Steps to Being a Vegetarian
Steps to being a vegetarian are often influenced by a person's reasons for adopting a meatless lifestyle. However, no matter the reasons behind your vegetarianism, the first step is to ensure proper nutrition in your new diet. Always talk with your health-care provider or a nutritionist before making extreme changes in what you eat.
Where to Start
Some people may "choose" their level of vegetarianism. For instance, they may give up meat only or both meat and dairy. While making such a decision sounds like a logical first step, the vegetarian conviction is the strongest part of the diet for many people. In that case, the real first step is to take action on your convictions and learn to cultivate those actions into a new lifestyle. The most common reasons people choose to become vegetarians are to achieve better health and to improve animal-rights issues.
Cutting Meat from Your Diet
Cutting meat from your diet is often the first step to being a vegetarian. If you don't think you can do it all at once, begin slowly by eliminating your least favorite meat. Gradually make adjustments by cutting other types of meat from your diet until meat is no longer part of your menu. The process isn't a race against time; it's a cultivation of new habits. Go at your own pace, and live by your convictions rather than others' expectations.
Add New Foods
Don't make your vegetarianism all about giving things up. An important step to healthy vegetarian eating is to add new foods to your diet. Include exotic new vegetables and fruits, and check out new recipes to help create satisfying meals. For example, try a portobello mushroom sandwich on whole-grain bread to take the place of a burger.
Be Willing to Experiment
Most people grow up serving meals centered around a meat main dish. When you choose to become a vegetarian, it helps to have a willingness to experiment. Try different types of foods to help replace the texture and taste of meat in your meals. You can do it with other vegetables or with products such as tofu, TVP (texturized vegetable protein), soy items, or faux meats.
It's easy to give up meat and fill the void with junk and processed foods like macaroni and cheese. To be a healthy vegetarian, it's important to make wise substitutions to give your body the nutrients it needs. If you don't know where to start, try a tofu dish. Tofu is both healthy and versatile, and it easily picks up flavors from marinades, sauces, and other foods.
Misinformation is plentiful within the vegetarian world. Take time to read current vegetarian literature and stay informed. While older books often provide good information, it's important to note that some outdated ideas, such as the need to always eat complete proteins, are not valid.
Make Vegetarian Friends
Becoming a vegetarian can be trying when you are the only one in your social group who doesn't eat meat. Families don't often support the change, either. To avoid feelings of alienation, it helps to make friends with other vegetarians. This process is easier now than ever with the Internet. Participate in vegetarian forums and visit sites where members talk about recipes, substitutions, and the day-to-day struggles related to a meatless lifestyle.
Different for Everyone
No matter how you approach your vegetarianism, understand that it is an individual process. Some people give up meat all at once; others take time to make the adjustment. Part of the procedure will have to do with why you chose to become a vegetarian. You won't find a right or wrong way to become a vegetarian. It's a lifelong process.