Whenever I meet someone new, I feel like I get the same questions over and over again about being a vegetarian. First, there’s usually a bit of shock; “Really, you’re vegetarian?” As if they can’t believe this womanly figure could only be eating lettuce to survive (insert eye roll here).
I decided to write this article to answer some of the most common questions I’ve been asked in hopes of making my carnivorous readers better informed about this special species.
Here are 6 of the most frequently asked questions:
1) How long have you been vegetarian?
Me personally, I celebrated 20 years whoot whoot! I’ve been veggie longer than I ever ate meat in my life. It’s been so long that I don’t think about it anymore as it’s just a part of who I am. When a Jewish friend recently asked this question, I related it to eating Kosher. It’s just part of me and what I do every day, I don’t think about it after a while.
2) How do you do it? I don’t think I could ever give up cheese.
It’s an amazing thing really, first I put my fork into my food and I bring it to my mouth. That’s it. That’s the magic in eating vegetarian. Just make sure the fork pokes something that never had eyes.
Like I said before, at this point it’s just how I eat. The same way that you decide whether meat or potatoes or broccoli should be on your menu is the same way I decide what’s on mine. It’s not a competition to beat the clock and see how long I can last, it’s just my day to day diet.
Some people choose to try being vegetarian for a set of time just to see what it’s like, more like when people try cutting out dairy or fast food. What they find is that they’re hungry all of the time and cranky. Usually cranky because you’re focused on what you can’t eat. Being a good vegetarian means making sure you have a well-balanced diet full of healthy fats, carbs, fruits, veggies, and proteins. When you really commit to doing this long term, you stop focusing on what you can’t eat and start having a better idea of what you should be eating.
Second of all, I freaking love cheese. I am vegetarian which means I do not eat anything that has to be killed. Vegans choose not to eat any animals as well as any animal-based products such as milk, cheese, butter, etc. I do eat vegan meals often because they can be so tasty, but also because veganism is a very healthy form of eating. It really focuses on eating all colors of the rainbow through a plant-based diet which helps many people with GI issues.
3) So what do you eat for protein? Peanut Butter?
That’s the best way to show how I feel answering this question. While peanut butter is amazing on Oreos (fun fact: Oreos are vegan!), there are so many other foods that are high in protein. Beans are another huge source of protein. With so many colors, tastes, and varieties, you could go try tons of meals with beans. Think of chili without the ground beef; it’s different but it’s still delicious!
Simple ways to find more protein is to switch some common foods such as eating Greek yogurt. My favorite way is blending Greek yogurt with frozen berries and honey into homemade frozen yogurt! Nomnomnom! Another way is to sprinkle some hemp seed on salads or in stir-frys.
4) “Omg, your son’s so tall! And talkative! And cute! Are you raising him vegetarian? Will you let him eat meat?”
You know what question never follows all of those compliments? “Are you raising him Catholic?” or “Are you raising him in an all-organic lifestyle?” People tend to jump right to the fact that he is also vegetarian and immediately wonders if I’ll “allow” him to eat meat. This is a little more loaded question because it ties in parenting.
What bothers me is when the question comes with the implication that he is missing out or that he needs meat as part of his diet. Did you not just shower the kid with compliments? Must mean something we’re doing is working. He has always been ridiculously tall (not sure where that gene came from…), he rarely gets sick, he talks all the time, has friends, uses his imagination, understands humor, and can never get enough time to read. The pediatrician is happy and we’re happy with his growth. And all of that came on a vegetarian diet. Does he still need the meat?
Right now he is growing exactly as he should be which tells us that we’ve done a pretty good job getting the right foods in this kid even though the always-fun toddler stage of eating. He understands that Dad and I eat different meals while he and I eat the same. We talk about what is different in why in a way that answers his curiosity without passing judgment on the other person’s plate.
Will I ever let him eat meat? Ha, try to tell a kid they can’t do something and wait to find out what they do when you’re not around! Even a first-time parent knows that! I believe he should make decisions to try new things. If and when he shows an interest, he can absolutely try those options. What I fear to be tricky is the proper introduction to meat so his system can begin to process such a different substance in his body. (He’s been vegetarian from conception to breastfeeding to solid foods so biting right into a hamburger would be a terrible digestive experience.)
Knowing his sense of curiosity, he will want to know what meat is, where it comes from, and how it gets from farm to table. We plan to tell him objectively and truthfully so he knows the same facts as to where bananas and corn come from. He can make his own decision of what he wants to eat as an informed big kid.
5) Do you just eat salads?
Have you seen these Italian thighs? Absolutely not, I don’t just eat salads. In the words of a wise, funny man,
“Salad is not food, salad is the promise that food is coming!”
A few years ago I was eating like the world’s worst vegetarian. It wasn’t all my fault, there were only a handful of vegetarians living on campus on a Southern college campus. Let me emphasize Southern here for a second. The butter had bacon in it. The ice cream had bacon in it. You see where I’m going here?
For a while, I lived on Taco Bell. It was refreshing to see they were named the healthiest fast-food chain as it is one of the few places you can get a full meal sans meat. Learning to say, “Sub beans for beef” was like magic.
One tricky thing has been hating mushrooms. One of the standard vegetarian dishes at seated events is a grilled portabella mushroom. Ew. If a mushroom is chopped and hidden in a burrito, fine. But never as the main course, ew (to me!). That meant there were a lot of Sweet 16’s and weddings where I ate the veggies that came on the side of the meat plate. I made up for it with cake.
In the last few years, I’ve done some adulting with my diet. Focusing on what I should be including more of and cutting back on some my favorite veggie foods: cookies, cake, Doritos, ice cream, the never-ending breadsticks or basket of chips and salsa, etc. There’s always room for improvement, but I do feel like I have a much better variety like root vegetables and tempeh.
6) Do you miss it?
Nope. What I miss is certain dishes that just can’t be recreated without the original source. For instance, the veggie equivalent to bacon is nothing like the real thing. Bacon bits makes up for it a bit (Yep, they’re vegetarian too!) I never tried a Philly Cheesesteak in the homeland or meatballs in Italy, but I don’t feel like I’m missing out at all. The choice is always there for me to eat those dishes, I just don’t want to. Pass the wine, cheese, and chocolate, I got it all I need right here!
So the next time you meet a vegetarian you have a little background knowledge on the questions you were about to ask. Maybe ask something more like, “What’s your favorite veggie recipe?”, “Did you choose this for health reasons or activist reasons?”, or “Are Oreos really vegan???”
Still have questions? Add your comment here and I’ll be happy to answer them, after this slice of pizza (yum!)