The Social Omnivore Lifestyle Trend Is A Brilliant Compromise. Here's Why

Over the past few decades, Americans have been embracing a more plant-based lifestyle, whether it's opting for less red meat or eliminating animal products altogether. In fact, a 2020 Gallup poll revealed that nearly 25% of Americans made attempts at cutting back on eating animal products in 2019. People make the switch for several reasons, including animal cruelty concerns and the negative environmental impacts of the agricultural industry. Some want to reap the health and wellness benefits that come from a plant-based diet. No matter your reasoning, this choice doesn't always have to be black and white, and you don't necessarily have to follow all the rules of a vegetarian or vegan diet. There's a grey area known as being a "social omnivore," a term coined by food and wellness writer Ali Francis at Bon Appetit


This term is used to describe someone who chooses a plant-based diet at home, where they're in control of the kitchen, and will occasionally eat meat at social gatherings that revolve around food. Social omnivores specifically don't buy meat to cook at home, but they may still indulge in some steak if someone makes it at a dinner party. So, if you'd like to be vegetarian at home but you're not quite ready to give up your grandma's famous favorite chicken dish she makes at family gatherings, there's a compromise for you. Here's why you should try it.

It's a good transition between diet changes

Making big changes to your diet can be intimidating when you're not sure where to start, and these changes shouldn't be made too abruptly. When switching to a fully vegan diet, for instance, it's common for people to experience sudden changes in weight, nutritional deficiencies, fatigue, and digestive issues (via The Vegan Review). It's important to do your research and make these changes slowly, and being a social omnivore can help you do that. Realistically, it can be difficult for someone who's been eating meat their whole life to completely cut it out cold turkey (ba dum tss). If you're not ready to commit to full-time vegetarianism or veganism, the social omnivore lifestyle can be a great starting point and middle-ground between the two ends of the spectrum.


It works the other way around as well. Maybe you've been a vegetarian for years and you want to start re-introducing meat into your life. Overdoing it and eating too much meat at first can leave you with an upset stomach and digestion troubles, as your body needs to get used to the change. You can be a social omnivore to make a smoother transition from one diet choice to another. And who knows? This doesn't have to be a transition stage; you may just like being a social omnivore forever. 

It allows for a well-balanced diet

It's common for a lot of plant-based eaters to become deficient in vitamin D, vitamin B-12, iron, calcium, and protein, so if you can occasionally receive these nutrients from meats and animal products when you go out to eat, this can help balance out anything you may be lacking. In some cases, it may be more beneficial to get certain vitamins and minerals from meats. "Iron from plant sources aren't as easily digestible as they are from meat sources," explains Shaelyn Gurzick, a registered dietitian nutritionist with Henry Ford Health


While it's entirely possible to live on a healthy, plant-based diet, it's not always the right thing for everyone. If you have certain health conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or nutrition deficiencies, your body may not always respond well to a solely vegetarian or vegan diet. For some people, being meat-free doesn't always mean being healthy, as many vegetarian foods are high in saturated fats and sodium. On the other hand, eating too much meat can be detrimental to one's health, contributing to the risk of heart disease. Being a social omnivore can give you a balance between whole plant foods and lean meats — the best of both worlds. 

There's less social stress

Sharing your dietary restrictions in social situations can be daunting, especially if you're the only vegetarian in the group. It can feel like you're troubling people or making it a big deal. You especially don't want to hear, "Sorry! We totally forgot you didn't eat meat!" Of course, your friends and family should respect your choices, but it's common for people to make mistakes. Opting for a social omnivore lifestyle can help relieve some of the pressure you feel at gatherings when there aren't vegetarian items on the menu. It can be hard to fully commit to changing your lifestyle, especially if you grew up in a culture where most of the essential dishes contain meat and animal products.


You won't have to miss out on delicious meals that you've enjoyed in the past. You won't feel left out if there aren't certain options. You won't have to wait until you get home to eat or risk hurting someone's feelings when you tell them you can't have their food. Food is an integral part of life that brings us all together. As a social omnivore, you can be open to all the options on the table. 

Your wallet will thank you

No matter how fun it is to dine out, we all know that cooking at home will save us more money in the long run. Your grocery bill can become even smaller when you buy fewer meat products. Over the last 10 years, the prices of animal products like beef and seafood have increased by more than 40%. By having a plant-based diet at home, you can buy nutrient-rich foods for a fraction of the price. A 2012 study in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition revealed that vegetarians spend an average of $750 less on food per year than those who eat meat, and they likely spend even less today. 


Plant-based items also tend to have a longer shelf-life compared to meat — another huge bonus. Protein-rich foods like beans, lentils, and chickpeas often cost less than a dollar per can and last for months, while a $5 per pound chicken will only last a few days in the fridge. The social omnivore lifestyle can save you money at the store so you'll have some extra cash to splurge when you do go out to eat.