How do I tell people I'm vegetarian? For instance, someone asks me to eat dinner at their house. What do I say?
Though it may seem daunting, telling people that you are a vegetarian is not as hard as it seems. Most people will not be offended if you don't eat their meatloaf if you give them a reason why and let them know ahead of time. It may even start a conversation that will be beneficial to both parties. When you are first invited to someone's house for dinner, it is best to tell them about your veganism or vegetarianism immediately. If you don't wait until the last minute, they may be able to prepare foods that you can eat that aren't just side dishes. Make sure to be very specific; say something like "I don't eat any meat, fish, eggs, milk, butter, or cheese." If you say something general, like "I don't eat animal products," you may end up with a quiche on the table and a very confused host or hostess. Suggest something simple that your hosts can make for you, like spaghetti with marinara sauce or rice and beans, and/or offer to bring something with you. "I know of this great dish that I'd love to share with you," is better than, "I just want to be sure that I'll have something to eat." Let them know that you are bringing your own food because you want to show off your vegan cooking abilities, not because you are concerned about what they will make.
One of the best (and sometimes worst) things that being veg can lead to is conversation. I know from experience that sometimes you may be surprised by the reaction of a host or hostess. I once went over to a friend's house for dinner, expecting a lecture from her nutritionist mother. Instead, she kept telling me what a healthy choice I had made by going vegan. There are, of course, some people who will not listen to any argument you make for vegetarianism, and instead pick a mantra like, "You can't get enough protein" or "Humans are carnivores" that doesn't make any sense and isn't factually accurate. All you can do in these situations is politely disagree, try to get your point across, and remember that you can't win them all. Do not allow yourself to get upset or angry; these people are having you as a guest in their home, so be as gracious as you can. The times when you do make a difference in the way people think about their food are well worth the struggles.
Written by Erin Smith during her internship with VRG