Feeling misunderstood about being a vegetarian? All too often the words “I’m a vegetarian, I don’t eat meat” are met with eye rolls and judgment. If you’re like me, you know meat may be one of the most staggering forms of waste in existence. You’re vegetarian to reduce the waste of resources and help mitigate climate change. Regrettably, when I try to explain this to my peers at college, I might come off as moralistic and, well, just plain annoying. To add to the struggle, many people think a vegetarian diet doesn’t provide enough protein, isn’t satisfying, and tastes bad. Happily, strategies exist to reverse these attitudes. I should know, because I overcame them myself. If you want to start a conversation with your friends or family about why vegetarianism is a great option full of personal benefits, follow my tips:
1. Forget the Climate
According to the Earth Day Network, if you ate one less burger a week, it would represent the equivalent of taking your car off the road for 320 miles. However, for many people climate change is a scary discussion. There are issues that seem more immediate to them. However, this doesn’t mean that they may not be interested in learning more about the connections between vegetarianism and especially locally oriented environmental issues. If possible, talk about local water use, land use, and deforestation issues that your friends and family care about.
2. Talk about How Tasty Vegetarian Dishes Can Be
The culinary possibilities of vegetarian recipes are as endless as they are delicious. Help disbelievers see that vegetarianism offers the opportunity to try new things and be creative with their meals; more options are becoming available every day. One can even recreate vegetarian versions of barbeque classics. For instance, try jackfruit as a substitute for pulled pork (Chances are, your meat-eating friends will think it’s real pork.) Host a vegetarian potluck where everyone brings a different dish, and surprise your friends with the variety represented. And thanks to new technology from companies with names like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, burger taste-alikes are being created from plants. Learn more about this amazing new technology here.
Need some recipes? Here are some of my favorites, all of which are quick and easy to make:
If you need more inspiration, visit Tasty Vegetarian on Facebook where new recipes are posted everyday.
3. Underscore the Health Benefits of Vegetarianism
A vegetarian diet is just as nutritious as a diet that includes meat. It can also help curb obesity, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. In short, it can help you live longer. As with any diet, it can be unhealthy if one is not careful, but when done right a vegetarian diet will lower one’s risk of chronic disease. Plus, you don’t have to worry about consuming the growth hormones and antibiotics often used to raise meat.
4. Stress How Vegetarian Meals Can Save Money
As a college student, I know the lengths people will go to save a dollar or two. But how about even more than that? Research suggests vegetarians can save at least $750 per year (Time.com). Meat is more expensive than produce, grains, and legumes– it’s as simple as that. You’ll even have some extra time to compliment that extra cash, as vegetarian recipes are generally quicker and easier to prepare than ones that involve meat.
5. Talk About the Cool People
Impress your college friends with the facts that Oscar winner Leonardo Dicaprio has sworn off meat, and has even produced a “Cowspiracy”, a documentary exploring the link between animal agriculture and climate change. Natalie Portman also recognizes the staggering environmental cost of factory farming, along with vegans Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus.
While you’re at it, mention the names of local community leaders who are vegetarians. Share with friends what vegetarianism means to you. Being vegetarian gives me the feeling of having a greater purpose. Every vegetarian meal I eat supports a system that I believe in and helps me do my part to make the planet a better place. It just makes me feel good.
6. Encourage Friends to “JUST TRY IT!”
People don’t have to go ‘whole hog”. (Sorry about that). They can simply cut back on meat some of the time. Learn about “reducetarianism” Here.
So now we can all agree: In addition to helping the planet, a vegetarian diet tastes great, promotes health, saves money, and puts one among the stars, so keep this list handy when it comes time to defend your choice. And be sure to remind your friends that going vegetarian will not turn them into a moralistic hippie!
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