Today I am digging deep into a common question that’s asked. “Is it hard being a vegetarian?”
It is not hard being a vegetarian. You may meet challenges at the beginning like dining in restaurants, adapting favorite meals, sneaky non-vegetarian foods, and the reactions of other people. Over time being a vegetarian is as easy as being an omnivore.
In this article, I discuss the common hurdles of becoming a vegetarian and provide tips learned from over ten years of experience to help you through the process.
Is it Inconvenient Being A Vegetarian?
At first, it can feel very inconvenient adapting to a new vegetarian diet. Over time the lifestyle no longer feels inconvenient It becomes your normal life.
There can be situations at first that are inconvenient. Navigating going to restaurants, learning how to prepare your favorite meals without meat, and the reactions of others when they learn of your new choices.
How To Eat At Restaurants As A Vegetarian?
Many restaurants still have very meat-centric menus. You will have to do some homework at first to make dining out easier.
I’ve lived and dined out as a vegetarian for over ten years. Here are my tips.
- If you know ahead of time that you will be dining out, look at the menu online to get an idea of what you can order
Vegetarian Options When Dining Out At A Steakhouse
I typically don’t go to steakhouse restaurants. If I was planning to meet friends or family at this type of restaurant these are the options I would consider.
- Put together a meal of soup and salad (make sure to check that the soup is vegetarian)
- Baked potato and salad
- Make a meal out of side dishes. Steakhouses usually offer some side vegetable options and rice with their side dishes
A steakhouse obviously isn’t a vegetarian’s dream but, you can come up with a meal.
Vegetarian Options When Dining Out At A Burger Joint
Burgers and fries used to be one of my favorite meals. When I first became a vegetarian the veggie burger options were pretty sad and restaurants never offered a vegetarian burger. Oh, how things have changed.
We now live in the days of plant-based burgers that look feel and taste like the real thing. To be honest, after being a vegetarian for so long it was a weird experience eating a burger that could pass as meat.
For a new vegetarian this is a great option to bridge the gap between your old eating choices and your new vegetarian lifestyle.
Many burger restaurants are now offering plant-based burgers. I would still check the menu ahead of time to make sure. If they don’t have a plant-based burger you may be stuck snacking on french fries.
Vegetarian Options When Ordering Pizza
Pizza is a staple where take out food is concerned. Luckily pizza is so flexible with the toppings offered you don’t need to dig deep in the menu to find vegetarian options.
- The classic cheese pizza is always a vegetarian winner
- Mushroom, green pepper, and onions are a delicious combo
- Loaded veggies
- Any vegetable combination
Vegetarian Options At An Italian Restuarant
I love Italian food and luckily this is a very easy option for vegetarians. Some of my favorite choices are.
- Pasta with a marinara, salad, and bread
- Cheese or vegetable lasagna
- Minestrone soup, salad, and bread
- Stuffed Shells
- Eggplant Parmesean
- Fettuccini Alfredo
- Pasta Primavera
Italian food typically has a lot of cheese. If you don’t eat cheese I would stick to pasta with marinara or minestrone soup.
Vegetarian Options At A Sandwich Shop
Eating at a sandwich shop can be limiting but, you can find some delicious options.
- My go-to at a sandwich shop is a classic veggie sub. I load it up with cheese and all of the vegetables I can get
- Sandwich shops typically make salads too.
- Ask for a “pizza sub” put together marinara, veggies, and cheese
- More sandwich shops are starting to offer plant-based meats
Vegetarian Options At A Chinese Restaurant
Chinese food is one of our family favorites. In recent years we’ve been going to chain restaurants where we know their menu options.
- Noodle dishes without meat
- Rice dishes without meat
- Stir-Fry Veggies
- Vegetarian egg rolls or spring rolls
- Tofu dishes
Vegetarian Options When Dining At A Mexican Restaurant
Mexican food is a fantastic option. There are usually many options for a vegetarian to select from.
- Vegetarian burritos
- Vegetarian burrito bowls
- Veggie Tacos
- Beans and Rice
Vegetarian Options At A Seafood Restaurant
Dining at a seafood restaurant is very similar to dining at a steakhouse. You can expect similar vegetarian options.
- Piece together a meal from the side dish options potatos, veggies, rice
Vegetarian Options At Southern Style Restaurants
I thought a southern style restaurant would be a difficult option for a vegetarian. I was surprised the other day when I ordered a family-style meal that pleased my whole family.
- Southern-style restaurants usually offer breakfast all day. Pancakes, waffles, eggs, omelets, and fruit
- Biscuits with veggies
- Soups and Salads
Vegetarian Options At Fast Food Restuarants
Fast food can be a tricky indulgence. You have to dig into the menu at each restaurant to find vegetarian options.
