Thinking of going vegetarian or even just eating less meat? The western diet has changed tremendously over the last decades. According to the USDA, Americans consumed 57 lbs more meat, the rough equivalent of 285 Big Macs, in 2000 than they did in the 1950’s.
While getting sufficient levels of protein that contain all the essential amino acids in our diet is important, over consuming meat certainly is not. And it is a myth that you cannot get all the nutrients your body needs with a vegetarian or even a vegan diet. So, whether you want to simply reduce your meat consumption or stop eating meat altogether, this guide should help you.
First Things First
Decide what your goal is. Do you want to cut your meat consumption in half or go 100% vegetarian or even vegan?
Next, break up your larger goal into smaller achievements. For example, if you want to become 100% vegetarian within 6 months, cut out all red meat for the first two months, and then poultry for the next 2 months. Finally, cut out even the fish. Allow your body time to adjust being on a different diet. This also gives you time to figure out new dishes to cook and eat.
If you want to go slower or try out eating less meat, participate in Meatless Mondays.
Change How You Cook
Learn how to cook 5-10 vegetarian dishes that you enjoy and find filling. Then put them into your regular cooking rotation. Once you get familiar with non-meat options, you will have less to worry about what to cook or how to substitute for meat.
Learn how to make your favorite meat dishes with meat alternatives like tofu, tempeh and quorn.
Lots of cuisines have delicious vegetarian entrees. Check out your local Indian and Thai restaurants. Take a few classes, stock up on spices, spice pastes and coconut milk and get cooking new dishes! The Mediterranean cuisine has many dishes suitable for vegetarians too.
Learn how to stir-fry. With just a few vegetables, tofu and rice, you can create a yummy dinner from scratch in no time.
Substitute meat with alternatives
Use eggs instead of meat. Like chicken curry? Egg curry is delicious.
Substitute meat with plant protein. Eat whole grains, legume, and nuts for lots of proteins. Use hemp seeds and flax seeds in salads not only for a tasty and nutty crunch but also for lots of protein and healthy omega 3 fatty acids.
Use vegetables like eggplants and mushrooms that have a texture you can bite into. With mushrooms, you also get the umami flavor found in meat.
Check your circle of friends and family and see if someone will go vegetarian with you. Doing it with someone else can be more fun and you can help each other through tough times.
Seek the advice of your friends who are vegetarian. Have them give you cooking tips. Ask them what their favorite restaurants are.
Join an online forum if you don’t know anyone else who is vegetarian or wants to become one. Don’t feel like you are in it alone.
Subscribe to a vegetarian magazine for a regular dose of new recipes, restaurant reviews and other tips.
Always Be Prepared
Make a list of the restaurants in your area that are vegetarian or have many vegetarian options on the menu
Prepare for questions from your family and friends. Don’t expect everyone to understand or go out of their way to accommodate you.
Carry snacks with you everywhere in case you can’t find something you can eat. Eat something light before a dinner party or evening out if there’s a chance that there may be enough vegetarian options.
Check with your doctor before you start. Get a blood test before starting on your journey to becoming vegetarian. Monitor how you feel as you change your diet. Get a complete blood test every 6 months or however often your doctor or nutritionist recommends one.
If you are not getting your nutritional needs met with your vegetarian diet, talk to your doctor about what supplements to take.
Most importantly, eat a wide variety of vegetables, whole grains and fruits. This ensures that you will get all the amino acids your body was getting from just meat.