By Molly Patrick
Dec 21, 2019,
When you eat a whole food plant based diet you can count on being asked a lot of questions.
It’s amazing how concerned some people become when they hear you’ve stopped eating meat and dairy. WAY more concerned than when you were downing liters of soda, going to the drive thru regularly, and having a free-for-all at the all you can eat cheese buffet.
Soda, drive thru, cheese buffet?
No questions. Zip. Nothing. Crickets.
Eating loads of veggies, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds?WHOA! Slow your roll and wait a gosh darn minute, missy! There are antinutrients to think about and you need meat to be healthy and soy is bad for you and you won’t get enough calcium and what about B12 and where do you get your protein and carbs make you gain weight and you might get diabetes and you will miss meat too much and this is probably a phase and are you anemic and why the fuck aren’t you eating oil?
It can be exhausting. Especially if you are new to all of this.
I recently asked our awesome Private Facebook group to share questions they’ve been asked about eating a plant based diet that they have a hard time answering. I got hundreds of questions. Many of these questions I have been asked in the past, some I have not.
Because I’ve never eaten meat in my life, been vegan since 2009 and whole food plant based since 2014, I have a lifetime of practice answering questions from very concerned individuals who are absolutely baffled about my diet.
Questions come from curiosity. And so, anyone curious enough to ask me about my diet is interested in the answer, no matter how crass the questions might sound.
I am going to dedicate a few blog posts over the next few months to share with you how I would answer the questions that our community gets tripped up on.
Keep in mind, this is how I would personally answer these questions. You will eventually find your own footing with this. That said, if you want to snag my answers, go for it. Here are a few things to know about me before I get to answering some questions.
- I never, ever try to convince people to eat like me or that my way of eating is better than anyone else’s. I eat how I want to eat. Other people eat how they want to eat. I will never judge anyone for eating differently than me, even if they judge me.
- I never enter combat mode. This is not a game to win. Sometimes people are satisfied with my answers, sometimes they think they’re crap. That’s okay, it doesn’t matter. This is not a competition.
- I eat this way because this is how I want to eat. Not because I saw a movie. Not because I read about it in a magazine. Not because I scoured over scientific journals and concluded it was the best. Not because someone told me that I should. I eat this way because I love this way of eating. I eat this way because personally, I can’t imagine putting animals in my mouth and chewing. It doesn’t even make sense in my brain (not a judgement about people who do, just a fact about me). I eat this way because I honestly prefer eating plants more than anything else. I eat this way because it feels right all the way to my bones. I eat this way because it feels good and keeps me happy and healthy.
- I am terrible at debating, and I hate doing it. There are studies out there that will back up nearly anything a person wants to defend, so counting on respectable, legitimate, unbiased scientific studies doesn’t always help. If a conversation turns to debate mode, I exit the conversation because I don’t feel the need to justify or defend my personal food choices. I try to keep my answers short and sweet and not get into the nitty gritty details.
Here are the first 10 questions in this multiple part series.
1: How do you get enough calcium if you don’t eat dairy?
I get plenty of calcium from all the plants I eat! Beans and dark leafy greens are loaded with calcium. I eat beans and greens every day, so getting enough calcium isn’t an issue.
Most people don’t realize that having strong bones isn’t just about getting enough calcium, it’s also about keeping that calcium in the body. I make sure that all the calcium I get from plants stays in my body by keeping my body active, not smoking, and getting plenty of vitamin D.
2: But I thought you used to like eating cheese (or meat or ice cream, etc…)?
I used to LOVE cheese! I used to love a lot of things that I no longer eat or drink.
The honest truth is, I don’t miss it. Eating cheese never even crosses my mind because I’m so satisfied with my plant based food.
3: Plants have no flavor, don’t you need meat to flavor your food?
When you’re used to eating high amounts of salt, sugar and fat, unprocessed and minimally processed foods taste super bland. But the wildest thing happens when you switch to eating a whole food plant based diet.
The taste buds actually change and the food that used to seem really bland and boring starts to have massive amounts of satisfying flavor. It’s like your taste buds wake up and you finally taste what food is meant to taste like. It’s such a cool process to experience.
4: How can you be so sure animals feel pain?
I am not even going to justify that question with an answer.
5: How can you sample global cuisine if you are so restrictive? Not every country has native plant-based dishes. Especially without oil? Aren’t you missing out on important life experiences?
