Imagine this scenario: you’ve made the personal choice that you want a more plant-focused diet, maybe for your health, the environment, animal rights, etc. This involves reducing (or eliminating) consumption of meat, dairy, and animal products. You are excited to take on your new lifestyle, but you are met with hesitations from those closest to you.
“But where will you get your protein?” Aunt Linda may ask.
“Being vegan will be expensive, how will you afford that on your budget?” Grandpa Bill may ask.
“One person going vegan won’t change the world.” Your partner remarks.
These are all common objections that most vegans have heard once or twice (or one thousand times.) Growing up in a small town in the Midwest that was crawling with farms, I was met with much hesitation from my family members, friends, and society in general.
In order to stand your ground with confidence, these are responses I have curated to assist you in answering these common objections with confidence.
1) “But where will you get your protein?”
To be honest, this is one of the most valid objections. In our society, meat and eggs are the two most common sources of protein for many people. For many, they have never even tried tofu, seitan, plant-based patties, etc. My biggest suggestion prior to going plant-based is to incorporate alternative protein sources (like those listed) and really get a feel for them before cutting out meat entirely. This will make the process less of a shock for your body and taste buds.
When it comes to plant-based protein, there are ample options to choose from. Here are some of my favorites:
Tofu is one of the most common replacements for meat because it’s A) cheap, and B) easy to cook with. Many people, including myself, are afraid of tofu because, frankly, I didn’t know what it was. For those who don’t know what tofu is, it’s essentially the curd of soy milk (a byproduct of producing soy milk.) For a serving of tofu, which is about 1/2 cup, you consume around 10 grams of protein. For reference, the average sedentary man needs around 55 grams of protein/day, and the average sedentary woman needs about 45 grams of protein/day. Therefore, tofu is a great source of protein (and lower in fat and calories compared to beef!)
My favorite way to make tofu is baked in the oven with a mix of all my favorite seasonings. My recipe is perfect for beginners who are acquiring a taste for tofu!
If you’re unsure where to buy, how to store, or how to cook tofu, I recommend reading up on the basics here.
Chickpeas take the cake for me. Not only are they versatile, they are delicious and an easy addition to almost any meal. Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a legume packed with protein (15 grams/cup to be exact!) And, since they are a part of the legume family, they are full of essential nutrients, such as iron and folate.
Chickpeas can be roasted in the oven, added to simmering curry sauce, or, my personal favorite, blended into hummus! They are also one of the most common forms of legume, so they are easily accessible and cheap.
Did you know you can also use the liquid from chickpeas (known as aquafob) as an egg replacement in baked goods?! It is truly the most versatile plant-based protein source, so definitely give them a shot.
For many readers, you may be wondering what on earth seitan even is! I didn’t know what seitan was well into my plant-based journey, so there is no shame in that. Seitan (pronounced say-tan) is made from whole wheat flour or from wheat gluten. It’s very high in protein, packing up to 31 grams/serving, making it popular for those needing more protein.
Seitan is most commonly used as a plant-based form of deli meat slices (such as Tofurkey.) It has almost an earthy taste, reminding me of mushrooms. For me, seitan is more of a luxury than a staple. The only times I usually consume it is at restaurants, usually in the form of a sandwich. It’s more processed than both tofu and chickpeas, and it contains more sodium; it makes for a good treat here and there, but is not my go-to for plant-based protein.
Curious about seitan? You should be! Learn more about it here.
So, next time you get asked “but where will you get your protein from?” here are some great protein sources to bring up!
2) “But isn’t plant-based food more expensive?”
The simple answer: it can be.
However, it all depends on your consumption choices. When I first became plant-based, I was heavily consuming meat-replacements, cheese replacements, and all the fun foods the vegan world has to offer! And there is nothing wrong with that. I actually recommend this when beginning your plant based journey to better adapt to your new lifestyle.
However, this does get expensive. For example, vegan feta cheese from VioLife is $4.79, while regular feta cheese costs about $3.99. Although a dollar difference is not too significant, it adds up when every plant-based replacement in your cart costs a dollar more.
Now that I am have been vegan for almost two years, I am learning to love whole foods, a variety of vegetables, fruits, and bean, so I rely on the replacement products significantly less. Here are my go-to, affordable vegan meals that are filling, nourishing, and can silence any skeptic who doubts plant-based eating can be affordable:
Nourish Bowls are my go to lunch since I can meal prep them and reheat them throughout the week. They are full of vegetables, nutrients, and protein. And, the best part? You can customize them to your liking! I find myself making some form of this bowl every week, and I have yet to get sick of them.
My go to bowl (not pictured) usually consists of the following:
- Black Beans (.99 cents)
- White Rice (.79 cents)
- Brussel Sprouts ($1.39, frozen)
- Sweet Potato ($2.00)
- Kale ($2.99)
- Hot Sauce + Spices (I love adding tumeric, red pepper flakes, and lots of garlic salt!)
