Veganism gets a bad rap, and unfairly so. To actually be vegan, you do need to avoid consuming all animal products, which means meats and dairy products, but also certain brands of wine and beer, candy, and even mislabeled vegetarian and vegan products. However, it is possible to continue to make health-conscious decisions and eat well as a vegan.
Here are just a few common misconceptions about veganism:
1. Vegans only eat tofu, soy, and products that resemble meat.
While many vegans do enjoy soy and wheat meats (such as seitan or tempeh), there are also many who can’t stand them and don’t eat them. It’s possible to get protein from other sources— certain vegetables, nuts, and legumes, for example—which can make up for the protein lost by not taking in either meat or dairy. Furthermore, some vegans also have gluten allergies, making it very difficult to consume products like these on a regular basis.
2. In most situations, there are few menu options for vegans.
While certain restaurants don’t offer any vegan options (and if they do, they’re thrown together at the last minute and consist of several poorly-cooked vegetables with perhaps something unappealing on top), many places have come to develop functional vegan meals. Even living in small towns with limited food selections doesn’t make being vegan impossible; with plentiful vegetable supplies and a handful of cookbooks, it’s very possible to make a variety of completely solid vegan meals, even ones that your non-veg friends will enjoy.
3. Vegans are perennially malnourished, vitamin-deficient, and always cranky about it. To stay healthy as a vegan, you will likely need to take supplements to get certain vitamins and minerals that simply can’t be found in plants, such as Vitamin B12 and Omega-3 fatty acids. There are also the issues of getting adequate vitamin D, calcium, iodine, iron, and maintaining protein intake as a vegan, which can be addressed by carefully watching your vitamin intake from the foods you eat and making up for what you’re missing through multivitamins.
4. Veganism is costly, difficult, and not worth the time or investment.
Veganism doesn’t need to be expensive; choosing to eat exclusively and local organic and vegan restaurants will likely bring up your costs considerably, however, as will purchasing a ton of freezer-ready vegan meals instead of choosing to cook for yourself. Like almost all food-related expenditures, you save money by making careful, informed decisions about what you purchase and whom you choose to support. If you focus on getting quality local vegetables and vegan supplements from around your area, you ensure that those products will continue to exist well into the future, benefiting both you as consumer and the producer.
5. Vegans have to eat Tofurky in November. Tofurky tastes like a wet sock. No one likes eating wet socks. Vegans don’t have to eat Tofurky. Most vegans don’t even really like Tofurky. Vegans I know have advocated two solutions for making Thanksgiving and Christmas less uncomfortable. One is loading up on animal-free side dishes, which are all very doable. Another is the more ambitious (and more delicious) UnTurkey if you’re looking to go the faux meat route.