With the recent news about meat, and its potential to cause cancer, more people are thinking about going vegetarian. Some people want to become vegetarian to live a longer, healthier life, and others may want to do their part in decreasing pollution. Either way, there are plenty of benefits to the lifestyle change.
There is plenty of research that displays the health and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet. In fact, 70 percent of all diseases, including one-third of all cancers, are related to diet, according to Vegetarian Times. They report that a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of chronic degenerative diseases like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain types of cancer. In addition, you may avoid toxic chemicals that are found in pesticides in meat, fish and dairy products.
Many restaurants around the world have included a vegetarian (or vegan!) option on many menus, making it easy for those with a meatless lifestyle to enjoy going out with friends, trying new food and not feeling isolated from the world of meat eaters.
If you’re thinking about taking the plunge into vegetarianism, we’ve rounded up some helpful tips for you to consider that will make your transition that much easier.
1. Tell your friends and family, but not every person you see
Do tell your family and friends, just so they know that you’re in the process of changing your lifestyle. We’ve all heard the classic joke: “How can you tell if someone’s a vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.” Don’t be that person. No one wants to hear about your health awakening or your potential to be high-maintenance at social gatherings. Health is for taking care of yourself, not bragging to other people.
2. List which foods you’re going to give up
Many vegetarians give up meat, seafood, and eggs, but some don’t. Everyone has a personal definition of what vegetarianism means to them. It isn’t about who is right, it’s about what you prefer. If you are going vegetarian because of animals, then consider giving up dairy and eggs, as animals are still mistreated. By planning this out, it becomes easier to figure out what you’re going to eventually replace for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Make a list, alter your recipes and enjoy.
3. Gradually eliminate meat from your diet
This helps makes the transition much easier so you aren’t just giving everything up cold turkey. This could lead to cravings, or even cause you to throw in the towel altogether. Also, by gradually eliminating meat you may have a better gauge of how you feel day by day. Start with eliminating red meat, pork and chicken, then seafood, then maybe dairy and eggs if you choose.
4. Think of alternatives
If you love stir fry, you can replace chicken with tofu. Beans, nuts and grains, and other forms of soy protein, are great meat alternatives. Don’t eat the same protein everyday. Spice it up for every meal to make it not boring. Plus, don’t give into the misconception that meat is the only way people can gain muscle. There are plenty of vegetarian runners and bodybuilders out there. Tempeh is another great soy alternative. You can also eat veggie burgers and Quorn, a meat-free dish that is available in almost any grocery store. Look for fun, new, exotic fruits to keep you interested, as well as grains like orzo, quinoa, couscous, barley, millet, alfalfa and more. You can get plenty of vegan or vegetarian chicken, hot dogs, driblet and other faux meats.
5. Eat plenty fruits and veggies
Becoming a vegetarian means getting creative with eating fruits and vegetables. You may eat fruits and veggies you’ve never eaten before, or discover amazing new salad or baking opportunities that involve healthy fruits and vegetables. Eat a balanced diet, but definitely stock up on mostly fresh, crisp produce.
6. Don’t start eating tons of junk food
Vegetarianism doesn’t automatically equate to healthiness. Vegetarians can still eat plenty of junk food that is high in fat and unwanted carbs. Try to stick with fruits and veggies, grains, beans, nuts, soy protein, low-fat dairy and other nutritious foods. If you have a meat craving, don’t replace this with unhealthy junk foods. Be sure to read labels!
7. Don’t be too strict on yourself
Your new lifestyle should be a positive thing, not something that will stress you out. If you slip up, or are craving meat every now and then, that is OK. Listen to your body and do what is right. Every day is a new day.