Whether you’re going vegetarian for health, animal rights, environmental or other reasons, the switch doesn’t have to be tough to swallow. Here are some pointers on making vegetarianism work for you:
– Ease into it. Begin by cutting out one or two types of meat, then gradually cut out more. For example, stop eating beef first, then carve out other carnes in due time. Or, instead of axing anything from the get-go, just cut back. Go from eating meat every day to only once or twice a week. Lifelong dietary changes rarely happen overnight. Rushing into them only makes you more likely to burn out and give up.
– Explore and Diversify. Variety is crucial to any healthy, well-balanced diet, and it’s the spice of vegetarianism. Excluding meat from your menu gives you room to try foods and cuisines you might have otherwise neglected. So, go on, try the okra dish at that Indian restaurant, buy that bean you’ve never heard of, pair your pasta with roasted vegetables. Don’t make it about giving something up; make it about bringing new things to your table.
– Cook for your new lifestyle. Cooking can be empowering, relaxing and fun. Learning new recipes, using new ingredients and experimenting with spices are all part of the excitement, and will help you feel more serious about your diet. Given the myriad recipe sites on the Web, you don’t even have to sink dollars into cookbooks. VegetarianTimes and VegWeb are great places to start.
– Fake it. Imitation meat is everywhere and some of it is delicious (some of it definitely isn’t). Veggie burgers are familiar, but the faux meat range of products extends to counterfit bacon, hot dogs, cold cuts, even barbecue ribs. Most of it won’t taste exactly like its flesh-and-bone inspiration, but some of it will come close. MorningStar Farms and Boca often get it right, but I’m a big fan of Quorn’s line of meat substitutes, too.
– Make smart choices. You’ve heard this before and you’ll hear it again: Not eating meat alone does not a healthy diet make. If, for example, you decide that no longer eating meat gives you license to eat two dozen chocolate chip cookies every day, you’re probably not going to feel or be any healthier. Don’t go from a meat-and-potatoes diet to a pasta-and-potatoes diet. Don’t think that skipping the hamburger means you can deep fry everything else you eat. Do a bit of research, talk to your doctor, if you’re not sure what a nutritionally balanced diet entails for you.
Vegetarianism is a change in eating habits, not a crash diet to ditch once you shed a few pounds. Remember to be patient with yourself and enjoy all the new possibilities you’re letting into your life.
Leo Babauta, “How to Become a Vegetarian the Easy Way,” http://zenhabits.net/how-to-become-a-vegetarian-the-easy-way/