Becoming a vegetarian is not only a great thing to do for the planet but if done properly, it can have an excellent impact on your health and wellness. You may already be considering making the switch but you just do not know where to start… This is why I have created a list of 5 things to consider when beginning your change in lifestyle.
1. Transition SLOWLY
If you consider yourself a carnivore , do not cut meat out of your diet right away or you’re likely to go back to eating a diet full of it. First, I would recommend cutting out red meat entirely or only eating it on certain days of the week. Then get rid of the chicken, while still incorporating more and more vegetarian options in your diet. Once you have cut out red meat and chicken all together, you just have to get rid of the fish. Basically my rule is, the more meat and fish you cut out of your diet, the more you must incorporate veggie dishes and alternative proteins into your meals. Eventually you will be meat and fish-free without craving it constantly.
Most importantly, make sure that you are not too hard on yourself, you WILL make mistakes because you are new to this. If you accidentally cave and eat a piece of bacon you are not an asshole okay?
2. Do The Research
This may seem obvious but it is something to take seriously. Take a trip to your doctor or nutritionist to consult about the change you’re about to make and why you’re doing it. They know your medical history and will offer suggestions as to what vitamins and supplements you should be taking. Consult with them regularly so that you can track your levels; this may involve blood tests but they are worth it…I waited too long to do this and remained sluggish and tired for years until my doctor told me I was anemic. Trust me, you do not want to get to this point.
Use this lifestyle change as an opportunity to research new recipes that cater to your cravings and protein needs (one of my favourite things to research are all the vegetarian burger recipes out there because there are SO many delicious ones). Also in case you didn’t know there are tons of meat substitutes like soy and seitan , why not look into that?
Remember, the internet is your friend. Take advantage of all that’s out there! PETA offers free vegan starter kits (I know, you may not be going full vegan, but take the free help where you can get it) for Canadian and American residents, all you have to do is fill out the form and bam, a kit is coming your way. Also, remember that there are plenty of YouTube creators that offer advice and awesome vegetarian recipes, it can actually be quite inspiring. Take the time to find a creator you like, it’s worth it. Two of my favourite plant-based YouTubers are Sharmander and Taylor R; they both offer lots of suggestions for recipes and products throughout their vlogs without being too pretentious.
3. Plan Your Meals
Ok, so now that you have done the research on the recipes and substitutes that are available, it is now time to actually use them. Becoming a vegetarian may mean more cooking for you, accept the challenge and run with it!! At least when you make your own food, you know what’s in it. Also before heading to the grocery store it is super important that you make a list of what you need so you don’t get too distracted by all the non-vegetarian options out there. Eventually, the list will not be necessary but using one will keep you from walking around the supermarket like a chicken with its head cut off.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
It is okay to not know things, and sometimes you need to talk to an actual person to get answers. If you’re going to a non-vegetarian restaurant do not hesitate to ask the waiter what veg options they have… this is SO common nowadays. Also, join vegetarian Facebook groups and forums where you can post super specific questions and have tons of people reply! It is important to find a group that suits your interest and needs because there are so many out there!
5. Have Fun With It!
Becoming a vegetarian should be a decision that you want to make, for whatever reason that may be. Do it because you want to, not because you feel obligated to do it. I want to reiterate this, do not be too hard on yourself and listen to the bullshit judgement of “intense” vegans and vegetarians.
Use this lifestyle change as an opportunity to explore new products, places and foods for your own interest! One of my favourite things to do at home and abroad is find new vegetarian and vegan restaurants— it is attainable and actually fun! I lived in Mexico City for 3 months and visited every vegetarian restaurant I could find. Believe it or not, it was an excellent way to explore the city and introduce myself to Mexico’s newly established vegetarian scene (I am dreaming of hibiscus tacos as I write this).
Also you can look for some awesome health food stores wherever you are. You will definitely find some pretty cool vegetarian and vegan products… cough cough, sweet potato brownies and tiger nuts! WTF are those you ask? I challenge you to explore and find out.