I became a vegetarian seven years ago in 2012, during the summer before ninth grade. It’s second nature now to me, so I thought I’d answer a few of the more common questions I get about it.
1) What’s the difference between vegetarian and vegan?
In short, vegetarians don’t eat meat or fish but typically do eat other animal products such as dairy, eggs, and honey, whereas vegans eat neither meat nor any other animal products. This varies a little bit person-to-person — everyone chooses what exactly they will and won’t eat. Personally, I’m what I’d consider a fairly run-of-the-mill vegetarian as I don’t eat meat or fish in any form, but I do eat eggs, dairy, and honey.
Some vegetarians may eat some but not all of the animal products that I eat, or they may be less strictly vegetarian than I am when it comes to food like chicken broth. Vegans do not eat any animal products and may also extend their veganism to their lifestyle, choosing not to wear fibers like wool, burn beeswax candles, or use hand cream with lanolin.
2) Do you get enough protein?
This is a super common question but isn’t actually the big issue that most people think it is. Most Americans eat roughly twice the recommended amount of protein, and there are plenty of vegetarian protein sources! Lots of veggie foods have some protein, and there are plenty of protein-rich foods for those who are concerned about getting enough, such as Greek yogurt, peanut butter, eggs, tofu, and black beans, among others. Some people may want to watch their iron or B12 levels. Women tend to need significantly more iron than men, and B12 is found only in animal products or B12 enriched foods, such as enriched cereal. B12 tends to be more of a concern for vegans, but vegetarians might want to keep an eye on it as well if they’re concerned.
3) Do you miss eating meat?
I don’t! What I’ve found, both personally and from talking to vegetarian friends, is that it’s common to lose your taste for meat after being vegetarian for a few months. After a while, you stop craving meat and lose interest in it. I generally find the smell unappetizing and often unpleasant. I haven’t had any real desire to eat it in at least six years, and it would likely make me sick if I were to eat it now, as my body isn’t used to it anymore.
4) Why did you choose to become vegetarian?
This one is of course going to be specific to each person, as it’s a personal decision and everyone has their own reasons for it. Some people have been vegetarian since birth, some chose it for religious reasons, some for health reasons, some for ethical reasons, etc. Personally, when I started thinking about going vegetarian, it just made sense to me and seemed to be a kinder way to live, both ethically and environmentally. Everyone is going to have their own answer to this question — that just happens to be mine.
5) Are you judging people who eat meat?
Not at all. I figure everyone knows best what works for themselves. Just because this is what feels good to me doesn’t necessarily mean it’s what feels good to you. As long as someone else’s dietary preferences don’t interfere with me and mine, it’s really none of my business. There are lots of reasons for being vegetarian, but there are certainly reasons not to be as well. People may prefer not to for health reasons, cultural reasons, or just lack of interest. Your decision about your diet is just as personal and individual to you as my decision is to me.