Forget grocery shopping or ordering at a restaurant. The most aggravating part of being a vegan might be dating.
Despite veganism's growing popularity, countless exasperating stereotypes about plant-eaters exist — for instance, vegans are an obnoxiously passionate bunch. (Have you seen this meme?) However, not all vegans are so eager to share the nitty-gritty of their diets. Especially on a first date.
Admittedly, if you're a dedicated carnivore, dating a vegan may be a curious challenge. It can be difficult to peacefully agree on a date-night restaurant (who makes a good osso bucco and a satisfying vegan burger?). And as the relationship progresses, it may get awkward when meeting your significant other's beef-loving Midwestern parents.
Or, if you are part of the 30% who claim they would never date a vegan or vegetarian, those challenges may turn you off completely.
Don't be discouraged from pursuing your vegan love interest — your meat-loving self may even benefit from close contact with a plant-based diet. If you are preparing to date a vegan (go you!), pay close attention to this list: These are five questions many vegans don't want to have to talk about again. And you wouldn't want to screw things up with your hot, plant-loving date.
1. "Where do you get your protein from?"
This is the No. 1 thing you shouldn't ask a vegan if you don't want to become victim of a vicious side-eye. Protein is an integral component of a well-rounded diet — without it, you'll be a weaker, hungrier, less awesome version of yourself.
But, newsflash: Animal products are not the only source of protein. Quinoa, beans, nut butters, chia seeds and meat alternatives like tempeh and tofu are clean sources of the super nutrient. Veggies, while not often lauded for their protein benefits, are another option for getting in your recommended daily dose — one cup of cooked frozen spinach packs up to 7 grams of protein; two cups of broccoli deliver 5 grams.
So dump the contents of your crisper onto a giant salad, top it off with a slice of sprouted bread and hummus and you're good to go for a well-rounded lunch. It should be noted that vegetables are incomplete proteins, meaning they lack certain essential amino acids. Vegans and vegetarians can't rely on leafy greens alone for protein. But a mixed diet, including other protein-packed sources like beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, are the good way to ensure we're getting our required nutrients. No rib-eye steak required.
2. "Will you be able to eat here?"
If your date has entered a restaurant by his or her own free will, they will be able to find something to eat. (Preferably something a little more substantial than the standard vegan option of steamed vegetables or the spinach pictured below.)
While the U.S. vegan population remains a tiny minority, healthy, mindful eating is no longer reserved for hippies and professional athletes. One need only observe the proliferation of pressed juiceries to understand that imbibing greens is a certifiably cool thing to do.
The interest in healthful eating, plus the rapid normalization of special diets and a keener eye on farm-to-table dining, has led to healthier menu options. There's bound to be at least one vegan-friendly option on any given menu. If not, there's always the option of holding the cheese.
3. "Is it OK if I eat meat?"
Vegans may appreciate your consideration of our sensitive vegan feelings, and it's true that some vegans are more hardcore than others. But plenty of vegans, including your potential dates, are not out to proselytize to the unwilling: I went vegan solely for my own health, not in defiance of what you choose to eat. (Eating a plant-based diet does, however, up your environmental-kindness points. Just saying.)
So if you want to eat a burger in front of your date, eat the burger! Your date wants you to be happy. And also probably wants to avoid making the date any more awkward than it already is.
4. "What's the point of eating fake meat? Why wouldn't you just eat real meat?"
Just because vegans like a good green salad doesn't mean they don't crave substantial, stick-to-your-bones meals — nor does it mean they eat less food than they did in their meat-eating days. And, as previously stated (are you paying attention? That's important on a date ...), animal protein isn't the only source of hearty fodder, nor is it the healthiest.
Some, like tempeh, are superfoods, packed with fiber (read: healthy digestion) and antioxidants. The slab of fermented soybeans may not look appetizing, but it's a blank slate for flavor and spice — like in this delicious dish, which, if you promise never to ask this question again, your date just might cook for you sometime.
5. "Did you want to lose weight?"
Nope. Definitely not why plenty of vegans choose the lifestyle. Also, didn't anyone tell you not to talk about weight on a first date?
Even if one was looking to lose weight, veganism may not be the way to go, as it's deceivingly easy to gain weight once you drop the meat. French fries, bagels, pasta? All vegan, all definitely not great for you in large doses. Just because someone's vegan doesn't mean their vegetable and protein intake miraculously increases or their carb and sugar intake will disappear. Subsisting on spoonfuls of Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter and the occasional avocado? This does not a well-rounded, weight-loss-miracle diet make.
Plus, not all vegans are virtuous vegetable lovers with no taste for junk. (Like a picky, petulant child, even I need to trick myself into eating greens with kale-loaded green smoothies or smother my broccoli and spinach in vegan mac and cheese sauce sometimes).
If you do want to try eating vegan, do a bit of research and ensure you're getting the appropriate amount of calories, fats and proteins from clean sources. And if you want to simply date one, it can't hurt to do the same research.
To all the potential daters out there: Vegans appreciate your interest in their lifestyle. That's what dates are about, after all — getting to know the other person. Assuming you ask these questions genuinely and without judgment, you'll probably come out the other side unscathed.
Just don't try to get me to have a bite of your burger — I promise I won't try to give you a bite of my vegan lentil loaf.