There are many benefits to going meat-free, from reducing your carbon footprint to lowering your cholesterol. But it certainly isn’t always the easiest option, especially in a meat-loving city like Hong Kong. If you’re a vegetarian, here are some challenges you’re probably familiar with.
There is only one vegetarian option on the menu
Dining out as a vegetarian involves a lot less perusing through the menu, except to look for the single, lonely leaf symbol next to the one meat-free dish the restaurant serves. And that dish is usually aubergene or mushroom-based. Luckily, I like both of those foods, but they quickly to lose their appeal when you have to eat them all the time. And if you don’t like either of those things, you can look forward to tucking into a nice bowl of plain white rice. Yum.
Not all vegetable dishes are vegetarian
You might think you’re in safe territory looking at the vegetable section of the menu in a restaurant, but a lot of seemingly meat-free dishes are cooked in meat, or served with meat sauce or mince meat on top. Because apparently restaurant owners don’t want vegetarians to have nice things.
Everyone orders meat dishes “for the table” then suggests you all split the bill
You didn’t eat those chicken wings or loaded nachos, but you best believe you’ll be paying for them. Meanwhile, everyone else helped themselves to the one dish you did order – which, being meat-free, also happened to be the cheapest item on the menu. By the end of the meal, you can expect to be out of pocket, and still hungry.
People think you eat nothing but salad
A lot of people assume vegetarians are clean eaters who live on nothing but kale and quinoa. And while no doubt that’s true of some vegetarians, there’s no rule that says you can’t enjoy comfort food just because you don’t eat meat - if being vegetarian meant giving up bread, you can rest assured I would not be one. What’s more, not everyone chooses to be vegetarian for health reasons; for some, it may be environmental, for others, ethical, and others still, merely personal taste.
People assume you’re trying to convert them to vegetarianism
Vegetarians really aren’t evangelical about their meat-free lifestyles. But anyone would think we go around knocking on doors asking people if they’ve heard the good news, given how defensive some meat-eaters become at the mere mention of vegetarianism. What people choose to put, or not put, into their bodies is their own choice, and while they shouldn’t have to justify that choice, they shouldn’t attempt to push it onto others either.
Everyone suddenly becomes a health expert
One thing meat-eaters love to tell vegetarians is that they aren’t getting enough protein. While we appreciate their “concern”, there is no reason why that would be the case, given that there are plenty of meat-free sources of protein, including tofu, grains, lentils, beans, pulses, nuts, seeds, and fruits and vegetables. And while we’re normally too polite to say it, there’s a good chance that many meat-eaters are actually getting too much protein. Protein should only make up around 10 per cent of your daily calorie intake, but in most modern diets, it accounts for around 16 per cent. So let’s just assume that we’re all getting enough protein - vegetarians included - until told otherwise by a medical professional.
You’re always the difficult one
Sometimes it feels as if everyone has to go out of their way to accommodate your eating habits. Perhaps your friends want to try that new seafood restaurant, but as it doesn’t serve anything that you can eat, they can’t go. This can be both embarassing and guilt-inducing; no one likes feeling like a nuisance. But given the popularity of vegetarianism these days, the onus is really on eateries to offer at least one veggie option; they’re not only losing vegetarian customers, but their loyal, meat-eating friends, too.