This is a guest blog post by Daniel Koontz
Long-time readers know all about Casual Kitchen’s predilection for what we call part-time vegetarianism. Since vegetarian cuisine is typically very inexpensive, one great way to stretch your food budget and make your diet healthier is to replace two or three meat-based meals each week with vegetarian dishes.
However, since we straddle the world of meat-eaters and meat-avoiders, I’m often shocked by the many misconceptions that otherwise perfectly normal people hold about vegetarian cuisine. This post is an effort to put these myths to rest once and for all.
Myth #1: You can’t get enough protein eating vegetarian food.
Nonsense. The standard Western diet contains several times the amount of protein the human body needs, thus those of us who embrace part time vegetarianism and eat two or three veggie meals a week have absolutely nothing to worry about. Moreover, full-time vegetarians only need to eat a well-balanced diet with a serving of dairy or eggs every day or so to meet their protein needs. Vegans have a bit more work to do here to get enough protein, but a diet containing generous servings of whole grains, legumes, and nuts will easily do the trick.
Myth #2: There isn’t enough fat in a vegetarian diet.
Anyone who’s ever met up with a big tub of delicious guacamole knows that fat is hardly limited to meat-based meals. And the standard Western diet is so fat-laden that we can easily ingest far more fat than we need. The fact that most vegetarian meals contain much less fat than most meat-centered meals is an advantage, not a disadvantage. Veggie cuisine makes eating healthy a lot easier.
Myth #3: Vegetarianism has to be all or nothing.
Here at Casual Kitchen, we embrace and enjoy vegetarian cuisine, but we are not–and probably never will be–vegetarians. Nobody says you have to make a one-way, Do Not Pass Go, permanent-for-all-time conversion to vegetarianism. Try veggie cuisine with an open mind once in a while, enjoy the health and cost benefits, and just see what you think. And then feel free to go right back to your regular meat-based diet.
Myth #4: Vegetarian diets are limited and boring.
Actually the exact reverse is true: so many meals depend on meat that cutting it out as the centerpiece of your diet literally forces you to vary your diet more. In my experience, vegetarians and partial vegetarians generally eat a much wider range of foods than the typical meat-eater.
Myth #5: You can’t eat junk food on a vegetarian diet.
Heavens no. Not even close. Remember, Oreos are vegetarian. So are Doritos, potato chips and ice cream. Heck, so are Krispy Kreme donuts. You can eat a hellaciously bad diet and still call yourself a vegetarian. If you want to, that is.
Myth #6: Vegetarian food never fills me up.
Count us among the people who used to think this–until we tried some amazing, mind-opening recipes like Groundnut Stew from the amazing Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, or Smoky Brazilian Black Bean Soup, or Spanish Chickpea and Garlic Soup. Try out these recipes in your home, and when you find that you can’t get up from the dinner table, you’ll also change your mind about how filling vegetarian food is.
Myth #7: Vegetarian culture is too weird. And I don’t want to wear tie-dye.
You’d be surprised how much the demographics of vegetarianism have changed over the years. Sure, thirty years ago, back when vegetarianism was a smallish clique of crunchy communities in places like Berkeley, CA and Ithaca, NY, you could make the argument that crunchy behavior and tie-dye clothing used to be the standard. But the typical vegetarian today is more Sex and the City than crunchy–in other words, the modern vegetarian is the type of person who wouldn’t be caught dead wearing tie-dye.
Myth #8: Vegetarians are freakish militants intent on banning all meat.
If you took the time to actually get to know some vegetarians, you’d find the vast majority of them are quite peaceful, and they certainly don’t lie awake at night worrying about what you just had for dinner. Yes, you’ll find a few proselytizers here and there, but you can usually scare them off by waving your leather belt in a threatening manner. Most vegetarians quietly go about their business eating a healthy and perfectly satisfying diet, and they are okay with you eating meat if that’s what you choose to do.
Daniel Koontz is the author of Casual Kitchen, a blog dedicated to helping readers cook more, think more and spend less.