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The Meat-eater’s Guide To Vegetarians

Did you know? This week was Vegetarian Awareness Week! To be honest, I don’t really know what that means (was I supposed to give my non-vegetarian friends a speech about how great giving up meat can be?? Plaster signs on my cube? Or wear my No Meat Athlete shirt to work?), but I figure it’s as good a time as any to address all you meat-eaters out there. Because if it hasn’t happened already, there may come a time when you have to dine with/cook for/talk to your first vegetarian. And I know how overwhelming that can be. So to ease your fears and discomfort, here’s some basic words of wisdom to survive that first encounter*.

But first things first – we’ve gotta talk terminology. Most people who say they’re a vegetarian are what we call a lacto-ovo-vegetarian. These are people who don’t eat meat, but will eat eggs and dairy. Similarly, you may run across a lacto-vegetarian (someone who doesn’t eat meat or eggs but eats dairy) or an ovo-vegetarian (no meat or dairy, but does eat eggs).

Confused yet? Believe me, so are we! We don’t really like being put into all these boxes either. But we’re all human. And humans like to wrap things up into neat little boxes with a pretty little bow on top as a way to make sense of the world. So boxes is what we get.


Anyway, here are a few more terms for you:

  • A Vegan does not eat any animal products – no meat, no cheese, dairy, or eggs. Vegans also avoid foods that have been made with animal-derived products (like the gelatin in jello and marshmallows), or foods that are made with any sort of animal product, even though they may not actually contain animal products in the end (some wines, beers, sugar, etc).
  • A Pescatarian does not eat any type of meat except for fish.
  • A Flexitarian doesn’t eat meat most of the time. This is also called semi-vegetarian, and basically means that the person considers himself mostly vegetarian, but still wants to be able to enjoy that delicious piece of chicken/Thanksgiving turkey/steak once in awhile.

So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are the answers to all your most burning questions – before you even ask them!


1.) No, vegetarians do not eat chicken. I don’t care how white or supposedly healthy it is, meat is meat is meat. Same goes for fish. If confused, please refer to definitions above.

2.) Making a dish that contains meat and then picking all the meat out before you serve it does not make it vegetarian. Just because I can’t see the meat, doesn’t mean it’s no longer there. This is also true for soups. Making a vegetable soup with chicken or beef stock means that the soup isn’t vegetarian, even if it doesn’t actually have chunks of meat in it.

3.) Vegetarians don’t get all picky about Numbers 1 and 2 above just to make your life more difficult. Honest. Besides the fact that we just don’t want to eat meat (for whatever reason) is the fact that eating it can actually make us sick. After awhile, your body stops being able to digest meat – and so when a vegetarian unknowingly eats some, it’s not such a pretty picture.

cartoon_-_vegan_insomnia (Source)

4.) Vegetarianism is a lifestyle choice, not a religion. I follow the Gospel of Jesus, not the gospel of vegetables, thank you very much. I promise that we don’t all want to preach to you, judge you, or convert you to our abstaining ways. Believe it or not, my friends and boyfriend are still happily eating meat – and I’m fine with that. As a matter of fact, we co-exist quite peacefully. Now, if at some point during our relationship you approach me and tell me that you’re thinking of eating less meat, I’m not going to lie — I’ll be thrilled. In fact, at that point I’ll be so excited that I may or may not start talking really fast about all the benefits of going meat-free and all the fun, delicious things you can make. But you’ll have to forgive me for that.

funny-vegetables (Source)

5.) Because of #4, you don’t have to feel guilty when you eat meat in front of us. Go ahead, eat your steak. I promise I’m not shooting silent daggers at you as you chew. Most of us are just so happy we’ve found a delicious vegetarian option on the menu that we can’t stop thinking about it long enough to even focus on what you’re eating over there.

6.) You also don’t have to apologize for eating meat in front of us, or hide it from us because you think the very sight of it will make us sick. While I don’t particularly enjoy the look/smell of raw meat, I’m going to be honest with you – that bacon you’re eating actually smells pretty darn delicious. In fact, I may just lean over and breathe it in a few times if you don’t mind. But no, I don’t want to try it! I just want to experience the smell. Just like I inhale really deeply when I pass by a BBQ. Or if you found a really pretty flower or a delicious smelling candle. It’s not like meat becomes this repulsive thing the instant you decide to give it up. It’s just that after awhile, it stops being classified in your mind as something edible. Think of it as like a candle. You don’t want to eat it, you just want to appreciate it for its smell.

bacon candle(Source)

7.) Believe it or not, vegetarians tend to have pretty hearty appetites. We didn’t decide to give up eating good food, just meat. So that plate with lettuce and carrots that you’re calling a salad isn’t going to fill us up. Sorry, but we need substance in our meals too. Similarly, just because a dish is made from a bunch of vegetables that have been stewed together, it doesn’t mean we have to like it. Do you like every single dish that’s put in front of you just because it contains meat?

salad (Source)

8.) Vegetarianism does not equal activism. Although some vegetarians (and vegans) use their food choices as a platform for activism, not all of us do. Giving up meat and being political don’t necessarily go hand in hand. So just like we’re not going to preach to you, we’re also not going to start picketing on your front lawn equipped with “Save the cows!” signs.

