Recently I was talking with a friend who didn’t know I was vegan.
We were talking about our family’s new assignment to Japan, & how exciting that will be.
“Of course you’ll be eating a lot of fish,” she says.
“Actually, we won’t, because we’re vegetarian.”
Silence, bewilderment, followed by,
“Yup,” I nod, “I haven’t eaten meat in nearly a decade.”
(I didn’t bother to mention the bleak periods of my last two pregnancies when I did eat meat because my staple healthy vegan fare made me vomit. Literally.)
I might have well said I was really the Princess of Wales, or that I walked on the moon. She couldn’t believe it.
“But, I thought you had to eat meat once a day for good digestion? Like, don’t you have to eat meat??”
I’ve heard a lot of crazy/random stuff about why you should eat meat, but the eating meat for “good digestion” was a first.
“I haven’t eaten meat in nearly a decade, ” I repeat, “And, here I am,” I say with a wink.
I also mention that my kids have never eaten meat (& if any of them have, it was only inadvertently).
I share this because, if you read this blog & are vegan/vegetarian/plant-based, chances are you also follow other vegan blogs, have lots of vegan twitter/facebook friends, have a bookshelf full of veg-based cookbooks. You may shop at Trader Joe’s & have vegan potlucks with your vegan friends. You may just live in a little vegan bubble.
This vegan bubble phenomenon is especially apparent online.
When you get into the online vegan world it’s easy to start thinking that everyone is vegan.
(Or maybe that’s just me?)
But the truth is, we’re still very much a minority.
But that’s exciting! Because it means that there’s still so much work to do in displacing misconceptions & helping others see the JOY of eating/living this way.
9 myths about plant-based diets
Quick note. Plant-based refers to a diet that is all or mostly based on plants (ie. no or very little animal products). So one could be plant-based but not vegan or vegetarian. Personally, I’m thrilled that the plant-based movement is flourishing. Many plant-based folks are also vegan, which is great. But, I’m just thrilled at the concept of people eating less meat, less animal products. So if you’re a flexitarian, or an omnivore that wants to eat more vegan meals & foods, read on!
Of course, it goes without saying, there are certainly many more misconceptions about vegan &/or plant-based diets than I cover here, but these are a few of my faves.
[And for some entertainment value, watch this 2 minute video about what would happen if vegans said the things meat eaters say & pokes some light hearted fun at some of the many misconceptions people have about vegans.]
1. All we eat is “rabbit food.”
Holy cow. This is one my favorite ones because, I LOVE TO EAT. I hate feeling like I can only have a few bites of something. I like to eat a lot, & I like to feel full after a meal.
In the near decade I’ve been a vegan, I’ve been an active, pregnant/nursing mama (nearly the whole time, with only a few months of non-nursing or pregnancy). No way could I have subsisted on just celery, broccoli, & seeds.
If eating plant-based was about eating tiny portions, or eating only celery & carrots, I would have burned out of this diet in the first week.
2. You must shop at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.
I can’t speak for Trader Joe’s (I’m sure I would like shopping there, but it’s never been close to where I live), but if I only shopped at Whole Foods, we would have quit eating this way about 9 years ago.
Whole Foods, though awesome (I truly do love everything about that place), is completely out of our price range. And though they do carry most everything a vegan or whole foodie could want, a lot of what they have is also available at other stores.
I shop mostly at Costco & my local grocery store, with some supplementing from Amazon (their Subscribe & Save program is pretty awesome! (affiliate link)) & Vitacost.
3. You are an animal-rights activist.
A lot of people are plant-based for health reasons, a lot for ethical reasons, & many for both.
A few weeks ago I asked my followers on facebook if & why they were vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based. It was fun to read everyone’s responses & to see there’s no “right” reason to go veg. People are compelled stick with the diet & lifestyle for a variety of reasons, but the benefits are the same–better health, better for the environment, better for the animals.
4. You only eat “pure” food.
What is “pure” food exactly? I’m not sure. But if I were to guess, I’d say it’s organic, non-GMO, locally grown food. I’d love if 100% of my food fit in this category. But alas, I live in the real world with a finite budget, & five mouths to feed.
Do we eat only “pure” food? Absolutely not.
