Disclaimer: I love kale.
I’ve eaten a vegan diet for two years now. During my experience eating a plant-based diet, I’ve come across my fair share of misconceptions from both the omnivorous community and the vegan community. Let’s clear up some misconceptions.
1. Bacon still smells awesome. I grew up eating meat. I remember the smell of orange Danishes, sausage gravy, and turkey bacon waking me up on rainy Sunday mornings before church. Meat still smells great but that doesn’t mean I want any!
2. You don’t need to validate or explain your diet. Oftentimes people ask if they can eat meat around me. What you eat won’t make me uncomfortable or offended. Many people ask why I went vegan. I’ll happily explain, but too often I get the response: “Well, I’m here for a good time, not a long time.” If you ask me why I went vegan, don’t get defensive when I answer honestly. I didn’t ask for an argument!
3. I don’t always want to discuss veganism. According to the stereotype, vegans always snobbishly announce their dietary choices. Instead, I’m often made uncomfortable when other people blurt out my dietary choices rather than giving me the choice to bring it up or not. It puts me in a sweaty spotlight and sparks heated debates while I’m trying to eat. I’m happy to discuss my choices, but not at every meal, please. Other people probably don’t want to discuss slaughterhouses while eating their burgers, so why would I want to while I’m eating my veggie burger? If I feel the need to bring it up, I will.
4. What about protein?! Here we go. Protein is not only found in meat! Animal protein and plant protein are different. Animal protein is considered a complete protein while most plant proteins are incomplete. However, pairing plant proteins together does the job for plant-based eaters and protein deficiency is not a real issue faced by vegans and vegetarians. Yes, I work out. No, I don’t feel weak. Mike Tyson is vegan!
5. I don’t miss cheese. Trust me, I loved cheese. Triple cheese pizza for me, please! I didn’t think I could cut out that beloved ooey gooey gold. After cutting out cheese, my headache lasted an entire week. Was it withdrawal? Maybe, but maybe not. Now cheese makes me feel sick. If I ever start eating animal products again, cheese is on the bottom of the list for things I want to eat again. Salmon is on the top.
6. Keep these nutrients in mind Shifting your entire diet can present some challenges as far as getting all the nutrients your body requires. Many people shift from a standard omnivorous diet to a vegan diet at once and then give up quickly after feeling sick and tired. Some nutrients commonly found in animal products like vitamin b-12 and omega-3 and omega-6 acids are harder to come by when transitioning to a plant based diet. People go vegan too quickly without becoming familiar with new sources of these nutrients and unjustly blame veganism. Any diet requires balance. When something feels wrong, it probably is! Always listen to your body and make adjustments with your health in mind.
7. All or nothing! Many people argue that people cannot be “sort of” vegan. If I have a piece of birthday cake at a party, I know that it has eggs and dairy. Eating a slice doesn’t mean I’m not vegan anymore. In today’s world, eating 100% vegan is challenging because animal products are so common. The occasional slice of cake doesn’t contradict a person’s beliefs. All or nothing mentality discourages people from reducing or cutting out animal products.
8. This one is for the vegans. I know it’s easy to get passionate, but insulting people for eating the normalized diet their entire lives is not acceptable. If you don’t want to be insulted for the way you eat, don’t do it to others. Food has a close relationship with culture so it is important to be considerate of others.
9. Be a skeptical reader. While there are many reputable studies out there that suggest eating vegan can be beneficial to health and the environment, we need more research. Bias exists among both the vegan side of the debate and the animal products industry. I studied plant-based diets for an entire semester and struggled finding sources that didn’t directly contradict each other. Be skeptical of your sources and do your homework.
10. Veganism is beneficial, but so are other things. Eating a vegan diet can be beneficial to your health, the environment, and the welfare of animals. However, you can still be unhealthy eating a plant-based diet and you can be healthy eating an omnivorous diet. Animal agriculture is one concern among plenty facing the health of our planet and other diets might be better for the planet. Animal rights issues stretch far beyond the table and reducing your consumption of animal products, switching to cruelty free products, adopting animals, and volunteering at animal shelters all help our furry friends. Veganism benefits these issues in health, environment, and animal welfare, but it does not solve them.
In the end, I’m grateful to always have food on the table. Sustainable farming and dietary related illnesses are only a couple of the food related issues facing our generation. I encourage everyone to try a plant-based diet or consider reducing their consumption of animal products. However, going plant-based presents challenges like financial struggles or little accessibility to produce packed grocery stores. Keeping our health, our planet’s health, and animal welfare in mind is what veganism means to me. It’s not necessary to always eat a 100% vegan diet to positively impact your health, the environment, and the animals. I still refer to myself as vegan, but I might change my mind at some point in my life. If I ever decide to adjust my diet again, I know I will approach animal products in a much more health conscious way than I ever did before going vegan.