9.) I know you’re trying to make us a meal we can enjoy, but sometimes we actually feel more guilty if you go out of your way. I realize it can be overwhelming to cook vegetarian dinners. I get nervous when non-vegetarians are coming over and I need to make something everyone can enjoy. And I really do appreciate the effort. But if you’re coordinating a huge meal and I’m the only vegetarian guest, please do not make me a special dish, or fret that I don’t have anything to eat. To be honest, we’re sort of used to being flexible in these situations. And I know I said above that a bed of lettuce doesn’t make a meal, but if I have to make it work, I will. Just make sure you serve some bread and dessert with dinner and I’ll be a happy camper.

10.) All that being said, we sometimes may seem like walking contradictions. Food choices don’t always make sense. We may say we eat dairy, but then tell you we don’t drink milk. Or be totally okay with picking around meat in a dish. And you better believe that if there’s a campfire and you’re making s’mores, I’m going to want in, gelatin and all.


But aren’t we all walking contradictions in some way? I mean, we’re only human after all. And we’re doing the best we can.

*The fine print: I probably shouldn’t have to say this, but I will…just in case. This post is meant to be tongue-in-cheek and not to offend any of you carnivores out there. Obviously I know meat eater does not equal idiot. But I also didn’t just make these things up. Just sayin…

31 Responses to The Meat-eater’s Guide To Vegetarians

  1. Haha, I love this whole post.
    I’m not even a vegetarian, but I was eating a tofu burger at a cookout, and the people there wanted to use a whole separate patty-flipper and everything. It was nice of them, but made me feel awkward.
    I remember in a post of Gena’s that when she told someone she couldn’t eat an omelette because she was vegan, they offered to make it with egg whites. If only people knew how tasty and unhealthy vegan foods could be, too.

  2. hahaha I was going to say the exact same thing…I love this post! I 100% agree with everything you said. Everyone is always assuming their meat grosses me out but I still loove the smell of bacon & bbq & can think a steak looks good even though I have no desire to eat it! I know they also think I am constantly depriving myself and may snap at any moment and eat a hamburger (I won’t). I also eat fish & am constantly being asked “why a cow’s feelings matter more than a shrimp’s.” I read an article today written by a non-drinker describing everyone’s reaction to her abstaining while they are drinking & it seems like a very similar experience (through extremely different, obviously).

  3. [...] The Meat-eater’s Guide To Vegetarians | Health on the Run [...]

  4. Great post Lauren! You have a very good sense of humor, which I am sure is a reflection of your parents. Two more you could have added:
    1) You forgot to mention the “jokes”. “Hey, I made you a salad, but I snuck some meat in it, ha ha”.
    2) “So, what do you eat?” It’s as if all meat eaters eat is meat. There are other things on the plate too.
    I get a kick out of the opposite too. People find out your a vegetarian and then start asking medical advice. Really, you don’t want medical advice from me, do you? My advice is always the same and you know what that is, so I won’t write it.
    You write great posts and put a lot of thought into them. Keep up the great work.
    Your biggest fan (Mom claims she is), Dad

  5. I think this is a great post. Especially the part about, even though we are vegetarians, we still need to EAT! The other night I was at a dinner where they were all eating steak and burgers. Oh don’t worry though, there was a side salad. Yes, one salad for all 8 people at the table to share. For some reason the host believed that my little serving of side salad was a sufficient meal while they gnawed away on their HUGE steaks AND salad! I couldn’t even take a whole lot because I didn’t want to take more than my share. I feel like whenever I’m at someone’s house I should announce, “Yes I’m a vegetarian, no that does not mean I’m anorexic. As a matter of fact I still love food.”

  6. I’m not a vegetarian. I really wish I was. I haven’t eaten red meat in a decade and never ate seafood, but a couple of times a week I need chicken. Sigh. I think you guys have so much courage and applaud you. I know dining out can be so tough! But I heart my veggie friends bc they have shown me some awesome ways to eat meatless.

    I think the biggest misconception about going vegetarian is that you’ll lose weight! A veggie diet does not equal healthy. Hello pizza and huge bagels! I made that mistake in my much younger, much less wiser days ;)

  7. Hahaha the gospel of vegetables. Love it. I’m loving this philosophy right now: http://www.ted.com/talks/graham_hill_weekday_vegetarian.html

  8. haha I loved this post! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told someone I’m vegan and then they start listing every animal product and ask “So do you eat…?” No, if I don’t eat chicken then I also don’t eat fish.

