This is a post for people already interested in vegetarianism. It’s not a persuasive essay for happy omnivores! Do yo thing, omnivores.
I highly encourage readers to do their own research and talk to their doctor or a nutritionist before making any major diet changes.
While there are a ton of good reasons to go vegetarian, there are also challenges to face. Here are some tips on getting through the hardest parts.
Ease Into It
You can totally become a vegetarian by giving up meat cold turkey (see what I did there?). It will be a lot easier on you if you choose to fade out meat slowly, though. If you’re used to eating multiple servings of meat per day, start off by participating in Meatless Mondays. You can just make dinner for your fam vegetarian that night, or choose to go the whole day without meat. I started by choosing to eliminate red meats from my diet, followed by reducing the frequency I ate white meat, until I was just left with fish. Now I only have fish once or twice a month.
Did you know? If you still eat fish, you’re technically pescetarian, not vegetarian!
Vegetarianism is not synonymous with good health
While there are plenty of studies linking vegetarianism to good health, people who are vegetarians are already conscious about their food choices and are likely to be making better decisions for their health anyway. Vegetarianism can be fantastic by pushing people to eat more produce, but you would also 100% be a vegetarian even if you ate potato chips, ice cream, and french fries for your three meals.
Vegetarians Don’t Need Supplements … If Their Diet Is Right
Believe it or not, protein is not that hard to get as a vegetarian. Tons of vegetables have protein, eggs are packed with proteins, beans are packed with protein, etc. There are certain B and K vitamins, however, which are unique to or mostly found in animal products – eg eggs, milk, cheese.
If you consult your nutritionist to set up a proper diet plan, you shouldn’t need any additional supplements at all unless you plan on cutting out all animal products and thus going vegan. That’s right: you don’t need meat. Most vegan milk products (soy, almond, coconut) are fortified with extra vitamins to help with this!
That being said, if you can be a slacker when it comes to having a healthy, well-rounded diet (guilty), it may be in your best interest to keep supplements on hand. Again, consult a professional to help you make this decision.
Vegan Milk Products
You might totally be in love with milk. But I really recommend looking into vegan milk options – there’s so many out there and there are so many other ways to get your animal product vitamins. I remember trying to like soy milk so hard and I just couldn’t do it. It just tasted… off. It wasn’t until I found unsweetened almond milk that I got hooked. Plenty of other vegetarians and vegans swear by coconut milk, too.
Eating Outside the Comfort of Home
Whether it’s eating fast food, at a restaurant, or at a friend’s house, it can be awkward to bring up the fact you’re vegetarian. People will often assume you’re preaching or bragging, or you just might feel uncomfortable imposing your new diet on others. After all, it’s not like an allergy or religion thing, right?
Sorry to say, but you won’t make it far as a vegetarian or vegan if you can’t stand up for yourself. I almost gave up on my very first day when I hadn’t told my in-laws about the switch! I wasn’t ready to answer their questions or defend my position when I was still exploring it, but I’m glad my boyfriend pushed me to stick to it.
If you’re eating at someone else’s home
Let them know about your diet as soon as they invite you. If they don’t have experience with vegetarian food, you can always offer to bring something to share.
If you’re eating at a restaurant
Check out the menu ahead of time. The majority of restaurants will at least have salads, but I can pretty much guarantee you’re going to get sick of caesar salad real quick if you’re used to eating at steakhouses and burger joints.
Tip! Always ask your server if the caesar salad comes with bacon.
If you’re eating fast food
Well, there’s always french fries. Seriously, there are plenty of fast food menus that don’t even have a salad without meat. I’ve tried ordering at Tim Hortons (a popular Canadian chain for all you ‘Muricans) by just asking for no bacon and maybe adding some cheese. Every single time, at every different location, I’ve been met with confusion, blank stares, repeatedly asking “You DON’T want the bacon?” And half the time they still mess up the order. That’s fast food for you, though. Luckily I never ate it
Well, there’s always french fries. Seriously, there are plenty of fast food menus that don’t even have a salad without meat. I’ve tried ordering at Tim Hortons (a popular Canadian chain for all you ‘Muricans) by just asking for no bacon and maybe adding some cheese. Every single time, at every different location, I’ve been met with confusion, blank stares, repeatedly asking “You DON’T want the bacon?” And half the time they still mess up the order. That’s fast food for you, though. Luckily I never ate it often to begin with so I just try to pack snacks for road trips and make due when there’s no other option.
Finding Recipes That Make You Drool
Oh come on, everyone loves food that literally makes their mouth water because it’s so tasty and exciting. Just because you give up meat doesn’t mean you have to give up flavor. Spices are going to become your best friends if they weren’t already.
Here are a few of my favorite vegetarian recipes:
I love finding new recipes by scrolling through Pinterest’s vegetarian tag, or looking at other vegetarian blogs like Naturally Ella.
Craving Meat … And Having Accidents!
We’re only human, after all. A restaurant employee tells you something is vegetarian but it turns out they’re wrong. If you’re brand new to being meat-free, you might just completely forget come meal time. It’s amazing how often we normally eat on auto-pilot! Maybe you still crave meat from time to time, or maybe you cheat on purpose.
Get over it. Get back on track and keep going. You got this. It’s totally okay to make mistakes. Just keep trying – it gets easier. And as for cravings? After giving up meat for 8 full months, I only occasionally crave meat and it’s only if I’m already starving. Always keep vegetarian options on hand. Of course, it always helps to surround yourself with supportive friends and family. If your support system knows meat is less tempting if it’s not sitting directly under your nose, they might try to keep the plate of meat on their side of the table instead of yours.
I’ve only had one accident so far and it was in the first two months before my brain rewired to remember that I don’t eat meat anymore. I have to admit, I’m surprised none of my six friends present said anything. I didn’t even realize it until weeks later! No matter how supportive they are, it’s still up to you to be vigilant.
How long have you been vegetarian?
What’s your greatest weakness?
Leave a comment or let me know on Twitter!