There are many reasons for going vegetarian – maybe you want animals to be treated well, you want to reduce your ecological footprint or you want to do something for your health. Regardless of your motives, you may worry that going vegetarian is going to be tough. While there are a few hurdles, it’s a lot easier – and tastier – than you think.
Table of Contents
- 1 Eat vegetarian a few times a week.
- 2 Only give up one type of meat at a time.
- 3 Find herbal substitutes.
- 4 Experiment with new recipes.
- 5 What kind of vegetarian do you want to be?
- 6 Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- 7 What nutrients do you need?
- 8 Pay attention to the ingredient lists.
- 9 Don’t give up when you eat something with meat.
- 10 Ask friends and family for support.
- 11 Plan ahead when eating out.
- 12 Summary
Eat vegetarian a few times a week.
Gradually eat more vegetarian dishes.
Changing your diet completely right away can be tough if you used to eat meat several times a week. Redesign a few of your favorite meals each week to be vegetarian. Over time, you can make more and more meals vegetarian until you’re completely vegetarian. If you love spaghetti bolognese, you can still enjoy it, just leave out the ground beef. It is better to supplement your pasta with hearty vegetables such as zucchini, mushrooms, pumpkin, carrots and peppers. If you love to eat chicken, substitute tofu for it.
Only give up one type of meat at a time.
Don’t just drop everything.
Cut out foods on a schedule, such as one type of meat each week. Not only will you be better able to adjust your meals by taking it gradually, but your body will have more time to adjust to the new diet. You can also have a “last meal” with all the ingredients you no longer eat before giving up. For example, start by omitting all red meat, such as beef, lamb, or venison. After a week, cut out pork, like ham and bacon, then chicken, then fish and seafood.
Find herbal substitutes.
Try substitutes when you have cravings.
If you miss a food, think about what substitutes are available. Eat veggie burgers, wheat-based “chicken” strips, rice paper “bacon” or soy “hot dogs”. If you want to eat vegan, there are even alternatives to eggs and cheese. The texture and taste of these products aren’t exactly like the meat-based original, but you can learn to love that, too. Tofu, tempe, and seitan are good meat substitutes in conventional recipes. Don’t base your entire diet on substitutes. They are usually highly processed and don’t have the same nutritional value as more vegetables.
Experiment with new recipes.
When you’re just starting out on a vegetarian diet, you can adapt recipes you already like. There are so many vegetarian cooking ideas, you can also try something new. Read vegetarian cookbooks, blogs, and menus to find interesting recipes. Try new cuisines. Indian cuisine, for example, has many vegetarian dishes. Visit vegetarian restaurants to discover new dishes you can recreate at home. Get creative. The more choices you have, the more nutrients you get.
What kind of vegetarian do you want to be?
There are many different types of vegetarian diets.
There are vegans who eat no animal products at all. But there are also some vegetarians who eat mostly plant-based foods. This is a very personal choice, and it’s okay if you have to experiment to find what works best for you. Ultimately, you have to do what feels best for you physically and mentally. You can try this: Vegan: No animal products, such as meat, milk, eggs, gelatin, or honey. Ovo-lacto vegetarians: No meat, no poultry or fish, but eggs and dairy products. Lacto-Vegetarian: No meat and no eggs, but dairy products. Ovo-Vegetarian: No meat or dairy, but eggs. Partial: Many eat fish (pescetarians), poultry (pollotarians), or fish and poultry (pollo-pescetarians).
Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Don’t just eat pasta and junk food.
As a vegetarian, you could technically eat chips, pasta, and fries all day. It’s not good for your body. Don’t just eat high-calorie processed foods, but eat lots of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. You need this every day: 2.5 cups (about 400 grams) of vegetables 2 cups (about 200 grams) of fruit 185 grams of whole grains (equivalent to six slices of bread or 650 grams of cooked rice or pasta) 3 cups of dairy products (equivalent to e.g. 237 ml milk or 83 grams grated cheese)
What nutrients do you need?