    Another thing that sort of irritates me is when people say, “So you can’t eat…?!?” <– "cant?" no no nooo I definitely can. I choose not to!
    Danielle (Runs on Green)´s last post ..Special package

  9. That shirt and the tofu cartoon are HILARIOUS! I’m not a veg but I love tofu/veggie burgers and people often ask if I am. I’m all for people who do the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle though!!
    Megan @ The Oatmeal Diaries´s last post ..return of OIAJ

  10. This is a great post! I’m not a vegetarian, more of a “less-meat-atarian” if you will. But I have MANY vegetarian/vegan friends, and they all would appreciate you writing this post. Particularly #2…that one’s a big misconception!
    Katie @ Health for the Whole Self´s last post ..My Prayer for September 11

  11. [...] In honor of Vegetarian Awareness Week (I just found out too…), please check out this post by Lauren. I can relate on so many levels haha Uncategorized  Home  Special package [...]

  12. I love this post and totally identify, especially with the meat-eater-guilt. Too many people apologize or seem to think I’ll be offended that they order meat but, honestly, I don’t care! I don’t want to eat it–although definitely want a few big whiffs of the BBQ–but it doesn’t bother me in the least that you’re eating it. You eat what makes you happy and I’ll do the same.
    Erin´s last post ..Rainy day Sunday- in photos

  13. I absolutely LOVE this post! I find that almost everybody is incredibly accepting of my choice but just a little unsure of how to act/react/provide food for me. I think the worst is when others assume that they can’t eat meat around me. I’ve got nothing against it, I swear! I just feel healthier when I don’t eat it myself!

  14. this post was awesome girl hahah you had me laughing out loud. i’m a veggie too :]

  15. This post is awesome! :)
    Ashlei´s last post ..Winged Deer Park Tri Recap

  16. So true! What a great post.

  17. FANTASTIC post, girl! It’s funny because it’s quite true that many people look at vegetarians as though they’re from another planet. Too funny.

  18. OK thank you for finally clarifying what “stages” of vegetarian-ism there are. Flexitarian – that’s me!

    I support everyone’s beliefs and opinions, so long as things are done for the right reasons. It’s a free country!
    Nichole´s last post ..Beat the End of Summer Blues

  19. I love this post! My Meme is constantly saying, “Oh, you can eat that right?” or “Can you eat that?” Some times it is over the most random things too. Yes, I can infact eat a saltine cracker, Meme. I just don’t care for meat, etc….

    I try to take it all with a grain of salt and see the funny side of it.
    Justine´s last post ..Quick Quick Slow

  20. Hi Lauren! I love this post! I am a meat eater but it’s nice to learn more about vegetarianism. Hope you are liking your new job!
    Brenna [fabuleuxdestin]´s last post ..why i am fleeing the country

  21. I definitely consider myself a flexitarian trending toward vegetarian and sometimes vegan – but I’ve been leaning more in the meatless direction since seeing studies hit the news that animal product-based diets are literally likely to kill you. I’ll never give up my beloved salmon and eggs, but I’m definitely willing to eat less of them for the sake of the environment, since most animal products are not produced in a sustainable manner, and my own health.

  22. Great tips! I have a few vegetarians that sit at my school lunch table…
    Erika @ Food, Fitness, & Fun´s last post ..Nothing New

  23. This is so, so fun. I loved it. I don’t think I will ever go veggie but i definitely want to start eating much less meat… and having it be a special thing instead of fairly frequent. so much better for me and for the planet.
    Courtney (Pancakes & Postcards)´s last post ..The Case of the Disappearing Posts!

  24. What an adorable shirt! Great post! LOts of important information here!

  25. This entire post makes me so happy. Especially the, “I follow the Gospel of Jesus, not the gospel of vegetables, thank you very much.”

    I especially agree with 5 & 6. My favorite is at restaurants when I order a veg burger or something, and my dining buddy goes, “Oh are you a vegetarian? Do you mind if I get the steak?” Seriously. Get whatever you want. Doesn’t affect me. :)
    hbobier @ Basil Vodka´s last post ..Healthy Fat

  26. Lauren, I loved your post! Funny story…when we were in Atlanta for our BTS show last week I was told there would always be a vegetarian option available. However, when I checked the buffet, there was nothing that didn’t have meat in or on it. I told the server who promptly went into the kitchen and got me a sandwich…. ham on a rice cake….he thought being a vegetarian meant I wanted a gluten free sandwich! What???

  27. great article! as a non-preaching vegan i definitely relate!

  28. Very well writen and good points. My best friend of 4 years was a vegetarian and as long as I didn’t wave the meat in her face she didn’t care what I ate. In her home she prefered that I pick veggie options, but that was more her mums thing than hers. At BBQ’s I would always make her veggie kebabs and they ended up being a hit with everyone!

  29. wow, I want this article posted everywhere–I might get it tattooed on my back!

  30. This is such a great post!!!!! I used to be a vegetarian for a number of years, but then slowly worked my way into eating meat. Just recently, in an attempt to clean up my diet and maximize energy and potential, for Ironman training, I’ve made the change back to vegetarianism.

    I keep getting the same questions over and over and this post fantastically answers them all! Go you!!

    I’m psyched to look through your recipes and try some out!
    Tami Washenko´s last post ..Random Friday Facts

  31. This is great! I should send it to all my meat eating friends to educate them so Tami mentioned, I don’t have to answer the same questions over and over again.
    Maggie´s last post ..What You Need To Know About Resveratrol Supplements: Our Comprehensive Guide

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