With the rise in vegetarian and vegan diets, and easier access to meat alternatives, you may find your friends converting more and more to vegetarianism (or veganism!). Here are a few things that’ll help you impress your veggie friends, and navigate any potential faux pas!
1) Cheese is not always vegetarian! (Note: it’s never vegan)
I found this out quite far into consciously cooking more vegetarian meals. So, what can make cheese non-veggie friendly? There are certain enzymes added to milk that cause it to curdle, including rennet which is traditionally sourced from a calf’s stomach. These days, however, rennet can also be sourced from plants. What this means in practice is that traditionally produced cheeses from example France or Italy may still use animal rennet. Parmesan for one is never vegetarian. On the other hand, the good news is that there will be a large selection of vegetarian cheeses at your local supermarket – just make sure to check the back for a v.
In other words, you may not want to serve your veggie friends a plate of pasta with parmesan on top!
2) Alcohol is not automatically vegetarian or vegan!
This has to do with the processing and clarification of alcoholic beverages which may use animal products . You’ll find that most spirits are veggie and vegan friendly, but you’ll have to be a bit more careful about beers and wines.
Unfortunately, alcoholic beverages do not always contain labelling to distinguish between veggie and non-veggie options, so you may have to do a bit of research to determine which brands fit the bill.
Good news for stout fans, Guinness is going vegan!
3) Vegetarians and vegans get enough protein and, for the most part, will not lack essential nutrients.
Don’t ask about protein. Unless they are deficient in caloric intake or have an atrocious diet, most vegetarians and vegans are getting enough protein. Certainly, vegetarians who regularly consume dairy shouldn’t have trouble achieving the recommended daily intake.
Unless you’re an athlete, you shouldn’t have to try too hard to get enough protein on a vegetarian or vegan diet. For example, 100 grams of black beans contains about one-fifth of the recommended daily intake of protein. Other non-animal sources of protein include seeds, nuts, legumes and even pasta (though it’s only about 5 grams per 100 gram serving).
You can, however, ask your vegan friends about vitamin B12. This nutrient is required for healthy nervous and circulatory systems and is only really found in animal products. Consequently, many vegans will take a supplement to avoid B12 deficiency.
4) It’s not necessarily all about the animals.
While many vegetarians and vegans do consider the treatment of animals when deciding to take on these diets (note: some may have been raised veggie or vegan so are not actually implementing a change), many others go veggie for environmental or health reasons, or even just taste preferences!
Environmentally, more plant-based foods can be produced with far less energy than it takes to produce an equivalent amount of animal products.
From a health perspective, vegetarians are likely to consume more fruits and vegetables than omnivores.
5) Vegetarianism and veganism doesn’t automatically make you healthier.
Vegetarianism and veganism does not automatically mean you are healthier, or that you eat more vegetables than the average omnivore. As a vegetarian, you could technically subsist on chips, pizza, and Oreos. Remove pizza from that list or substitute the cheese for a vegan alternative and the same is true for vegans (yes, Oreos are vegan). Ultimately, a healthy diet is a bit more complicated than simply removing animal products.
6) Don’t ask your veggie friends what would happen to all the animals if everyone stopped consuming animal products.
They may roll their eyes at you.
Check out more Vegetarian Dining Options in London!