Before becoming vegetarian, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the large amount of research and consideration I had to do before switching to vegetarianism.
Truth is, the first few times I wanted to become vegetarian, I gave it a very temporary shot, but was discouraged by how daunting the transition felt. In fear I wouldn’t know how to get enough protein (and other essential nutrients), give up some of my favorite foods and how to stand up to friends and family, I readily buckled under pressure and returned to my meat eating ways.
Now that I have been vegetarian for roughly six months, I feel like I have gotten a solid handle on some of the do’s and don’ts of transitioning to vegetarianism. If you ask me, the secret sauce to successfully becoming vegetarian was to stop thinking about the switch as a huge, intimidating transition into a positive thing broken into baby steps.
Over at MyRecipes.com, Anne Cain wrote a lovely list for new vegetarians on, 6 First Steps to Going Meatless. While I dug the list as a whole, not all steps were applicable to me as I quit eating meat cold turkey instead of transitioning into it.
After the jump, see my modified list of Cain’s.
1. Be clear on why you’re becoming vegetarian, albeit for health, ethical principles or the like. If you’re not firm as to why you’re becoming vegetarian then you’ll be less likely to stick with it.
2. Find a vegetarian mentor, whether this person is a blogger on the Internet, a dietitian or a friend. I found it profoundly helpful to bounce my questions off a lifelong vegetarian family. Find someone that’s been a vegetarian for awhile and eats healthy, as they’ll give you some tips and recipes to start off. And no, I don’t think it’s necessary to only have a mentor who used to eat meat.
3. Adapt family-favorite recipes with meat-free products, such as soy crumbles or veggie sausage.
4. Explore global cuisines, particularly those in which vegetarian dishes are standard fare such as African, Caribbean, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Middle Eastern, and Thai.
5. Read labels carefully to search for “hidden” animal-derived ingredients, like rennet, gelatin, or gum base.
6. Check out vegetarian cookbooks from the library and experiment with different types of meatless dishes. Several sources for reliable and delicious vegetarian fare are Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and Anna Thomas’s The New Vegetarian Epicure.
For me, this was a crucial step. I fully immersed myself in vege lifestyle by checking out as many books on healthy eating, ethics of vegetarianism (such as Peter Singer’s The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, Michael Pollen’s In Defense of Food) and vege-friendly cookbooks as possible.
What’s neat about some vegetarian cookbooks is they’ll give you a tutorial on eating healthy and the nutrients that various foods. This is when I was able to clarify the myths of vegetarianism, how difficult cooking vege is, etc.
The switch to vegetarianism isn’t easy and isn’t for everyone. If you’re curious, try out a few of these steps–particularly #2 & #6. Once those are tackled and you’re still game then explore the others to see if vege life is for you.