Thinking of taking the vegetarian route? This is for you.
I’ll start by acknowledging that dietary choices are really a personal preference. As I always say, you should do what best works for you.
Changing your diet can be quite overwhelming, especially in the beginning. Just like any other type of change, it requires preparation, patience, and focus. Today we shall be looking at how to become a vegetarian in a sustainable way.
Now, many people tend to think that vegetarianism and veganism is the same thing. However, they are not. Veganism is abstaining from the use and consumption of animal and all animal byproducts. Vegetarianism, on the other hand, is generally big on plant-based foods while abstaining from meat, poultry, seafood, but can still consume dairy, eggs, and honey.
There are four types of vegetarians; those who consume seafood, known as Pescatarian, those who consume dairy products, known as Lacto-vegetarian, those who consume eggs, known as Ovo-vegetarian and those who do both, known as Lacto-Ovo vegetarian.
Anyone can become a vegetarian, from infants to the elderly. The first step is to make a decision on which type of vegetarian diet will work best for you, this, of course, will be greatly influenced by your reasons for choosing this diet in the first place.
However, it is not set in stone, some people will start with a less strict plan and slowly transition to a stricter one.
More often than not, we are so caught up in our new diet that we forget to pay attention to the nutritional value of the foods that we are consuming.
Pay close attention to each food’s nutrition content and the amount it carries. This way, you’ll have all your bases covered by having all the vitamins and minerals your body needs, ultimately avoiding undernutrition.
The commonly asked question by transitioning vegetarians is “how will I get all the protein I need?”
Well, there is a misconception that animal protein is superior to plant protein. This is not the case. Both these protein sources meet the body’s needs but in different ways. However, animal proteins are “complete” and therefore contain all the essential amino acids our bodies need. Something that is also achievable in a vegetarian diet by combining plant proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrate foods.
Non-meat protein sources include seeds, nuts, beans, lentils, and vegetables. Other sources of protein include dairy products and eggs. Having a variety of these foods will have you covered.
It’s absolutely normal to crave the greasy, delicious meat dishes you’ve been accustomed to. However, the good news is that you don’t have to give up tasty dishes by going vegan. You can enjoy many delicious meat substitutes. All you need is a bit of creativity and experimenting.
Foods such as Tofu, white beans or even jackfruit make for a great swap for chicken. Tempeh can be a great substitute for fish due to its flaky texture and you can also make it into balls as a substitute for meatballs.
Other foods that act as great swaps for meat are beans, lentils, textured veggies, mushrooms, eggplant, cauliflower, potatoes, beets and even nuts.
For those eliminating dairy, you can use coconut, almond, and soymilk as alternatives.
Since you are just starting out, you might not have many recipes to work with and you could be stuck making same dishes all the time. Look for new recipes, get yourself some good vegetarian cookbooks and make the internet your friend. Aim at trying out a new recipe each week. This way you will never run out of ideas on which dishes to make.
Some people choose to eliminate meat from their diet all at once and some choose to slowly ease into it. However, from a personal experience and from a couple of observations, going cold turkey, often times do not work. You want to gradually phase out the things you are trying to eliminate from your diet. These small changes will count for better results and it will give room for your body to effectively adjust. Work with your body and it will work with you.
Going out to eat as a vegetarian can be quite the challenge, especially since most restaurants do not have vegetarian dishes incorporated in their menus. And for those who do, you can never be too sure on how they prepare them. Some restaurants may use ingredients such as chicken broth or butter in their dishes. For this reason, make a point of searching online for restaurants that offer dishes that go in line with the vegetarian way of preparing food.
Some restaurants are open to meeting the needs of non-meat consuming customers. Don’t shy away from asking questions and placing requests that meet your diet needs.
When invited to a friend’s house, politely, let them know of your food preference beforehand so that they can adjust their meals to accommodate you. You can also offer to bring over a vegetarian dish.
Transitioning to a vegetarian diet means that your body is now able to work better and release more toxins, as opposed to being on an animal-based diet. This means that you will need to take in more water to aid in flushing out these toxins.
A glass or two when you wake up will also give you the energy boost you need to start your day. Keep a bottle with you and take sips throughout the day to keep you hydrated as well.
So, change can be a challenging thing, especially when it comes to diet change. Don’t be too hard on yourself, give yourself a break when you make a mistake. Take slow and steady baby steps and always remember to keep your diet balanced.
When the going gets tough, you can always reach out to a dietitian or physician for help. And if you need help creating vegetarian recipes or preparing meals, I’m always at your service.