Answering questions people ask about vegan diet

Nutrition, Vegan
vegan burger sandwich

If you’re a vegan, you’ll be used to people asking you questions, sometimes out of interest and sometimes to be awkward. I’ve been a vegan for nearly 5 years, thanks to Veganuary.  (I was a vegetarian for over 40 years before that.) When people know I’m vegan, they often ask me questions. Here are some typical questions and my answers.

Do you know that plants have feelings too?

In my experience this question is usually asked by someone who is not asking a genuine question. They are trying to catch me out. They are trying to be clever. Of course, I could have a discussion about whether plants have feelings. We could discuss whether plant feels are less important than the feelings of cows. In general I don’t do this, because they are often just wanting to catch me out.

Instead I say this:

“We all draw the line somewhere about what we will or will not eat for ethical reasons. Maybe for you it’s not eating horses or dogs. For me it’s not eating animals.”

I’ve found this answer will often stop them in their tracks. It makes them think. That’s what I want. I want people to think about what they eat and how they decide what is OK and what is not.

sign up for contentDon’t you miss meat?

Of course, some people do. Some people don’t miss meat in general, but do miss specific types of meat, such as bacon. For many of us the idea becomes so abhorrent to eat another being that it completely overwhelms any issues of how tasty something is. This is how I often answer that:

“Many people have cats and dogs as pets. Maybe these people come home from work tired and hungry. They look in the fridge. Nothing. Their cat/dog has left some of its dinner. It’s sitting there. Most people wouldn’t eat it, even when hungry. These people feel a certain way when they look at cat/dog food. That’s how I feel when I look at meat/fish/eggs/cheese.”

Of course, now there are more and more fake “meat” you can buy, so if you want to eat meat without the cruelty try some of them.

Where do you vegans get your protein?

It’s amazing how people suddenly seem to be interested in nutrition, when talking to a vegan! I get asked this question even by people whose own diet is completely based on taste and/or cost. I have several replies, tarting with the quick and simple:

“Nuts, beans, seeds. Lots of foods have protein in them.”

or if I’m feeling particularly feisty I might say:

“Nuts, beans, seeds. Do you worry about your intake of trans fats?”

Sometimes I just say:

“Look at me. Do I look as though I’m short of any nutrients?”

Isn’t it restrictive? It really reduces your choices.

I don’t feel this at all.  So my answer goes something like this:

“I have found being vegan very liberating. I’ve started eating things I would never have tried, if I were a meat eater.”

I sometimes point out also that having endless choice isn’t always as beneficial as you might think. There’s research now showing that we are stressed and wearied and overwhelmed by too much choice.

Isn’t it an extreme position? Surely we should all take the middle way.

This is usually a very genuine worry. Veganism now – what next!? So my reply varies depending on how worried people are about this aspect of it.

Here’s my favourite;

“It may seem like an extreme position, but so did people who wanted the abolition of slavery or votes for women. Now we see those attitudes as being correct and normal.”

You’re really vegan? I wish my mum/dad was.

This question, of course, comes from young people who are vegans. Young people are often amazed that I’m in my seventies and I’m vegan.  It’s true that most vegans are much younger than me. I tell them to just let their parents see how healthy they are and what delicious food they eat. Don’t try to press them into becoming vegan. Maybe encourage them to move towards a more plant-based diet.

I hope this will help vegans deal more confidentially with some of the questions they get asked.

The charity Viva! have lots of answers to other questions you might have about trying a vegan diet.