Going Vegetarian: 10 Best Tips for Beginners
Studies show that vegetarians have a 40 percent lower risk of dying early compared to those who eat a lot of meat. Therefore, there are good reasons to become vegetarian, or at least eat more vegetarian meals. The question becomes: how do you go vegetarian? EAT SMARTER came up with the best tips and tricks to help you do so.
Going Vegetarian Tip 1: Less Meat
Vegetarians don’t eat meat, so if you are a regular meat eater and are considering becoming a vegetarian the best first move is to eat less meat. For some people, it may be difficult to cut meat out completely in just a matter of a day or two. If this is the case for you, try limiting meals containing meat to 2-3 times per week. From here, you can slowly transition to a fully vegetarian menu.
Going Vegetarian Tip 2: Think Italian
If you want to become a vegetarian, it may be easier if you base your diet on Italian cuisine which naturally features a lot of vegetarian recipes. And, even if the recipe isn’t originally vegetarian, most of them can easily be modified so they do not feature meat or fish. Give our Pizza with Mushrooms or Eggplant Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Basil a try.
Going Vegetarian Tip 3: Exotic Suggestions
Indian and Asian cuisines traditionally offer a variety of vegetarian dishes. In the center is generally rice, served with bold spices and sauces. Typical ingredients include coconut milk, Thai basil, bean sprouts, fresh cilantro, chili peppers, and ginger.
Going Vegetarian Tip 4: Alternatives
Nowadays, our grocery stores offer a variety of special products for vegetarians, including products which imitate sausage or bacon. If you want to become a vegetarian but still enjoy the flavors of some of your meaty favorites, try a vegetarian version of a burger or hot dog. Our grocery stores are now stocked with everything from meatless chicken nuggets to vegetarian fish sticks, so you can still enjoy a version of your favorites. Mushrooms are also great for substituting meat, you can even use a whole portobello mushroom as a burger on the grill.
Going Vegetarian Tip 5: Shop Smart
As mentioned above, there are a lot of alternatives available at the grocery store to add to your diet when you become a vegetarian. It is important to look at the ingredients and nutrition information on these products because some of them are very unhealthy and contain very little nutritional value. It is a common misconception that just because what you are eating is vegetarian (or vegan) that must mean it is healthy, but that is not always the case.
Going Vegetarian Tip 6: Keep your Pantry and Kitchen Well-Stocked
An important part of staying healthy on a vegetarian diet is keeping your kitchen well-stocked. If you keep legumes, grains, and various fruits and vegetables stocked, you will be able to make a healthy and nutritious meal even when you are pressed for time. Also, keep fruits, vegetables, and other healthy snack options at hand so you will not be tempted to reach for chips or other heavily processed foods.
Going Vegetarian Tip 7: Protein Supply
One thing vegetarians need to keep an eye on is their protein levels. Milk, eggs, and soy products are all good choices for extra protein and are simple to incorporate into almost any meal. Other great sources of protein are oats, legumes (chickpeas, black beans, etc.), nuts, potatoes, seed, and mushrooms. Certain foods combine perfectly to form complete proteins, such as potatoes with cottage cheese, oats with milk, or pasta with cheese. You can also look into adding a vegetarian protein powder to your smoothies or other treats to add protein to your diet.
Vegetarians will Tip 8: Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
Vitamin B-12 is the only vitamin that cannot be produced by plants and is generally only found in animal products. Vegetarians should, therefore, make sure they consume enough dairy products and eggs, or take a B-12 supplement. (Make sure you consult with a doctor before adding any medicines or supplements your diet.)
Going Vegetarian Tip 9: Iron Supply
When cutting meat out of your diet, you are eliminating an important source of iron. Iron deficiencies can have a significant impact on physical well-being. You need to make sure that even without meat you are getting enough iron. This can be done by consuming plants with a high iron content such as green vegetables (spinach, chard, fennel, legumes) and whole grains (oatmeal, whole wheat bread, wheat germ, amaranth). Vitamin C can increase the absorption of iron, so it is a good idea to add high-vitamin C foods to your iron-containing foods.
Going Vegetarian Tip 10: Networking
Going and staying vegetarian is easiest if you connect with like-minded people. The internet, for example, is a great place to find more vegetarians as there are tons of online vegetarian communities. Of course, you can also benefit from learning from “professionals” by going to vegetarian cooking classes and conferences. However, it is probably best not to try and convert people, instead share your experiences (and food) with friends and family if they seem interested. Never try to force or guilt them into switching to a vegetarian diet.