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Good Answers for Annoying Questions About Your Vegetarian Diet
"But what do you EAT?" This might be one of the most annoying questions I've heard when telling someone that I'm a vegetarian. Whether you are following a vegetarian diet for the sake of the animals, to be more healthy, for religious reasons, or because you simply hate the taste of meat, here are some easy answers to give to people who ask rude or ignorant questions or who simply want more information.
If you don't eat meat, what DO you eat?
Although meat is a major food group in many countries, it is certainly not the only one. Unfortunately, people who grew up eating meat as a main dish for every single meal may forget all the other options we have. To answer this question without having to worry about a follow-up question, simply overwhelm whoever you're talking to with information! By the time you're done listing your favorite foods, snacks and desserts, they will wonder why they even thought to ask this question in the first place!
"Let's start with breakfast. Today, I had a piece of toast with jelly, a glass of apple juice, two biscuits and side of scrambled eggs. Yesterday I had pancakes, coffee and a glazed donut. For lunch, I usually start with a piece of fruit..." Basically, you eat anything that isn't a dead animal.
How on earth do you get your protein?
Since many people who ask this question are genuinely concerned, use this as a chance to educate them. There are many ways to get protein other than eating meat. Even vegans, who don't consume any animal product (including eggs and milk) can get well above the recommended daily amount of protein. Whole grains, beans, legumes, certain vegetables, sesame seeds, seaweed, eggs, peanut butter, and milk all have enough protein to provide someone on a vegetarian diet with everything they need.
"Based on my size, I need to get 50 grams of protein a day. I get about a fourth of it through eggs and the rest through vegetables and nuts. I usually end up eating even more than the minimum amount."
Are you sure you're being healthy?
Many recent studies show that a vegetarian diet is actually healthier than one that includes meat. Meat contains many chemicals and growth hormones, along with cholesterol and fat, that make it very unhealthy. This is especially for people who over-do their meat consumption. As long as you get enough protein (see above), you should not worry about any problems that a lack of animal problems will cause to your health. Just make sure you fill up on healthy vegetarian foods! It can be easy to eat junk food all day (for both carnivores and non-meat eaters).
"As long as you eat healthy foods, being vegetarian is actually better for you than eating meat is. My doctor says I'm in perfect health."
You have to eat meat while you're pregnant! Will you let your kids eat meat?
For the first part of this question, the answer is an obvious NO. Doctors do not encourage vegetarians to eat meat during their pregnancies for many reasons, partially because starting a new diet can intensify morning sickness, and mainly because it isn't necessary. It's important to eat enough protein when you are with child, but as stated earlier, there are many ways to get enough protein without touching anything that came from an animal.
The second part is a matter of opinion. Whether you choose to allow your children to eat meat or not is part of your parenting style and doesn't affect anyone else, so if the person you are speaking to starts to lecture you about your choices, remind them that you have your child's best interest at heart and would never do anything that could hurt them.
"My OBGYN has no problem with my diet. I would never make my children unhealthy, and I've already discussed their eating habits with their pediatrician."
You're missing out. When are you going to try eating meat again?
Eating meat is not necessary for survival, in fact, in some areas people go through their whole lives without touching it. So, why should you eat it? Going vegetarian is a personal choice and one that people should not interfere with. As long as you don't push your beliefs on them, make sure that they know you are budging in yours.
"You're missing out too! When are you going to go vegetarian?" Or, if you know that they aren't trying to be rude, simply inform them that you feel much better on a meat-free diet and you plan to stay that way.
Why don't you eat meat? God put animals here for us to eat.
This is one question that you'll have to answer yourself. Give some thought to why you don't eat meat. Do you love animals? Hate the taste of meat? Want to get in better shape? Remember that no matter what your reason is, you have the right to choose your own diet, and you should never let someone talk you into anything you aren't comfortable with. As for the "God wants us to eat meat/Jesus ate fish" argument, tell them that your eating habits are based solely on your own choices, not anyone elses.
What diet do you follow?
I hope these tips help you the next time you get into an awkward conversation about your vegetarian diet. Remember that you can personalize them for your own situation. Or, if someone is being blatantly rude, you can choose not to say anything. You never have to explain yourself when you don't feel a need to.
Also, please don't force your beliefs onto any meat-eaters, either! This gives a bad name to all vegetarians and baits some of the rude questions. Mutual respect is the key for everyone to get along.