourself as. I am new to 'vegetale' life and am by no definition a Nutritionist (easily confused with nutritionalist) yet after suffering through a lifetime of misinformation and downright deception I have embraced the "Whole Foods Plant-Based" diet wholeheartedly. After reading 2/3rds of "The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell the truth finally sank in, I have slowly but surely been poisoning my body by eating animals for food. I 'came down' with type II diabetes upon returning to my old american diet of "go meat', burgers, fries and diet cokes after two years of living the good life (fresh food) in Japan, my bad. What came as a shocking epiphany was something that I heard long ago and have heard many times since but failed to put into perspective or context, whenever someone is diagnosed with heart disease or cancer the very first instruction given by a medical professional is STOP eating red meat. Now why is that so shocking. No rationale is given except vague references to being taxing on the digestive system or some other pacification. The truth is that the meat-eating got me sick in the first place and the medical profession as a whole knows the facts, has read the studies, seen the aftermath but will not stand up to the powers that be, the meat food industries, FDA, USDA, AMA etc. and declare the truth as has been proven over and over again. The 'other' truth by deduction is as shocking, by their inaction and perhaps deliberate deception untold millions of people have succumbed to an earlier than expected death and with less quality of life than we dreamed of as youth. The tragedy is that this deception continues. I am glad that you all have found a path for yourselves that will lead you and those around you to a more fulfilling and healthy lifestyle of 'vegetalism'.

The term "plant based whole fooods" was first coined publically in The China Study by Dr Colin Campbell, a world renowned nutritionist. It was first published some years ago, and he began using the term some years before that. That doesn't take away from anyone else using the term - it just so happens to be the correct term, incorruptible by isms, isations, or acronyms. It is what it is!

Have you heard about "Nutritarian" micronutrients per calorie. Think of Kale, Collard Greens, Swiss Chard, Broccoli, etc. Lifestyle mainly consist of Dark leafy greens, rainbow vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, some beans, grains and soy.

The problem with vegan food service is companies need long shelf life at a minimal price. The result is pasta a majority of the time.

I understand airlines cannot cater with whole foods due to cost and shelf life.
The way I try to negate that is to take a little packet of nuts or seeds in my purse.