- Snack on some fries to hold you over
- Vegetarian burgers
Can I Still Eat My Favorite Foods As A Vegetarian?
You do not need to give up your favorite foods as a vegetarian.
If your favorites meals happen to contain meat there are options to make them vegetarian-friendly.
- Leave out the meat and prepare the dish as you normally would
- Replace the meat with a vegetarian replacement
- Add in flavors that are similar to what the meat brings to the meal. For example, add fennel seeds to meals that would previously contain sausage and smoked paprika to meals that contained smoked ham
What Foods Are Not Vegetarian That You May Assume Are
There are sneaky foods out there that are posing as vegetarian-friendly options but, they are hiding a secret….
Many soups contain chicken or beef broths.
Marshmallows contain gelatin.
Gelatin again. Gelatin sneaks into many items.
REFRIED BEANS AND TORTILLAS
These mexican favorites can contain lard.
Cheese can contain animal rennet. I wrote an article discussing rennet and eating cheese as a vegetarian.
Pad thai and other dishes can contain fish sauce.
Pie crusts and cornbreads are among the bakes goods that can contain lard.
There are many more sneaky non-vegetarian foods out there. It’s best to read the labels to make sure what you are eating is truly vegetarian.
Do People Treat Vegetarians Differently?
I was least expecting the reaction and treatment I received from other people when I became a vegetarian.
It may be different now as more and more people are making the switch to a more plant-based diet.
Here are some of the comments I have received?
- Where are you going to get your protein? (this seems harmless but, gets annoying fast)
- You still eat chicken right?
- What can you eat, tofu? (oh yes, I love tofu. This question is asked with the idea that you don’t eat anything else)
- I couldn’t be a vegetarian. I love bacon too much.
- Where did you get this kooky diet from?
- Are your kids healthy?
- You ate meat when you were pregnant right?
- What do your kids eat?
Many of the questions you will receive are by people with the best of intentions and want to learn more. Sometimes those questions can feel rude. Sometimes the lack of knowledge can come across as rude.
Everyone will have a different experience with people while living a vegetarian lifestyle. You’ll eventually have an automatic answer for the most common questions and statements.
Over time it’ll feel less offensive and you will feel empowered to help educate those that happen to be unaware of animal cruelty, vegetarian health benefits, and dangerous chemicals in our foods.
It’s always your choice how you deal with others. I would never let others have a negative impact on your personal choices and lifestyle.
Do I Need To Take Supplements As A Vegetarian?
Vegetarian diets tend to be lacking vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 is the only supplement that vegetarians need to use. As with any supplements and major dietary changes, it’s best to speak with your doctor before making any changes.
Another supplement that is important and worth a discussion is vitamin D. Many people have insufficient levels of vitamin D regardless if they follow a vegetarian diet or not.
How Can I Get Enough Protein As A Vegetarian?
This is one of my least favorite and most common comments that I receive.
“Where do you get your protein if you don’t eat meat?”
The best place to start is to calculate how much protein you actually need.
According to this calculator I need 38 grams of protien a day. Let’s look at some ways I can achieve that amount
|PROTEIN SOURCE||AMOUNT OF PROTEIN|
|quinoa||8 grams per cup|
|tofu||8 grams per 3 oz|
|hemp seeds||10 grams per 3 tbs|
|egg||6.3 grams per 1 lg egg|
|beans||15 grams per cup|
|peanut butter||7 grams per two tbs|
|peas||8 grams per cup|
|chedder cheese||9 grams per oz|
|pumpkin seeds||9 grams per 1/4 cup|
As you can see there are many ways to reach your recommended daily protein amounts. The most common vegetarian foods that will provide a good amount of protein are dairy, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, soy products, and some grains.
How Not To Be A Junk Food Vegetarian
It can be so easy to fall into the junk food trap. Many of our favorite junk foods are naturally vegetarian.
With any diet that you happen to follow if you don’t plan ahead, it’s easy to grab junk food to get you by. It’s familiar and easily found wherever you are vending machines, drive-throughs, convenience stores, and more.
Just be careful if you have the best of intentions that you don’t end up eating more junk food than you planned.
- Always have some of your favorite healthy snacks around. Make sure to include something sweet, crunchy, and salty
- Have a list of delicious and heathier take out options near your home and work
- Have a quick meal list of a few meals that can be prepared quickly and always have those ingredients on hand. It’s best to have meals where the ingredients have a long shelf life or use frozen ingredients
- Have some healthy frozen options on hand at all times
In your journey to living a vegetarian lifestyle, you will be met with challenges. The same goes for any major lifestyle change.
As time goes on being a vegetarian becomes easier. You will know exactly what to eat at restaurants, what foods you love to eat that will meet all of your nutritional needs, and how to react to questions and snarky comments.
If becoming a vegetarian is important, you can get past the transition and live the life you want.