These meals cost me less than two dollars/meal, and they keep me full, focused, and nourished (hence the name.) You can sub out the protein for any bean of your liking, or tofu, seitan, tempeh, etc. Bonus points if you adjust the vegetables you use based on what’s in season!
As someone who grew up in Minnesota, where the winters are cold, harsh, and never-ending, a comforting bowl of warm curry was always welcomed.
For a delicious and affordable curry, you would need the following:
- Chickpeas (0.69 cents)
- Bell pepper ($1.39)
- Spinach ($1.99)
- Coconut milk ($1.98)
- Curry powder ($1.99)
And that’s it! Of course, it gets even more wonderful with the addition of garlic, turmeric, legumes, etc, but this is a solid, affordable foundation for a heart-warming curry.
- Smoothie bowls topped with nuts and berries
- Avocado toast with tomato
- White bean chili
- Spicy peanut noodles/stir fry
- Tofu scramble with spinach
- Tofu tacos
- Black bean enchiladas
- Lentil soup
- And more!
These are some of my favorite, affordable, plant-based meals, and you can buy a majority of the ingredients in cans or frozen, making them even more budget-friendly!
3) “But our ancestors ate meat. It’s only natural.”
This is one of my personal favorite objections because, when you start to unravel it, it does not hold much validity. Let me explain.
“But our ancestors did it.” Okay, and? Our ancestors also had to hunt and gather for every single meal. They engaged in cannibalism for some time.They had to light fires outside to cook food and stay warm. They had no technology. They had to make their own clothing. For some time, they barely even had a language to communicate with one another. Does it mean we need to resort back to this? Of course not! There are so many options for consumers now that choosing to eat meat “because our ancestors did” is not a strong argument; meat is all they had, but we have the luxury of choice now.
“But we are made to eat meat. It’s in our biology.” Well, in recent studies, it has actually been proven our digestive system is similar to those of monkeys and apes. These primates have a biological make up that allows for fruit, vegetables, and meat to be consumed. But for many primates, insects are their biggest source of meat and protein, and this is still rare in comparison to how many plants the consume. Protein intake, and the fascination with eating large amounts of meat, has evolved with society (notice I said society, not our biology.) To learn more about the human biology and consuming meat, here’s a fun article I found for you all.
“But eating meat is natural.” Well, if you are looking at some of our ancestors history, I guess you could say it was indeed natural as it was a means for survival. Today, however, most animals consumed are a product of factory farming. They are pumped with antibiotics, kept in sunless rooms for their entire lives, given food in the form of pellets, and are surrounding by technology and machinery. Is this natural to you?
4) “Humans are at the top of the food chain. Do you think animals are better than us or something?”
As comical as this objection is, it’s actually one I have heard many times. Since we farm animals, fish, and even use insects to our liking (honey, for example), people often think we are just at the top of the food chain.
Contrary to popular belief, however, we are in the middle of the food chain. Those at the top are orca whales and polar bears, not homeo sapiens! We fall right in between pigs and anchovies based on our dietary needs (crazy, right?!)
Even if humans began eating more meat (currently the American diet is about 80:20 meat to whole foods) our position on the food chain won’t change; it all comes down to our biological makeup!
So, to shut down this objection, no, I don’t think animals are better than humans. However, they deserve a long healthy life, just like all of us do. Their lives are more important than a meal. Their lives are important.
“Could you look an animal in the eyes and say to it, ‘My appetite is more important than your suffering’?”– Moby
5) “But one person going vegan isn’t going to change the World.”
This is the objection I feel the most passionate about. In our current society, there is quite a bit of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance, a term coined by Leon Festinger in 1950, describes the physiological stress that occurs when humans’ actions go against their beliefs. And this leaves humans with two choices: changing their actions, or justifying them.
When it comes to our consumption habits, humans usually choose to justify their actions rather than change them. It’s either “one vegan won’t change anything,” or “animal products will just go to waste if people stop eating them.” Both of these are false, of course, and we can prove that by the concept of supply and demand (I studied a lot of economics in college, trust me on this one.)
A common objection I hear that piggybacks off of the main objection is that their is “no ethical consumption under Capitalism,” or “big corporations aren’t going to change, so why should I?” Both of these feed into the justification of consumption choices rather than taking personal responsibility. In fact, a vegan, on average, saves 30 animals in the course of one month by choosing not to eat animal products. This means, if only 100 people went vegan for one year, we would save 36,000 animals from being slaughtered.
Plus, not eating animals also impacts the environment directly! Oxford University stated that since “agriculture is a sector that spans a multitude of environmental problems,” going vegan is better than getting an electric car or taking less flights. Eating plant-based conserves water, limits the amount of CO2 production from cattle, and assists in changing the agricultural practices for the better.
So, one vegan won’t change anything, right? Think again. Check out this infographic for more specifics on vegan statistics.
So, next time you go to a family gathering and are forced to deal with relatives who don’t understand your plant-based consumption choices, hit them with these responses! Remember, statistics and facts always make your responses more powerful, meaningful, and insightful. But, at the end of the day, you don’t need to justify your choices to others (only if you want to!)