The Stigma Faced as a Vegan

  If I had a dime for every time someone asked me, “So… if you’re vegan, then what do you eat?” I could pay off my whole family’s college tuition.

  It’s as if vegans are thought of as a different species who couldn’t possibly eat the same kind of food as “regular people.”  

  Being a vegan myself, and having to explain my choice in diet on a daily basis, I am shocked at how misunderstood the vegan and vegetarian community is. However, being the only vegan in my family, it is important to have a thick skin about “vegan” jokes and snide “hippie” comments. Everyone in my family eats meat except for my mother, who is a vegetarian. Why can’t everyone be accepting of each other’s individual dietary choice like my family is of me? Is it really that bizarre that I don’t feel the need to eat or drink the byproduct of another species?

  I have nothing against people who eat meat and dairy. Everybody gets to choose their own lifestyle, and I firmly believe that. However, the most common complaint I hear from non-vegans is that vegans are too judgmental and condescending towards meat-eaters.

  Maybe, in some cases, that is true. Personally, I  try to be accepting with everyone I meet, but sometimes similar judgmental statements stem from the opposite party.

  Once people find out I am vegan, they usually respond with “Why?” and “But you need calcium from milk.” The idea that you need calcium from milk has been implanted in the minds of Americans for decades. Teenagers do need calcium for bone growth, but calcium doesn’t just come from milk. Collard greens, broccoli, kale, edamame and several other yummy foods contain high quantities of calcium.

  Just because someone is vegan, it does not mean they are nutrient deficient. Anyone, even non-vegans, can be nutrient deficient if their diet lacks necessary foods.

  I consider myself healthy, not because I am vegan, but because I choose to eat healthily. Nutrients should not be an issue with any diet as long as the person knows what to look for.

  I know how necessary protein is (mainly because my mom nags me about it every day), so I make it a priority to get complete proteins– like quinoa– in my diet as much as possible. In the same way, a meat eater should still strive for adequate protein consumption through healthy sources such as lean meats.

   Healthiness can be achieved through even the strictest of diets– and I should know because I am a vegan who is allergic to tree nuts, which is a pretty restrictive diet.

  In the end, it all comes down to personal choice. Let vegans be vegans and non-vegans be non-vegans, as long as both sides can live a healthy lifestyle.

  If there is one thing both parties agree on, it is that food is the fuel that makes life great, no matter how it is prepared. As Julia Child eloquently puts it, “People who love to eat are always the best people.”

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