As a vegan, you’re likely to get oodles of questions about your lifestyle. These questions can come from a place of curiosity, love, defense, or even judgment. And you’re bound to get some of the same questions many, many times.
Some of these questions can seem ridiculous and worthy of a snarky response. Before you unleash the sarcasm, put yourself in this questioner’s shoes.
If they’re coming from a place of curiosity or love, a compassionate and informative response could lead them that much closer to adopting the lifestyle themselves.
If the question is asked in defense or judgment, a well thought out, fact-based response will likely shift their perspective a bit, or at least put them in their place. They’ll see you have reasons and facts to support your actions and beliefs, which is better than a clever response that feeds the negativity.
I’ve compiled a list of questions vegans commonly get asked, and thoughtful, constructive responses to go along with them. Share in the comments the strangest question you’ve ever received about being vegan and how you responded.
So, what do you eat then?
What we all want to say: Food.
The better response: Anything that was not once an animal or that did not come from an animal. Think about it. All fruits and vegetables are inherently vegan. And if I’m feeling something else, there are potatoes, pasta, burritos, and the list goes on and on.
What’s also great is there is a vegan version of virtually everything these days. So I never feel restricted. I can eat anything you can eat, just veganized. It’s no different than switching from whole milk to 2%. You just switch to almond milk, or soy, or coconut, or oat, or hemp. And I’ve even been able to veganize my favorite dishes like burgers and pizza! My problem is not finding something to eat; it’s deciding what to eat.
Isn’t it hard to be vegan?
What we all want to say: Only when I have to answer stupid questions like these.
The better response: It’s actually easier than I thought it would be before I went vegan. I thought cutting out animal products would leave me with sad, bland food but instead, it encouraged me to discover new foods I had never tried before and now I have a more varied diet than ever!
Going out to eat took a little finesse because sometimes you don’t get to pick where you eat and steakhouses aren’t exactly vegan-friendly. But I’ve learned that there is always something (on or off the menu) for me to eat. And I can’t tell you how many times non-vegans have wished they ordered what I had.
As far as willpower goes, it’s really not an issue. If you go vegan, it’s for a reason. I would say ethics is the strongest reason because you’re not likely to stop caring about the animals and environment enough to go back to eating animal products. If you go vegan for health, you’ll probably see a quick improvement and have that as reason enough to never want to eat animal products again.
You just have to be gentle with yourself. If you accidentally (or on purpose) consume animal products, don’t just give up and go back to your old life. Every meal is another chance to make the right choice.
Where do you get your protein?
What we all want to say: Usually from Whole Foods, but occasionally from Trader Joe’s or the farmers market.
The better response: Protein is actually a non-issue for many vegans. Most of the foods we consume have protein and since we eat such a high quantity of food, we automatically get enough protein. Foods like beans, nuts, tofu, quinoa, tempeh, greens, nutritional yeast, vegan protein powder, and avocados are great sources of vegan protein. Some of the strongest animals (elephants, gorillas, rhinoceroses) get their protein from plants too!
Now, let’s address what “enough protein” actually means. Everyone’s needs are different. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends just 0.83 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The chart below will show you how much you should be getting. Also keep in mind, someone who is very active and constantly working out will need more protein to recover and build muscle. While someone lives a more sedentary lifestyle will need less.
Aren’t humans biologically designed to eat meat? Look at these canines!
What we all want to say: Oh look! There’s a rabbit. Go catch it and eat it with those sharp teeth of yours.
The better response: When compared to true carnivorous animals, human anatomy does not match up. While we do have what we call “canine” teeth, they are very different from, say, a lion’s. A naturally-designed meat eater, the lion has long, sharp canines to tear flesh and all their other teeth are short and sharp. Human teeth are roughly all the same length and relatively flat. They also are not strong enough to chew and crush hard things like bones, while carnivores can.
Humans also have an abundance of the enzyme ptyalin in our saliva, which breaks down complex carbohydrates found in plant foods. Carnivores have very minimal ptyalin in their saliva. Once we get into the digestive system, you’ll notice that humans and other herbivores have long digestive tracts because it takes a long time to absorb nutrients from plants. Carnivores have short digestive tracts because they can absorb nutrients from the meat they consume more quickly.
Because we lack sharp claws, aren’t very fast on our feet, and aren’t exactly endowed with lightning-fast reflexes, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for us to run down an animal, catch it with our bare hands, and tear through its fur and skin in order to eat it. Biologically, we are designed to be frugivorous herbivores eating mainly fruits, seeds, roots, and leaves.
What about plants? They’re alive. Can’t they feel pain too?
What we all want to say: Let’s make a deal. If you promise to watch a video of what goes on in a slaughterhouse, I’ll watch a video of a strawberry harvest.
The better response: Yes, there is research that demonstrates that plants have feelings. They feel it when their leaves or stems are ripped and there is scientific evidence showing while plants do not have brains and nervous systems like animals, they nevertheless actively work to ensure their survival. They want to live, thrive, reproduce, and evolve. If it were possible to live without causing harm to any living being at all, then indeed we might choose not to eat carrots or other vegetables. But that is not possible.
On the other hand, most of the plant-based foods we eat do not require harming the plants. Eating apples and other fruits, for example, actually benefit the plant because we spread the seeds by eating the fruits of the tree. The same is true of most vegetables as well, which are actually fruits, such as tomatoes, squashes, eggplants, peppers, beans, corn, and so forth.
Isn’t being vegan expensive?
What we all want to say: I know. My health care costs are going to be through the roof now that I’ve lost 20lbs, corrected my high blood pressure, and got my cholesterol under control.
The better response: Depending on the types of vegan food you eat, yes it can be expensive. But once you learn the basics, your food bill could be lower than when you ate animal products while consisting of higher quality food. The staples of a vegan diet tend to be the cheapest foods in the grocery store; bananas, potatoes, rice, beans. Whole, plant foods are your best bet at the grocery store. I know certain produce can be pricey, so it’s good to watch for sales and buy items that are in season.
The vegan foods that are expensive are the processed and packaged items. That’s largely because vegan items tend to be made from high quality, organic ingredients, whereas non-vegan processed foods usually contain tons of chemicals. You’re grocery bill will be higher if you’re mainly eating these processed foods. An easy way to get around this is to find recipes for your favorite processed food items and make them from scratch yourself!
Another aspect to think about is health care costs. A vegan diet has been shown to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, reverse diabetes, and cure many other diseases. Eating a non-vegan diet may be a few bucks cheaper at the grocery store in some cases but what about all the medications and surgeries needed to unclog your arteries or monitor your blood pressure. To me, a healthy body is priceless. How much is it worth to you?
In the end, being educated and knowledgeable will equip you to give strong, supported answers to any question you’re asked about veganism.
What’s the strangest question you’ve ever received about being vegan and how did you respond?