The University of Iowa

How I survive as a vegetarian in a major agricultural country

April 3rd, 2018

When I told my study abroad advisor I wanted to go to Uruguay for my semester abroad, she told me, “I hope you’re prepared to eat a lot of beef.” As a vegetarian, this probably should have been a red flag.

I brushed past this warning and here I am, living in a country where animal agriculture is the biggest export and street meat is at every corner. One month in and I think I’ve figured it out; so here’s how I survive.

1). Learning all the vegetarian phrases right off the bat

It saved me a ton of difficulty by memorizing and writing down a few vegetarian phrases I anticipated using in restaurants or eating at someone else’s home. These are the three I have used the most:

“No como carne” (I don’t eat meat)
“Solo vegetales por favor” (Just vegetables please!)
“Hay carne en esto?” (Is there meat in this?)

2. Anticipating different views on vegetarianism

Since animal agriculture is such a big part of the economy here, the vegetarian community is not nearly as normalized as in the States. I receive a lot of interesting comments about my diet choices. My host mom constantly says things like “this would be much better with meat,” whenever she serves me food. It’s become somewhat of an interesting running joke with us but it’s definitely a different reaction than I am used to.

3. Eggs

Eating eggs in some form for breakfast, lunch and dinner here is not an unusual day for me. Eggs are a consistent source of protein that you can find for cheap at any grocery store or market. I pretty much live off of eggs and don’t even mind because I can cook them in so many different ways. 

4. Being Flexible but Aware

Many of my favorite foods to eat in the States aren’t easily accessible here in Uruguay so I had to change my diet much more than I expected. Most of my meals are very simple and vegetable-based, and I tend to eat much more dairy and eggs than I had previously. Since my diet changed so much, I had to keep track of the amount of protein I was getting and made sure to take an Iron and B-12 supplement every day. I got the myfitnesspal app to track my protein and I track my meals every couple of weeks to make sure I’m getting the nutrients I need.

Overall, being a vegetarian in Uruguay was not as impossible as I thought!


Lindsey Towle

Lindsey Towle is a journalism and global health major at the University of Iowa, who will be spending her semester in Montevideo, Urugauy, in a program administered by the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC).

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