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5 Things I Don't Eat as a Vegetarian and I'm Really OK

photo by zeljkosantrac via getty

If one more person asks me how I live without bacon…

Even without meat, I do a good job of nourishing my body. I eat a high-protein diet with a lot of tofu (it’s really not so bad), lentils, beans, cheese, eggs, tempeh, nuts, and wheat-protein meat alternatives. I just don’t really see a place for meat products.

Being a vegetarian means giving up the opportunity to enjoy some popular foods, but 12 years later I’m still meat-free and I don’t intend on doing it any other way. These are the top five things people are amazed vegetarians can live without, and somehow we are all still standing (insert eye roll here).

Bacon

Every vegetarian has been asked the “how do you survive without bacon?” question. I’m honestly, truly doing great without ever consuming any bacon. That absurd question is usually followed with “you don’t know what you’re missing”. And that's true. I don’t know what I’m missing, because I don’t know what bacon tastes like (and I don’t care to try it!)

Potato soup is still just as delicious without it (once I ask what kind of broth was used, of course), and my breakfast plate keeps me full without an ounce of fried meat. So I’ll just keep on keepin’ on with my bacon-free lifestyle.

Shrimp

I’ve never had shrimp, but seeing a shrimp’s tail still intact and its beady little eyes staring at me doesn’t seem very appetizing. Even if you can get past that, I just don’t really see the appeal.

Seafood can be tricky to prepare, so I’m more than happy ordering plain old veggie dumplings, eating meaty mushroom tacos, or indulging in my creamy pasta dishes sans seafood. I’ve lived so far without it.

Pepperoni

There is already plenty of grease on pizza, so there’s really no need to add more. My second thought is how many delicious toppings you can add to pizza without any pepperoni (or meat at all). Slice up some fresh red onions, garlic, artichoke, broccoli, mushrooms, and peppers for a surprisingly delicious (and healthier) bite.

And don’t even get me started on all the cheese I can add and enjoy. Goat cheese on pizza? Sign me up. Fresh mozzarella margherita style? Done. And no, I won’t eat that pizza slice if you picked all the pepperoni off. That’s not how this works.

Black Bean & Mushroom Burger with Ann Taylor Pittman (Cooking Light Live)

Hamburgers

My parents grilled a lot when I was growing up, so I get this concern a lot. But frozen veggie burgers and grilled Portobello mushrooms got me through the hard times. Plus, what nobody seems to notice is we are literally living in a gold mine of crave-worthy veggie burgers—there’s a meat-free option on virtually every menu.

Shake Shack takes a Portobello mushroom, stuffs it with cheese, and then deep fries it. A local restaurant I ate at topped their homemade bean-packed veggie patty with pepperjack cheese, elote, guacamole, and spicy rolled tortilla chips. Cooking Light has a recipe for incredible Lentil-Tahini Burgers with Pickled Cabbage. I still daydream about these burgers. No meat needed. Mic drop.

Fish Sauce

This is probably the hardest, but not because I secretly want it. It’s just hard to get around the ingredient. Fish sauce sneaks up on you in ways you don’t expect, so I usually have to be super clear the ingredient isn’t ok when ordering Asian food. Plus, there’s really no great substitute, so I can’t eat a lot of Asian food and especially most Korean food (no Kimchi for me). There are still plenty of other Asian foods out there I love, and I’m ok with that. Bring on the General Tso tofu and vegetable pad Thai!