Chew on this: I have been a vegetarian for ten years and the questions, conversations and jokes are always the same.
Do you eat chicken? No.
What about seafood? No.
Eggs? Milk? Yes.
Sometimes it ends after the rapid-fire definition check. Or, it continues with more fundamental questions.
What are the differences between meatless diets?
There are three common divisions:
- Pescatarians- do not eat meat or poultry but eat seafood and consume dairy products.
- Vegetarians- do not eat meat, poultry or seafood but consume dairy products.
- Vegans- do not eat meat, poultry, seafood or consume animal products- often extending to lifestyle purchases.
Well how do you get your protein?
Meat is not the sole source of protein. Of course there are eggs and cheese for complete proteins, but people can also pair incomplete proteins (like rice and beans) to receive the full benefits of complete proteins. Also, a meal doesn’t begin and end with cubes of tofu. Substitutes for vegetarians and vegans exist for just about any meat you can think of… taco meat, buffalo wings, “chicken” burgers, bbq pulled “pork,” etc. And although my father lovingly calls my meals “rabbit food,” the progress in vegetarian and vegan diets is wonderful. My mom had to petition her university for a salad bar, but now she can skim through a variety of meatless alternatives.
Nevertheless, conversations with carnivores normally end with the same remark: I could never be a vegetarian.
Well actually you could- you just don’t want to and that’s fine. But if you’re interested in the health and environmental benefits, consider making more vegetarian meals. To get started, you can revisit vegetarian Crave Du Jour recipes like potato leek soup or chickpea and cauliflower curry.
Then what should I ask?
Let’s swap a few common questions for more meaningful ones. Instead of asking if someone misses meat, ask about their favorite meal. Find a restaurant you both frequent then ask about their order- maybe they can introduce you to a new dish. Ask if they will teach you how to prepare tofu. If you’re not interested, there’s more to talk about besides a person’s diet. But if you are intrigued by alternative diets, steer away from FAQs and head into a more promising conversation.
A person’s diet is a personal decision that can be adjusted after research or advice from a professional. However, knowing the differences between pescatarians, vegetarians and vegans will make you an aware, enlightened food lover. There are more specifics, but in terms of small talk and wedding RSVPs, a general understanding is sufficient. I’m hardly asking you to understand the complexities of a gluten-free diet.