Have you been thinking of becoming a vegetarian but the thought of giving up meat kind of frightens you? There are plenty of good reasons for going vegetarian. One of the biggest reasons is it’s generally thought to be healthier, since you’re cutting out the fat in meat and eating more fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. With a healthier diet you also get the added benefit of losing weight if that’s your goal. Another big reason people decide to become vegetarian is their compassion for animals, but don’t confuse a vegetarian diet with a vegan diet. Vegans cut out animal products all together, including eggs and dairy.
How to Transition to a Vegetarian Diet
Some people decide to become a vegetarian overnight, but those who have been successful at living a vegetarian lifestyle for any length of time, say the best way to transition to a vegetarian diet is gradually.
Lindsay Nixon, the Happy Herbivore, gives these tips for making a gradual transition to being a vegetarian:
- Start incorporating more vegetables into your diet – You’ll want to make sure you add vegetables to every meal and cover at least half of your plate with them. Even if you’re eating pasta, add peas or broccoli. Cooked vegetables are more easily digested than raw vegetables.
- Get used to meals without meat – Nixon recommends having a “Meatless Monday.” You can start by eating just one or a few meatless meals in the week. At this point it’s a good time to start experimenting with vegetarian recipes. Once you have at least five meals (but ideally 7 to 10), you’ll know you’re ready to transition.
- Eat simpler meals – You don’t have to become a gourmet cook overnight because you’ve decided to become a vegetarian. Start with simple meals like beans and rice, pasta with sauce and vegetables, or veggies with fajita seasoning in a tortilla.
- Be patient with yourself – It takes 21 to 30 days to adjust to a new way of eating, so if you’re having trouble at first, that’s totally normal.
- Start cooking – Since it will take you a while to get used to ordering at restaurants on your new diet, cooking at home to start is best. You can prep a few meals over the weekend to eat during the week.
- Rediscover your supermarket – Walk around the store browsing the aisles, especially the lower shelves, and you’re likely to find some things you haven’t tried before. Many people report eating a much wider variety of foods after they became vegetarian.
- Try a new restaurant – Look for a vegetarian restaurant in your area. If there isn’t one, Indian, Thai and Ethiopian restaurants have vegetarian meals on their menu.
Tips for Being a Successful Vegetarian
- Know why you want to be a vegetarian – Going meatless is a big lifestyle change. If you don’t have convictions about why you’re doing it, you’re not likely to stick with it.
- Find recipes – You don’t need to go out and buy a bunch of new cookbooks. Look for recipes online. Post Punk Kitchen is one place to look for vegetarian recipes.
- Make substitutions – Pull out your favorite recipes, and see if you can use meatless alternatives, like Bocca or Morning Star, as the meat in the recipe.
- Don’t say never – If you tell yourself that you’re never going to eat meat again, you might be setting yourself up for failure. Matt Frazier, the No Meat Athlete, recommends giving yourself deadlines. For example, you can choose to only eat fish for the next 10 days, but leave yourself the option to go back to other meats if you want to. He says that you’ll likely feel better and want to keep going with your plan to eliminate meat from your diet entirely.
- Find alternative to your staples – Look at what you eat regularly for meals and snacks, specifically the ingredients in those meals, and find vegetarian alternatives.
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