You are so right about the importance of experiencing other cultures! I totally agree. And food is a big piece of cultural identity. I love observing what and how other cultures eat, even if I don’t eat all of it. Anthony Bourdain was one of my favorite people, and he felt the same way you do about missing out on global experiences if you don’t eat meat or dairy.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have never felt like my travel experiences are any less rich, eye-opening or expansive because of my plant based diet. Also, when I travel I don’t stress about oil. The only place I eat oil free is at my house because once I leave my house I know oil is part of the deal. Everyone should travel and experience different cultures and food should not be a reason to stop them. I always make it work and I always have an amazing time. Our meal plans are filled with yummy foods from around the globe!
6: But I’d miss the taste of meat – where do you get the umami taste?
Umami is one of the five tastes, along with sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Did you know that certain plant foods are packed with the amino acid that is responsible for that savory, rich, satisfying taste?!
Most people don’t realize that umami isn’t just a meat thing. You get lots of satisfying umami from things like mushrooms, tomatoes, beans, miso, olives, mustard, seaweed, nutritional yeast, and soy sauce. Umami is awesome!
7: Isn’t it more expensive to eat a plant based diet?
If you are buying packaged vegan food, then yes, it would probably be more expensive. However, following a whole food plant based diet is different from a vegan diet because you are making all your own food from scratch using plant based ingredients instead of buying pre-made, packaged meals. Things like beans, legumes, whole grains, spices, seeds, veggies, and fruit aren’t expensive. Especially compared to the price of meat. Nuts are a little more pricey, but you can always use seeds and beans instead of nuts.
It’s all about buying plant based ingredients, getting in your kitchen, and learning how to put those ingredients together. One of the most common praises we hear from Dirties batching our Plant Fueled Meal Plans is that their weekly grocery expenses are less and they aren’t wasting food!
8: But humans are supposed to eat meat; aren’t our bodies designed for eating meat and have always eaten it?
This isn’t actually true. If we were designed to be carnivores, we would have a much shorter digestive tract and much sharper canine teeth. Our digestive tract is long and our teeth are flat, perfect for eating and digesting plants, which made up of the bulk of what ancient humans used to eat.
Setting all that aside, I’ve never eaten meat in my life and I’m one of the healthiest people I know (and my doctor agrees!). If meat were required by the human body, I would have been dead long ago. Listen, if people want to eat meat then awesome, that’s their choice, but meat is no way mandatory for the human body.
9: But what DO you eat?
I eat so much food!! Eating is one of my favorite things.
I eat the following:
- Whole grains
- Minimally processed foods made from the above ingredients, like sprouted bread, nut and seed butters, vinegars, tofu, tempeh, and non-dairy milk.
If a food doesn’t fall under one of the above categories, I don’t eat it.
People think this way of eating is restrictive, when it’s actually the opposite! The number of meals you can make from whole plant foods is literally endless. I eat a much bigger variety of foods than my meat-eating friends. They are always shocked at all the different things I’m cooking up!
10: Why would you choose to be so high maintenance?
If eating plants makes me high maintenance, then I guess I’m high maintenance! But I would be a lot more high maintenance if I were sick and unhealthy. If cooking my own food and eating a whole food plant based diet helps keep me energized, healthy, and feeling good, then it is totally worth it to me.
So my dear, what questions have you been asked about your plant based diet? I would love to know in the comments below! I might even add them to a future post.
- 3 slices 100% whole wheat or sprouted grain bread, toasted
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder (aka arrowroot flour or starch)
- 1/4 cup water (60 ml)
- 3 tablespoons tahini
- 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (about 20 turns)
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
- Dash of hot sauce (optional, but tasty)
- 8 cups cauliflower florets (800 g)
- Preheat oven to 425 °F (220 °C) and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
- Tear each piece of toast into 4 or 5 pieces then place them into your food processor. Add the arrowroot powder and process until you have fine bread crumbs. Set aside for now.
- Place the water, tahini, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, cumin and a dash of hot sauce (if using) into a large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the cauliflower florets and toss until evenly coated.
- Sprinkle the toast crumbs on top of the cauliflower and toss again to coat all the pieces. (If some of the toast crumbs don’t totally stick to the cauliflower, that’s okay.)
- Divide the breaded florets between your baking sheets and carefully spread them out into a single layer.
- Bake for 15 minutes then move the top baking sheet to the bottom oven rack and the bottom baking sheet to the top oven rack for even baking. No need to stir or flip the florets. Bake for an additional 10 – 15 minutes until crispy and golden brown.
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with staying true to yourself and not allowing anyone to throw you off your game.