The Dietary Outcast

My Experiences As a Vegetarian in Texas


Photo Courtesy of Tania Melnyczuk on Unsplash

Choosing the path of vegetarianism is not easy: it can be a path full of sacrifices and adjustments that need to be made on a daily basis. From dealing with society’s opinions, to frequently asked questions, to limited food options, being a vegetarian is not easy sometimes, and it is something we need to talk about more.

Ruchi Sankolli, Assistant Editor

“I’m a vegetarian.” These words are often overlooked in restaurants, other people’s houses and festivals. Each day goes by where I eat off the Kids Menu because I refused to eat salad. Yet another day goes by where I get the ‘where do you get your protein?’ question. From ignorant stereotypes to limited food options, being a vegetarian in a southern state like Texas is not a walk in the park. 

I became a vegetarian at the mere age of four. While that does seem like a big decision for a four-year-old to make initially, I did not have to decide anything; I just got bored of eating chicken and chicken nuggets after living only off that for the first four years of my life. Now, I am the only vegetarian in my entire family. But, I stay true to my decision, no matter how many times it has been difficult as a vegetarian. The main difficulties I have faced are people and their opinions on vegetarianism. 

Many of my friends, the majority of which are non-vegetarian, have asked me questions out of curiosity about how my life as a vegetarian is. Here are some frequently asked questions: 

Where do you get your protein from? Plants are actually a great source of protein in themselves. I will admit, as a vegetarian, some compromises have to be made in order to ensure normal protein intake. I have resorted to taking a vegan, chocolate-flavored protein shake to increase my protein intake, in addition to eggs and paneer (a kind of cheese). However, plants, at their core, are the best source of protein. Lentils, cheese and peanuts are equally excellent sources of protein as well. 

Why did you become a vegetarian? I initially stopped eating meat out of boredom, due to having eaten it on a daily basis. However, I believe as I got older, the more aware I became about meat production and the benefits of vegetarianism, so I stuck to my decision. Most people tend to assume I became a vegetarian to boycott those who eat meat, but that is not the reason. Before I knew it, I was getting adjusted to the vegetarian lifestyle, and it made more sense to me going on. I just don’t want to eat meat, which is why I have stayed committed as a vegetarian since the meager age of four. 

Do you miss eating meat? I barely have any fond memories of eating meat, so no, I do not miss it. I am satisfied with my decision to become a vegetarian. After becoming a vegetarian, I was able to find another lifestyle for myself, and I feel much more comfortable now, so I don’t really have many memories, nor any opinion on meat.  

Are you vegan or vegetarian? Distinguishing between these two lifestyles can be tricky for those who are not fully aware of each lifestyle. Veganism, according to the Vegan Society, “denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals,” which include cheese, milk and eggs. Meanwhile, vegetarianism is simply the “practice of not eating meat, or fish.” For myself, animal products such as cheese, milk and eggs are perfectly fine. While I don’t really have any strong opinions on veganism, I chose not to go fully vegan because I didn’t think that was the best option for myself; I already had limited options as a vegetarian, so I didn’t want to limit myself even further by going vegan.

Aside from frequently asked questions, as a vegetarian, I have also had a fair amount of run-ins with assumptions. One assumption includes that, because I am a vegetarian, I will not go anywhere near meat. I am completely fine with cooking and touching meat (with sanitary gloves on, of course), I just do not consume it. Some people have also assumed that I will readily eat salad, which is the main vegetarian option in almost 70% of the restaurants I have been to. While I will eat salad every once in a while, it is not my go-to option. There are other vegetarian options out there, such as vegetarian tacos, burgers with veggie patties, fried rice, beans and rice and falafel, which I love. 

Speaking of vegetarian food options, I have found that there are generally limited options in certain restaurants. As I had mentioned before, the majority of restaurants have salad as a vegetarian option, which is not something all of us are dying to eat. Generally speaking, I feel vegetarian options are overlooked. Many times, I have had to either pick meat off the meal I have or resort to the kids meal options. My parents have also expressed concern about what I will eat and have encouraged me to start eating at home before attending parties or visiting restaurants that might be limited with options for me. Personally, I feel that there should be some more options for vegetarians in restaurants, besides salads and anything with only vegetables. Some restaurants with good vegetarian options are BJ’s, Torchy’s Tacos and HopDoddy’s Burger Bar. These three have amazing and delicious vegetarian options with other ingredients such as egg and bean based burgers. In my experience, I have never run out of options in these restaurants, and I love how they combine vegetables with other ingredients as well.  

However, options do depend on the cuisine. Asian cuisines seem to have the most vegetarian options, such as sabzi (indian vegetable mix), noodles, fried rice and vegetable stir fry. American cuisine, in my experience, has the least amount of vegetarian options. If you look at the vegetarian options at fast food restaurants, you can see what I mean. Most of the vegetarian options are often not healthy, resorting to bread and cheese for most of the options seen in fast food restaurants. In my experience, I have had to resort to bread and cheese in mainly seafood and steakhouse restaurants, and I always make sure to eat something beforehand, since I know my options are limited. In most cases, however, I do have other healthier options in most restaurants that are closer to the city. However, I feel that having other healthier options in local restaurants would be easier for myself. 

Being vegetarian is a choice, not a statement, and I feel that this gets overlooked sometimes. Mentioning vegetarianism or even veganism is enough to get a row out of some people. I feel that having more healthier vegetarian options that go beyond just salad is a consideration to make, as a lot of vegetarians struggle with finding suitable food options for themselves. Spreading more awareness about the experiences that come with vegetarianism is something that needs to be done more often, as it will help everyone become more aware and educated about a concept that is not talked about a lot.