Sam Turnbull, cookbook author and creator of the blog It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken, has been vegan since 2012. Although he grew up eating a meat-heavy diet, today he can’t imagine giving up his plant-based diet. .
“Being vegan has made me healthier, leaner, more energetic, and overall happier,” she told Talk News. “Gone are the days of feeling bloated after eating, having a sensitive stomach, feeling sleepy in the afternoon, unbuttoning my jeans after eating, and feeling guilty and disgusted when I think about what I actually had for dinner.”
Turnbull loves his vegan diet, but he still faces a lot of confusion surrounding veganism. Although more and more Americans are trying plant-based meat substitutes, going completely vegan is still a rare option; in the US, 4% of people identify as vegetarian and only 1% say they are vegan, according to a 2023 Gallup poll.
Depending on which country you are in, if you say you are vegan at a dinner party, it is not uncommon to get strange looks and, sometimes, impolite questions and comments: “Why do vegans eat anything other than burgers? and other fake meats if you hate them so much?” “Are you lacking protein because of your diet?” “Oh, then, more meat for me!”
Other times, restaurants might forgo vegan altogether, or leave plant-based customers with just one simple option: a boring side salad.
To clear up the confusion, Turnbull and other vegans share some of the most frustrating misconceptions or experiences of being vegan.
Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
1. There is an assumption that all vegans are preachy people.
“Most people don’t understand veganism. They think this is an extreme diet, and vegans are preachers. And often people try to find fault with veganism, when in reality, vegans are simply trying to do their best to limit animal cruelty, reduce their footprint on the environment, and improve their own health. Even if someone is not vegan, you would hope they would at least appreciate our efforts.” – Turnbull
2. It’s hard to find restaurants that are inclusive of vegans, not just vegetarians.
“The rise of vegan restaurants over the last decade has been a sea change and a significant step forward for vegans and animals. Walking into a vegan restaurant isn’t just fun for vegans; it’s a relief to know that we don’t have to scour the menu in hopes of finding a tasty vegan option. Despite this, many mainstream restaurants are still lagging behind. Vegetarian options are often the main choice, but are usually filled with cheese, milk, or eggs. The thing is: if a restaurant makes one truly amazing vegan option (other than salad), vegetarians and vegans can eat it. But some restaurants still haven’t embraced the idea or are slow to realize the growing demand for delicious vegan dishes. ― Erin Wysocarski, creator of the Olives for Dinner blog
FG Trades Latin via Getty Images
It’s relatively easy to find vegetarian food on most restaurant menus, but vegan dishes are few and far between, says Erin Wysocarski, creator of the blog Olives for Dinner.
3. Now that plant-based meat substitutes are common, you often hear questions like “If you don’t like meat, why are you eating imitation products?”
“One of the biggest frustrations of being vegan is the question or comment most people ask, usually something like this: ‘I don’t understand why vegans give up dairy, eggs and meat just to imitate dairy, eggs and meat. If you hate it so much, stop trying to imitate it.’ I hope people understand that many vegans, myself included, don’t give up these things because we’re disgusted or don’t find them appetizing.
Plus, it’s easier to call chicken vegan than jackfruit and seitan drumsticks. Imagine if you have recently switched to a vegan or plant-based diet and you are looking for vegan recipes online. If you’re looking for a vegan chicken recipe, you’re more likely to search for ‘vegan chicken’ than (jackfruit or seitan). I try to answer these questions with an open mind and remind people that I’m not forcing my diet on anyone; I just want to provide an alternative to those who may be looking for it.” ― Ashley Hankins, cookbook author and creator of the blog Eat Figs Not Pigs
4. While shopping, you realize that milk is in almost everything.
“It’s so hard to find food without milk! From salt and vinegar potato chips, chocolate bars, cookies, granola bars, hot sauce, to jars of minced garlic, they have it all. I find it hidden in the most random products. You really can’t buy anything without reading the ingredients carefully. This is not only frustrating for vegans but also very strange that brands would do this since a large portion of the population is lactose intolerant.” – Turnbull
FG Trading via Getty Images
In grocery stores, it’s hard to find products that don’t contain some milk.
