I have been a vegetarian for about 14 years. I know it makes me healthier and it gives me great energy. I also know it’s not a magic bullet for weight loss and good health. You can do it wrong.
For example, vegetarians can start out as carbitarians. Pasta is an easy dish that pleases most everyone, making it a staple for new vegetarians. Eating lots of fruit and vegetables seems to be easy enough but what else do vegetarians eat? Where does the protein come from?
If you give up all animal products (making the jump to veganism) it can become even more confusing. You may start to rely on overly processed vegan substitutes that can be loaded with extra sugar or chemicals to make up for the missing animal ingredients.
If a more plant based diet is something you feel is right for you, do it slowly and smartly. Try these five tips to make the transition from carnivore to herbivore a little smoother.
Don’t do a 180 change. There is nothing wrong with going slowly and starting with just one day a week (Meatless Monday, anyone?) on a vegetarian diet. It will give you a chance to experiment with different recipes and build up a repertoire of vegetarian meals your family will enjoy without interrupting their normal routine.
Invest in a good cookbook. My two favorites are the Eat Clean Diet Vegetarian Cookbook by Tosca Reno and La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer. Start with Taco Night from Tosca and the Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos from Sarah.
Experiment with DIY meat substitutes. Products like veggie burgers and fake bacon are expensive and, honestly, not that tasty. Making your own black bean burgers or seitan (from vital wheat gluten) can be super easy and kinder to your wallet. I use my own seitan to make things like fajitas and to substitute for beef or chicken in recipes that I’ve veganized.
Join a CSA. Community Supported Agriculture allows you to buy in to a share of the harvest of a local farm. You eat seasonally and you have to get creative because you never know what’s going to be in your box. When you’re given bok choy you figure out what to do with bok choy.
When dining out go Indian or Thai. Most people’s first inclination is Italian (pasta!) when dining out with a vegetarian. No one needs a giant plate of carbs. Instead, try Indian cuisine, which offers many bean and lentil based dishes, or Thai, which often has a tofu selection alongside your choice of beef or chicken.
Just like any part of your fitness journey, going veg is about taking baby steps. Today it’s Meatless Monday, tomorrow it’s meat free everyday!