There are different levels of vegetarianism. Some people choose to cut out meats but continue to eat fish (a.k.a. a pescatarian). Others will choose to eat milk but not eggs, or vice versa. Others go further and decide to be vegan and cut out all animal products. No matter what you choose, this transition into a different lifestyle can be difficult and even scary. At times, it carries a stigma. You may fear that it will cause nutritional imbalances, or that you will have cravings or miss certain foods. Some choose to go “cold turkey” into vegetarianism while others choose to transition slowly into this lifestyle by reducing the amount of meat and other animal products they eat incrementally. There are many reasons that one would choose to be vegetarian. The media is filled with medical and societal reasons that would push you to make the change.
- It lowers the risk of heart disease and other major diseases!
- You’ll keep your weight down!
- You’ll live longer!
- You’ll help reduce pollution and toxic chemicals!
- You’ll help reduce famine and hunger in the world!
- You’ll save animals, the environment, and the oceans!
- You’ll save money!
Here are a few tips that may help you with the transition into vegetarian living.
1. Translate Your Favorite Meals into Vegetarian Versions.
You can turn almost any meal out there into a vegetarian one! You can simply replace the meat with other vegetables or substitutes. For example:
- Make homemade pizza with meatless pepperoni and/or vegetable toppings
- Make spaghetti with marinara sauce and add roasted vegetables or veggie meatballs (there are great ones that are made of eggplant which are not only delicious but also much lower in calories!).
- Instead of filling burritos with beef, add beans and grilled veggies! Or try adding vegetarian beef crumbles from Morningstar Farms or Boca.
2. Try some tasty fake-meat and dairy substitutes.
The variety of veggie substitutes in the market today are endless! There are veggie burgers and hot dogs, fake turkey deli slices, and even meatless barbecue riblets at almost every regular grocery store. Dairy substitutes are now common as well, from soy milk to margarine to to non-dairy ice cream. These products are not only cruelty-free, but they are also normally cholesterol free, made of healthy plant protein, and low in saturated fats. As vegetarian and vegan diets grow in popularity, more companies are coming out with more products and the variation is increasing, as is the quality. They are also becoming easier to find.
3. On the Run? Try Some Vegetarian Convenience Foods!
Sometimes we are too busy to cook elaborate, healthy meals. We have life, work, kids, doctors appointments, the gym, friends, and a variety of other social activities and responsibilities. If you ever need to eat on the run, there are now vegetarian and vegan microwaveable meals and convenient snacks that you can purchase anywhere! For example, there is the Amy’s Organic products of delicious microwaveable meals in all of the frozen foods sections (We love their Pesto Tortellini and their Black Bean Enchilada with Spanish Rice). You can also try Yves’ Thai Lemongrass Veggie Chick’n, any of the Progresso soups, and even some Campbell’s soups are vegetarian! You could always stick to basics like fresh fruit and a PB&J. There are also some great granola bars that are all vegetarian and even vegan, healthy, from raw materials, and easy to eat on the go! If you are also gluten free or dairy free, have no fear because these companies make gluten free and dairy free products as well! Next time you go to your local grocery story, try to spend a little bit more time wandering the frozen foods aisle to find magical and surprising meals!
4. Look Up Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants in Your Area.
One way to make the transition easy for yourself is to become aware of all the vegetarian options at restaurants in your area. That way, if your friends want to go out, you can know what restaurants have food for you! You do not have to limit yourself. It is also a chance to treat yourself without feeling like you need to “break your diet”. No matter what your budget might be, or where you live, you definitely can find vegetarian meals around you. Even national chains such as Burger King and Ruby Tuesday now have meatless options. Almost every restaurant these days has vegetarian options, and there are some restaurants that are even fully vegetarian! If, for some reason, you find yourself at a restaurant without any vegetarian options, or vegan options, you can always ask to have a dish prepared without the meat, or the eggs, or the dairy. Most restaurants will gladly accommodate your special requests.
5. Try Out The Wide Variety of Meat-Free Ethnic Foods.
While there are many ways to “veg up” your classic American favorites, you can also widen your options by trying out many vegetarian dishes that are absolutely delicious, and can be found all around the world. For example:
- Hummus (a tangy spread made of chickpeas, garlic, olive oil and tahini), falafel (crushed chickpeas spiced with herbs and made into “meatballs” and then baked or deep fried), and many other meatless Mediterranean foods.
- Grilled vegetable fajitas, burritos, enchiladas, or tacos.
- Sushi with avocado, carrots, cucumbers, or other vegetables instead of fish (There is even sweet potato sushi!).
- Chinese egg rolls, tofu dishes, noodle dishes, and vegetable fried rice.
- Thai coconut curry (with all types of vegetables and tofu) and tofu pad Thai (a rice noodle dish with a light peanut flavored sauce).
- Vegetable samosas (deep fried dumplings filled with curried vegetables), pakora (deep fried vegetable fritters), and many other curries and delicious vegetarian Indian dishes.
Once you discover these varied options at different restaurants, you can attempt to make these at home!
6. Look Up and Collect Vegetarian Recipes
As Vegetarianism grows in popularity, there are more and more vegetarian cookbooks coming out. There are fast meal cook books to prepare meals in under 10 minutes, or gourmet cookbooks. There are cookbooks for vegans, and different cook books for different ethnicities. Purchasing a cookbook (or 4 or 5) or collecting recipes will help you feel safer during your transition into vegetarianism. It will allow you to see the wide array of meal options, and see that you do not need to narrow your diet just because you are cutting meat out of it. You can expand your horizons and fill your needs.
The most recommended cookbook for those who want to become vegetarians is “How To Become A Vegetarian” by Grant & Amy Hocknell. This book includes a lot of necessary background information for the individual in transition besides the recipes. It has an explanation on vitamins and nutrients and where to get them. It has facts about vegetarianism and how to respond to questions or thwart the stigma that comes with it. This book also has a lot of substitution ideas and easy recipes. It has some recipes for the summer BBQ (we know you were worried about giving that up) and the difference between psychological cravings and physical cravings and how to overcome them. This book is an easy to read e-book which can be brought along and accessed from many different electronic devices. It holds so much essential information that it is just a necessity and an enormous help for those who are truly looking to live the vegetarian life.
If you are seriously considering going vegetarian, which is truly a sensible decision considering all the positive effects on your body, and on the world, then it will be very beneficial for you to use these tips during the process, and buy this great book!