Do my kids never eat sugary cereals, processed foods, or frosted goodies? Nope. We’re not perfect. And hallelujah, a healthy diet doesn’t have to be.
My family’s diet is based on lots of good stuff, but I have kids–they have their fair share of picky moments, they don’t love everything I make, & I only have so much time & money. We eat a lot of regular, non-glamorous stuff–oatmeal, smoothies, rice & bean dishes, pastas, stir-fry, & of course PB&J.
My kids have yet to latch on to chia seed pudding, goji berries, or steamed kale. They’re normal kids. They just happen to not eat meat.
If you’re wondering, my kids are vegetarian, not vegan. They are “mostly” vegan, but because Joseph isn’t vegetarian & cooks for them a lot & they eat lunch at school & go to birthday parties & other gatherings & functions, they do get some cheese & eggs in their diet–not because they “need” it, but more because that’s the compromise we struck to make this choice a sustainable one for our family.
5. It’s impossible to *really* be plant-based, especially if your spouse &/or family isn’t.
With a little communication, understanding, respect, & planning, you can make a mixed-diet family work. We are proof of this.
Our family dynamic is this: One vegan, five vegetarians, & a flexitarian/omnivore. The meals I cook are vegan. When Joseph cooks he makes the meal vegetarian/vegan (& sets aside a vegan version if for me, if it has cheese or eggs). When my kids go to school they eat vegetarian. We make it work.
More than anything I try to focus on what we do eat, not what we don’t. Joseph still occasionally brings home bacon, hot dogs, frozen pizza. These are his foods that he eats on his own time. The kids have their own foods & they’ve never asked to eat Joseph’s foods because they know they’re vegetarian & that’s what they refer to as, “daddy meat.”
6. Vegan foods are expensive.
You must double your grocery bill, because fruits & veggies cost a lot more than processed foods, right?? And of course, vegan processed food is spendy. But.
You can spend as little or as much as you want on a plant-based diet. We buy in bulk, we eat a lot of inexpensive foods (like rice, beans, oatmeal, pasta) which helps to off set the higher costs of produce.
Tips on how we save on our grocery bill, here.
7. You have to eat meat alternatives or soy, in order to get enough protein.
Our favorite “meat alternative”?
Beans. We love ’em.
(My kids especially love lentils, black, & pinto beans.) Rich in protein AND fiber. Beat that, animal flesh.
(Check out my bean recipe index for recipes.)
But if you’re not a fan of legumes or soy, protein is fortunately is found in all foods & eating a variety of whole plant foods (while getting enough calories) should cover your protein bases. I personally couldn’t imagine not eating legumes or soy, but I know there are plenty of healthy non-soy, non-legume eating vegans (if you’re one of them, comment below!).
And for the record, I ♥ tofu. I’m not anti-soy–my kids drink soy milk, we occasionally eat tofu, & of course, my kids love veggie dogs. (I can’t wait to try out some authentic Japanese tofu!)
8. You have to spend hours in the kitchen every day preparing exotic food.
We eat pretty simply these days, especially since Tyndale came along. On an average day, I spend an hour or less preparing/cooking food. As with groceries, you can spend as much or as little time in the kitchen as you want–some of the easiest foods to eat take little preparation (oranges, apples, bananas).
Meal planning & focusing on simple foods (like crock pot cooking) helps cut down time in the kitchen. See my quick recipes for meal ideas when you’re short on time.
Also, check out my 28 day meal plan to see how I meal plan.
9. Eating plant-based requires a great deal of self-control/constraint.
One of the most surprsing things I encounter is when people actually think I’ve remained vegan this long because, I have “such good self-control.”
Let me just say, if my being vegan & staying vegan was based on sheer grit & will power, I wouldn’t be vegan.
I LOVE being vegan. So for me, it’s a pretty easy way to eat.
(Why I went vegan, here.)
I love the way it makes me feel, I love the foods I eat. I love that I don’t eat meat. Animal flesh just seems so foreign to me. I am veg at heart, & I am so grateful I live in world where I can choose to be vegan & flourish on the abundance of healthful plant foods available to me.
For more on being vegan, check out my Vegan Answered ebook.
What myths/misconceptions have you encountered on your plant-based journey?