Some people choose vegetarianism to lose weight, others want to protect the environment or they love animals too much to eat them anymore, and there are also lots of people who find it cool that famous people are vegetarians. I mean heck, even Arnold Schwarzenegger promotes vegetarianism. Whatever your reasons are, if you’ve gotten this far, it means you want to change something but don’t know where to start with.
From an environmental point of view, science has already proven that adopting a vegetarian diet really makes a difference — even without considering the 400 million animals saved in 2014 thanks to people eating less meat. Every bit helps and you can really be part of the solution by making small changes to your daily habits.
Vegetarianism or Ovo-Lacto-vegetarianism usually means that you don’t eat meat (nor fish, but some people choose to do so). Yes, that’s it, nothing fancy about it. This is the simple rule from which everybody chooses where they set their limit. For instance, some people don’t eat gelatine (because gelatine comes from the animals’ bones), while others do. Others that don’t eat some types of cheese, as they contain animal rennet (though you can also make cheese without it). But nowadays, we’re lucky that there are so many options available, and surely someone already found a tasty substitute somewhere — the fun part is that we can choose our foods based on our preferences and are not limited.
Without no further ado here are a few easy tips for you, try them and see how they suit you:
- Take it slowly
It’s very important not to throw away all of your food now that you want to become a vegetarian, that’s still bad for the environment, and cutting everything out of the sudden might have a high rate of failure and relapse. Why not take it slowly? Try and change some parts from your favorite dishes with vegetarian options. For example, let’s say you like burgers very much (as I personally do); go to the supermarket and look for the aisles with free-from or vegetarian options, and check the variety of options. I guarantee you’ll be surprised. You might not like your first option, but the good part is, there are a lot of options to try. Some veggie burgers really do resemble the texture and taste of meat burgers, as other are just made of veggies and might taste like falafel. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find your favorite.
- Fruits and veggies are your friends
You can never go wrong with fruits and veggies, they are your best friends. Here too, try to find a transition: don’t go directly to kale if you never liked it before. Don’t force yourself to eat that broccoli if you don’t enjoy it. I’m no big fan of kale myself, but I love potatoes, carrots, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes… you get the point by now: diversity is key. Fruits and veggies are no strangers, you can eat them by themselves or even have them as sides most of the times with your steak or burger. Try new vegetables, try new things. Enjoy the experience.
- There is such thing as weekday vegetarian
Yes, there are people that can’t cut on meat all of the sudden, or just enjoy eating it. The weekday vegetarian usually eats vegetarian 5-6 days per week only vegetarian and chooses 1-2 days for enjoying a meaty dish. You’ll be surprised just what big of a difference this can do! If you only eat meat once or twice a week you’ll still save a lot of animals and prevent a lot of greenhouse gas emissions, while sticking to a much healthier diet. You’ll probably even appreciate the meat more. Yes, it’s good for you, it’s good for animals, it’s good for the planet. Give it a try!
- All the restaurants and fast-foods have vegetarian options
… but you didn’t know that yet because it was never something that you were looking for. Well, chips are vegetarian (unless they are fried in the same place with other meats, but that rarely happens) and salads of course, but that doesn’t mean you only have to eat those. If you check the menu for most of the restaurants you’ll see a small V (usually green) at the end of the dish’s name, that’s vegetarian.
Also if you are looking for places that sell vegetarian dishes, you might want to check Happy Cow or similar platforms where you will find loads of places with tasty vegetarian options. You might also want to know that an Indian restaurant, always has vegetarian food, and it’s always really tasty if you are into spicy and strong flavor dishes.
- Balance and diversity
The biggest question a vegetarian gets is: Where do you get your protein? Well, meat is not the only product full of protein. The best part about vegetable protein is that you get the benefits without all of that cholesterol, so it’s healthy too and good for your heart. Also, the vegetable and legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc.) usually have loads of fiber which is really healthy for your guts. Keep in mind that plant proteins don’t have all of the essential amino-acids and this is where diversity comes in once again, combining different types of legumes, cereals and vegetables you will be able to get all your essential amino acids, and more than that: vitamins, fiber, and minerals. What’s not to like?
- Read the labels
Most of the food companies will label something if it’s vegetarian, even though it wasn’t their main idea to create a veg product, but this way they are able to sell a product to a new group of people. Most of the times you will find a ‘’V’’ sign or it will simply say ‘’Suitable for vegetarians’’ so it will make it easier for you and helps you spend less time checking all the ingredients while shopping.
- Find vegetarian pages on social media
I get most of my inspiration for cooking from Facebook and Instagram (guilty). There are loads of pages where they show you how to cook from scratch delicious vegetarian recipes, sometimes luxurious or indulgent, that you must give them a try. Books are also a great idea, but let’s face it, you spend more time on your phone rather than reading a cookbook. Many cooking websites also have a vegetarian section, so you just have to give it a search.
- Most of the supermarkets have a special aisle just for you
… you just have to find it. There is an aisle which usually has gluten-free, free-from, vegetarian and vegan products, especially because there are lots of people with allergies and intolerances or religion-oriented dietary choices. They have to make everyone happy, and this comes in handy for you. Not only that you will find vegetarian alternatives to burgers and sausages, but you might also be interested in trying something more ‘’exotic’’ like tofu, seitan or tempeh. This kind of products usually can mimic very well meat texture or related products and are also high in protein.
Don’t forget to be kind to yourself, and don’t judge yourself too harshly if you make the occasional misstep, we all do it. Keep in mind that every little matters, no matter what, so you are already making a difference.
Now that you know all of these things, go and explore, and try as many things as possible until you find what suits you best. Don’t stress that much about individual things, focus on diversity and balance. Don’t forget to check the menu at your local restaurant, you never know what delicious vegetarian dish they might hide.