October 23, 2014 by
Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor
By Dina Gharib
Switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet can be one of the most rewarding decisions humans can make. While the movement is still expanding, it’s no secret that you’ll be bombarded with questions and concerns about your lifestyle. I have compiled a list of the top ten tips I wish I knew as a new 16-year-old vegetarian, and the different ways to approach them.
1. Everyone will have an opinion about your diet.
Even if you haven’t talked or seen them in years, random individuals will comment on your dietary lifestyle, asking the ever popular “How do you get your protein?” The way to handle this is simply by educating them with pure facts. If you provide them with opinion, they will assume that you’re following a trend. When you provide answers with factual research behind them, you’ll be sure to educate them without coming off as confrontational. Remember that our lifestyle is very peaceful, so stick to the core beliefs.
Want more information about protein? Visit: http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/protein.php
2. Individuals will argue that caring for animals means that you don’t care about humans.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. If anything, vegetarians are compassionate about all living things. It shouldn’t be insinuated that we have to only care for one or the other. It’s extremely possible for vegetarians to care for humans AND animals. Provide a subtle response such as “I am a vegetarian because I’m interested in human rights.” Next, direct the conversation towards the nutritional and environmental benefits of going vegetarian. We are changing the world for animals, people, and the entire planet.
3. Someone will always bring up religion in your conversation.
No matter what religion you are, someone will tell you that animals are on this earth solely for human consumption; a statement which is simply absurd. No matter what religion you observe, do your research so you can have a valid response. In my scenario as a Muslim female I was questioned with the religious aspect at every family gathering. My response has simply been, Islam is a religion of peace, and therefore God will not punish me for not slaughtering animals. He put all living things on this earth, so he should be the one who takes them off of it. Visit: http://www.vrg.org/links/Religion.htm for a great resource as to why your religion is vegetarian friendly.
4. There is a vegetarian option for EVERY meat product.
Burgers, Check. Cheese steaks, Check. Orange chicken, Check. The amount of options that vegetarians have is endless. You can get a delicious, hearty meal, without sacrificing flavor, or animal life. Not to mention these substitutes are even more nutritious than their counterparts.
5. Play around with new fruits, vegetables, and legumes you wouldn’t ordinarily use.
The world of fruits, veggies, and legumes is HUGE. There are so many combinations of these delicious foods so there is no reason to only be eating rice and beans every day. Foods such as lentils can take part in many different recipes. Your options are endless, ranging from a big bowl of southwestern chili, a hearty sloppy Joe, or an exotic Indian curry. Play around and you’ll be sure to find amazing new recipes.
6. Take advantage of the versatility of fruits and vegetables.
There are so many things that you can do with individual vegetables, that meals should never be boring. Have a cauliflower? Make cauliflower crust pizza or pineapple fried rice. Have a zucchini? Make zucchini fritters or zoodles (Zucchini noodles). The versatility of vegetables is remarkable, so don’t be afraid to get creative!
7. The vegetarian movement is huge!
If you ever find yourself feeling alone, due to the lack of support from relatives or friends, join a vegetarian club or volunteer at your local vegetarian organization. You’ll meet so many people who share your interest. You’ll be sure to make new friends, who will want to explore your local vegetarian hot spots.
To find a vegetarian organization in your area, visit:
For a list of vegetarian organizations, visit:
8. Be open-minded about meat substitutes.
Tofu, seitan, tempeh, etc. Meat-eaters are typically unfamiliar with these foods. Due to their unfamiliarity, these foods usually come with a negative connotation. But these foods are extremely versatile and inexpensive. You can bake, boil, stir-fry, grill, or sauté these with your favorite veggies for a meal that tastes and functions as a meat product. Ignore the negativity and experience it for yourself!
Don’t be rude or snobby to those who are uneducated about our lifestyle. Simply educate them on all the benefits of being a vegetarian. We want to encourage people to make dietary changes; we don’t want to drive them off with rude responses. Even if people provide you with the most outlandish anecdotes, stay positive. I’ll never forget the day my father legitimately argued with me because, “All vegetarians are low in iron, so they turn to cannibals.” This ridiculous argument was countered with hours of research to prove to him that vegetarian diets cause the exact opposite reaction. Now my father tries to spend at least two days a week on a vegetarian diet.
10. The Jokes will never end.
While at times they may get annoying, take them with a grain of salt. You’ll eventually get used to them, and acknowledge that it isn’t a form of disrespect. I am the butt of endless jokes at family gatherings, and the creative ones always get a laugh out of me. On the other hand, the classic “Grab some grass from outside for your dinner” has garnered many eye-rolls. The most important rule is to shrug them off. Just think of it as really bad stand-up comedy.