I am everyone’s go-to person when they decide to stop eating meat. I became vegetarian some four years ago in my early twenties, to which people respond, then it must be easy. If I, a bacon lover for the first two decades of my life, can eliminate meat from my diet, then anyone can. This is partially true — while anyone can transition into vegetarianism, it isn’t easy.
For starters, have good reasons for wanting to go green. Becoming vegetarian can’t just be about “trying something new” or responding irrationally to the Earthlings documentary. Do you want to cut fat or increase your nutrient intake? Is helping the environment on your radar? List everything down and consider your motives carefully. Vegetarianism isn’t only diet-related — it’s a drastic change in lifestyle.
Do research, and I mean a lot of it. Find out what foods can replace the protein, iron, calcium, and vitamins you get from meat. Weigh the financial aspect of having to purchase different ingredients. Understand how the shift will affect you physically and even mentally. And on that note, consult a doctor. If you are anemic or suffer from low levels of blood sugar, perhaps going vegetarian isn’t the most practical choice for you.
Once you are comfortable with your decision and accept the fact that you bidding trips to Burger King adieu, figure out how you want to transition. If you are not a fan of the cold turkey method, consider taking it slow. Gradually wean yourself off meat. Quick jumps could shock your body.
With every diet comes a brand-new pantry. For a segue this major, find good recipes in advance. While the cookbook route is a great path to take, online sources are just as useful. Bookmark easy-to-cook meals that you can familiarize yourself with. Of course, do a lot of planning. While vegetarians aren’t aliens, not every restaurant will have a good variety of meat-free courses. Having a vast selection at home is the safest way to go.
If you can’t seem to let go of the wonderful taste of meat, buy substitutes. Trust me, there are alternatives to almost anything, but they don’t always come cheap. Scour your local supermarket — you’re likely to find a hidden gem. While substitutes may taste exactly like meat, they may not always provide the same amount of nutrients, so stock up on healthy replacements.
Being mostly herbivorous doesn’t always equate to being healthy. While there are junk foods made with vegetarian ingredients, they can also be detrimental to your body. If you are a heavy snacker, limit your junk food intake. Vegetables might get boring but there are many different ways to spice things up with different preparations.
Most of all, remember to exercise and find time to relax. If your diet is making you feel deprived and triggering mood swings, you’ll hardly last a week. Get good energy circulating by going on an occasional jog and engaging in your favorite activities. And if it makes you feel any better, know that a lot of cows and pigs are grateful.