5. People think that vegan diet is expensive and that is why they avoid it.
“There is a belief that there is only one way to have a vegan diet: at great expense. I think this comes from people who only focus on certain types of food and expensive vegan meat, dairy and cheese substitutes. However there are several world cuisines that are vegan friendly and do not rely on vegan substitutes. Most of these dishes rely on whole foods like beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, tofu, and more and many of them are cheaper or the same price as other ingredients.” ― Richa Hingle, vegan cookbook author and creator of the blog Vegan Richa
6. Dealing with holier-than-thou vegans can be annoying
“For me, the most frustrating thing about being vegan is being another vegan, at least from time to time! I grew up vegetarian in the 80s and 90s, so I encountered a lot of opinions about my diet from omnivores. I have reasons to be vegan, so this doesn’t really bother me. However, the vegan scene is quite difficult to break into. I find that other vegans sometimes have such prescriptive ideas about what it actually means to be a vegan, that the whole atmosphere can feel like a rather exclusive members’ club. Ironically, I think this actually deters most people from trying veganism because they are preoccupied with the idea of ’gold star veganism’, rather than doing what they can to reduce animal products.
I’ve learned to deal with this by remembering that no vegan is perfect. Personally, I believe there are as many different ways to be a vegan as there are ways to be vegan, and through my recipe development and cookbooks, I try to encourage people to find joy and comfort in vegan cooking, rather than worrying about perfection. Of course it’s better to have a hundred imperfect vegans than one perfect vegan!” ― Richard Makin, a vegan chef and creator of the blog School Night VeganYes, some vegans are judgmental, even towards other vegans, says Richard Makin, a vegan chef and creator of the blog School Night Vegan.
7. Sometimes people think that “being vegan” is your entire personality.
“You might think that not being able to eat your favorite foods containing meat and cheese would be the most challenging and frustrating thing when you go vegan. But for me, what matters most are the people and social situations, especially as someone who doesn’t really like being the center of attention. Being introduced as a ‘vegan’, experiencing food-related social events such as weddings, parties, office lunches, summer BBQs and dinner invitations, and being bombarded with questions, jokes, prejudice and sometimes even hostility is extremely difficult.” ― Melanie McDonald, author of “Vegan Comfort Cooking” and creator of the blog A Virtual Vegan
8. It is difficult to understand and talk to animal lovers who still eat animals.
“I don’t think I’m the only vegan who faces cognitive dissonance when I talk to ‘animal lovers’ who eat meat. People say they love animals and dislike animal cruelty when they are actually paying someone to kill an animal and then eat it. They feel angry at people who eat dog meat when they themselves eat animals, or they chat with cute sheep in the field and then eat a leg of lamb for Easter dinner. It’s incredibly frustrating and even harder when it’s our friends and loved ones and we have to listen to their strange justifications. Learning to detach emotionally and remembering that I myself was like this before I was in a relationship really helped.” ―McDonald’s
Alina Rudya/Bell Collective via Getty Images
Often, you’ll meet someone who will reduce you to “the vegan of the group,” says Melanie McDonald, author of “Vegan Comfort Cooking” and creator of the blog A Virtual Vegan.
9. There is a belief that you cannot respect your family’s cultural dishes if you are vegan.
“I was born in the Philippines and raised in a Filipino household and even though I’ve been vegan for almost a decade, my family still has a hard time understanding the concept of me not eating meat. I’m sure many different cultures can relate to this! I coped by making my family’s traditional dishes and recipes vegan and offering to cook for them. I love being able to call my mom or Lola (my grandmother), and ask for their adobo or pancit recipe, then adapt it to fit my vegan diet. I think there’s a big misconception that you’re giving up a little bit of your culture if you go vegan, but I don’t think that’s true at all. On the contrary, I think being vegan has brought me closer to my Filipino heritage since I learned to cook Filipino dishes that I probably would have never learned otherwise!” -Hankins
10. Question “Oh, so you just eat rabbit food?” jokes are also annoying.
“Meeting people who have a very limited view of what vegan food is (and then have strong opinions about it!) is my biggest frustration. I’ve met people who think that vegan food is just rabbit food and insist that humans can’t survive on a vegan diet, as well as people who think that plant-based food substitutes are artificial toxins. There is diversity in vegan foods and deep traditions in many cultures of creating natural plant-based foods that are nutritious, delicious, and satisfying. Depending on the person’s openness, I try to explain it and show some of my favorite recipes. If they seem confident in their point of view, I just go on with my day.” ― Nisha Vora, creator of the Rainbow Plant Life blog