After being a vegetarian for more than two years, I’ve learned a few things. First, being a vegetarian is hard and takes diligence but is worth it in the long run for some people. Second, a lot of people have a lot of things to say about it and think they know everything about this diet when they have never once tried it themselves.
That being said, I’m not a nutritionist, and these opinions are my own. However, I do feel as though I’ve learned enough to debunk some common misconceptions about meat-free diets.
- It’s expensive. This is the strongest argument I hear against vegetarianism. Vegetables at my local grocery store are usually $1 a pound, depending on what they are. Frozen vegetables are cheaper by the pound and just as nutritious. That’s not to say you can only eat vegetables either. But produce as a whole isn’t super expensive, and can be bought frozen to save a little extra money. Grains such as rice and pasta can be found in bulk sections of grocery stores, which are almost always cheaper. Canned foods are dirt cheap, with a can of beans coming to about $0.60. It’s not expensive to not eat meat. The most expensive part of vegetarian diets is fake meats, but they aren’t necessary. Real meet usually runs about $3 or more a pound, meaning it can add up really quickly. If anything, vegetarian diets without fancy processed fake meat is cheaper than adding chicken to every meal.
- Vegetarian food is boring. Wrong. Completely wrong. Any sauce can add pizzazz to a meal in about two seconds. Pasta? Add a good marinara or alfredo sauce and some cheese. Veggie stir fry? Add some teriyaki, sweet and sour, or sriracha sauce to liven it up. The options are endless. If vegetarian food seems boring, you’re probably missing spices and that is not the food’s fault.
- You can’t get enough protein. Plant protein exists in many forms. Add chickpeas or beans to your salad instead of chicken. Add tofu or edamame to your stir fries instead of ground beef. Add some peanut butter to your morning oatmeal. Eat quinoa salad as a side instead of rice. If done correctly, protein can be found in plant-based sources in almost any meal.
- You’ll always be hungry. This comes back to not getting enough protein, and nutrients in general. Being hungry on a no-meat diet usually means you’re missing out on protein and fiber, and sometimes even fat. Protein, fiber and fat are the parts of our meals that keep us full and satisfied, meaning that eating a full meal and being left hungry means you’re probably missing one or more of these. Adding a good sized portion of a plant-based source of protein to your meals can be the deciding factor between leaving the dinner table hungry.
- You can’t go out to eat. This is beyond false. As many more people choose to cut out meat, just as many restaurants are adding meat alternatives. Numerous burger chain restaurants have a veggie patty option. Even restaurants like Red Robin, Denny’s and Carl’s Jr. have veggie burgers for the same price as their normal beef burgers. Veggie burgers aren’t your only options, because chinese food restaurants, pizza joints, mexican restaurants and so much more have options that don’t include meat.
Olivia Ali can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @OliviaNAli.