Thinking About Becoming a Vegetarian? Here Are 9 Simple Ways to Start

fruits and veggies in a bucket

Fruits and vegetables | Source: iStock

Becoming a vegetarian is a serious lifestyle change, especially if you’ve been a carnivore for most of your life. It’s a choice that crosses many people’s minds at least once in their life. Whether the thought was to consider becoming a vegetarian or it was a thought of admiration because you love meat too much to stop eating it, being vegetarian is a popular dietary lifestyle that many people think about trying. Just like any other diet, being a vegetarian can be extremely difficult at first but can be extremely rewarding after some time.

Transitioning to vegetarianism can feel like you’re depriving your body of something that comes naturally to you, which is eating meat, and can leave you ravenous for it, which is why it’s so important, just like any diet change, to ease into it slowly and embrace this new way of eating for all the right reasons. While there are benefits to being a meat eater, there are other great benefits to strictly being a herbivore: According to a study cited in Men’s Health, a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine looked at data from seven different clinical studies and 32 other studies published from 1900 to 2013, in which participants kept a vegetarian diet, and found that overall, vegetarians have lower blood pressure compared to those people who eat meat. Additionally, the magazine cites several studies that those who adopt a vegetarian lifestyle to be at lower risk for cancer, diabetes, and are less likely to be overweight, and have a lower risk of death. Perhaps all of these reasons alone are enough to finally take the leap to vegetarianism.

If you’re willing to take the plunge, here are 9 simple tips to make this transition as easy as possible.

1. Know the gist of what you can eat

Being a vegetarian means this: You don’t eat meat, poultry, or fish. You may, however, eat animal byproducts (what the animal produces) such as eggs and dairy, as well as any kind of fruit, vegetable, legume, and grain you can think of. If you’re thinking of veganism, which is very different from being a vegetarian, you’ll be skipping anything and everything that comes from animals, including milk, cheese, and eggs.

2. Be patient

Another tip before you ease into the vegetarian lifestyle: Being a vegetarian is hard. It may be difficult at first, especially if you’ve been a dedicated meat-lover for years — but do not stress over it. Like any big change in life, baby steps are important to get to your goal. What’s more, on average, it can take more than two months to fully adopt a new behavior to the point that it’s automatic, says a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology. And even then it can depend on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In other words, you really have to want it and be willing to be patient with yourself.

Also, know that being a vegetarian takes commitment and be aware if you have any health problems that require you to eat meat for its vitamins and nutrients.

3. Start small

Don’t start off by throwing out all your meat products. Instead, start by slowly weaning off meat during meals until you eventually feel comfortable enough to not eat it at all. If you start by taking away meat completely, not only can you feel like you’re having some form of a withdrawal, but it will be difficult for you to find things to eat. You have to learn what you like and do not like before you stop eating something completely.

4. Do your research

It’s a great idea to really do some research on vegetarianism and what you’re getting yourself into. By this, we mean look up vegetarian recipes to find new things to eat. There’s much more to being a vegetarian than just eating salads. You can eat pastas, soups, pizza, and anything else that meat eaters eat (minus the meat, of course). In addition to that, this may sound mildly gruesome, but it helps to look up some factory farming videos to get a bit of a sentimental attachment to your food. It helps if you have an idea of what happens in factories that produce meat and what animals go through before ending up on your plate. You may not think about eating meat ever again after that.

5. Get excited about trying new foods

Truth be told, you won’t know if being a vegetarian is a good fit for you unless you put yourself in the mindset that you’re going to try new foods, and to get excited about this. You’ll be surprised about all the different types of creative and delicious vegetarian meals. Start by incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your meals. Try some that you’ve never eaten before or ones that you don’t usually eat.

6. Find substitutions

young man cutting vegetables in kitchen

A man cutting vegetables | Source: iStock

Alternatively, it’s important to find meat substitutions for some of your favorite meat dishes, from hamburgers to chicken nuggets to practically anything else you can think of, with most made from a combination of tofu and grains. Local food/natural stores carry meat alternatives. Find substitutes that you enjoy eating, but just remember that they’re not going to taste like meat. There is bologna, hot dogs, and steak that are made of soy and tofu but they do not taste like real meat so make sure you’re open and aware of this before you take a bite. Also, don’t feel obliged to eat something just because it’s vegetarian.

7. Let your friends and loved ones know

Let them know not only as a means of support, also sometimes just talking about your dietary choices can make it easier to adjust. Additionally, telling your family and friends about your lifestyle will make it easier for you to stick to it so that you’ll have vegetarian food available if you’re attending a party. Like any other lifestyle change, being a vegetarian takes support and you should feel comfortable talking to people if you have concerns or find it necessary to talk it out.

8. Figure out where your protein will come from

Getting the proper amount of necessary vitamins is usually a big concern for people who are becoming vegetarian. Though, it’s not as big of a problem as it may seem. Great sources of protein for vegetarians include: Beans, whole grains, soy products, nuts, and dairy products. In fact, soy products can give you a similar amount of protein as certain meats. As for specific vitamins, research the kinds of fruits and vegetables that give you the most substantial vitamins you need. However, talk to your doctor if you have any specific concerns with your dietary needs.

9. Reward yourself/don’t beat yourself up

As we mentioned before, embracing vegetarianism is a huge lifestyle change and you should be proud of the progress you make each and every day. Whether you haven’t eaten meat in a week or three months, be proud of what you’ve done and reward yourself — the reward is up to you, but don’t make it meat! If you had a tough week and you slipped up and ate meat, don’t feel bad. Everyone struggles in a different way when going vegetarian, and however long it takes, it takes.

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