Make sure you’re getting enough of the important nutrients.
Eat enough vitamin B12, calcium, protein, iron, zinc, and other vitamins and minerals that your body normally gets from meat. You can get many nutrients from a variety of fruits and vegetables. Here are a few examples: Iron: Eat legumes (like chickpeas and lentils), tofu, dried fruit, broccoli, and iron-fortified cereal. Calcium: Drink milk, fortified soy milk, and fortified orange juice. Eat tofu and green leafy vegetables, like cabbage. Vitamin D: Drink milk or fortified soy milk and eat fortified cereal. Spend time outside too. Your body makes vitamin D in the sun. Protein: Eat eggs, dairy, nuts, tofu, beans, whole grains, and cereal. B12: Eat eggs, dairy, fortified soy milk, fortified cereal, and nutritional yeast. Zinc: Eat dairy products, dried beans, tofu, and fortified cereals. Omega-3 fatty acids: Vegetable oils, such as soybean oil, canola oil and flaxseed oil, but also eggs, walnuts and chia seeds. Iodine: Use iodized salt for seasoning.
Pay attention to the ingredient lists.
You’d be surprised at the foods that contain animal products.
Pay attention to whether ready-made products, such as a sauce, condiments or soups, are vegetarian. Read the ingredients list. You can take a list of animal ingredients with you to start with so you can compare it to the ingredients list at the store. Be particularly careful here: Cheese may be made with rennet obtained from the stomach lining of young animals. Worchestershire sauce contains anchovies. Curry pastes sometimes contain fish sauce or shrimp paste. Desserts sometimes contain gelatin or have been colored with cochineal, which is made from beetle shells. Alcohol is sometimes filtered with animal products.
Don’t give up when you eat something with meat.
Relapse is normal now and then.
Many vegetarians crave meat at times, especially at first. If this happens to you and you give in, that doesn’t mean you haven’t made a commitment to the vegetarian diet. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Remind yourself why you chose to be vegetarian and move on. You may even find it easier to eat a mostly plant-based diet but occasionally eat meat or fish. If that’s the case, then don’t beat yourself up. Your health will benefit from this as well as from a completely vegetarian diet. One study found that 84% of vegetarians relapse after a year. If you give in and eat something with meat, remember that you are not alone. If you have an occasional craving for meat, you may not be eating enough. Eat at least 1,200 calories daily and eat legumes, nuts, and seeds to ensure you’re getting enough healthy fats.
Ask friends and family for support.
Talk to those closest to you.
Say you want to change your diet. Briefly explain your motives. Say that this aligns with your religious beliefs, that you want to be healthier, or that animal welfare is important to you and that you want to contribute to it. It might even be cheaper. Plant-based meals often cost less than those with meat. Regardless of your reasons, have an open conversation and ask that your decision be respected, even if it’s not shared. Don’t be surprised if you meet a little resistance when people find out you’re a vegetarian. There are many reasons people are critical. They feel like you’re questioning their own diet, they’re misinformed about vegetarians, or they’re worried about your health. Offer to cook for others. You will be surprised by how delicious a vegetarian meal can be. If you are invited, you can bring something vegetarian so you have something to eat.
Plan ahead when eating out.
If you’re invited to a restaurant you’ve never been to, look up the menu online. Find out if there are any vegetarian options you like, like veggie burgers, cheese quesadillas, or meat-free salads. Some restaurants are also happy to change their dishes to a meat-free alternative. Suggest another place or decline if there is nothing for you. Before you go on vacation, do some research on vegetarian restaurants in the area.
Many of your favorite meals can be made vegetarian with or without meat substitutes, like lasagna, chili, and spaghetti bolognese. Many of the foods you love to eat, like peanut butter and jelly, pasta with tomato sauce, or black beans and rice, are already vegetarian. If you have a nutrient deficiency, talk to your doctor about multivitamins or other supplements to help you stay healthy.