How to Become a Vegetarian or Vegan
Whether you decide to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, if you follow the simple tips below, your transition will be a lot simpler and more enjoyable.
Take It Slow
How quickly you transition depends on why you’re switching and how much meat you currently eat. If you’re converting because of a health issue, you should first consult with your doctor. But, if you’re choosing to eat vegetarian or vegan for other reasons, like spiritual, environmental, animal welfare, or to maintain your good health, the answer is, “slowly.”
If you’re a big meat eater, then it’s best to start by just eliminating red meat. Once you’re comfortable with the change, stop eating fish and poultry.
Another option is to start by eliminating meat from just one or two meals a day. When you’re ready, eliminate meat from all your meals.
Some people never fully convert and follow a semi-vegetarian diet instead. And that’s okay too. A flexitarian is essentially a vegetarian diet, but a small portion of meat, poultry, and fish, are sometimes eaten.
Learn About the Special Nutritional Needs of Vegetarians
There is a drawback to a vegan or strict vegetarian diet. It’s hard to get zinc, vitamin B12, and omega-3 DHA fatty acids from food. You can read more about this here.
Make Sure You Get Enough Plant-Based Protein
Protein is essential for your health, and for vegetarians and vegans, it plays a key role. A good, plant-based protein source can also make you feel more satisfied and full.
Many newbies don’t add the proteins they need and feel hungry all the time. This becomes a roadblock to sticking with the diet. So read up on proteins and try to include one source in at least two meals.
Transform Some of Your Favorite Recipes into Meat-Free Dishes
You don’t have to forget about all your old recipes. Just switch out meat or poultry with plant-based proteins. But don’t expect it to taste exactly like your old recipe. You’ll be disappointed if you do.
Try New, But Easy Vegetarian Recipes
Don’t get caught up in making elaborate, vegetarian recipes unless you’re accustomed to spending a lot of time in the kitchen.
Many of these recipes are time-consuming. They use a lot of ingredients and more advanced cooking techniques, which can frustrate a newbie.
Add More Fruits and Vegetables
You’ll want to go slowly here, too. Your digestive track needs to get accustomed to the new food choices that you’re making. What’s more, too much fiber or raw vegetables can cause gas, bloating, and cramps.
Don’t Be a Vegetarian Food Junkie
It’s easy to get into bad eating habits. Supermarkets now carry a large selection of processed, vegetarian foods. They’re quick and easy, but just because it’s vegetarian doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
Be sure to read the labels. Some of these products contain preservatives and unhealthy soy byproducts.
Plan Your Meals Well In Advance
Plan your meals for the entire week. That will make it much easier to get the nutrition and protein you need, and you’ll have everything on hand to prepare the recipes you enjoy.
Pick the Right Restaurants
You don’t have to eat in a vegetarian restaurant to have a great meatless meal. Most restaurants have at least one or two vegetarian selections. To be safe, you can call ahead or check online to see if they have their menu posted.
When eating out with family and friends that are carnivores, pick an Italian or Chinese restaurant. They usually have a big vegetarian selection. If you choose a vegan diet, this is more difficult. You’ll be limited to eating in a vegan restaurant or one that will let you make changes to their dishes.