Are you thinking of going vegetarian? Whether you want to be a full-time vego or just eat less meat, there’s no need to go cold turkey. Like with any major lifestyle change, it’s better to ease yourself in to give your body and mind some time to adjust. There’s nothing wrong with taking it slow. 😉
Here’s our practical guide to going vegetarian.
Don’t say you’ll never eat meat again.
Instead, set little end-points to hit. For example, you might say, “I’m going to eat vegetarian and fish for two weeks and see how I feel.” If you like it, you can push the marker back to a month, and so on until you fade out fish, too.
Start with one meal a day.
Are you used to eating meat three times a day? Try cutting out meat just one meal at a time. Many people notice a difference in their digestion and energy when they stop eating meat at dinner, and that motivates them to keep it up.
Begin with red meat.
If the one-meal-at-a-time idea isn’t working for you, give up red meat first. Do that for two weeks, then eliminate pork, chicken and seafood. To make the transition into vegetarianism even more gradual, you can increase the time to three weeks or a month.
Do Meatless Mondays.
To train yourself to eat less meat, start by eliminating meat from your diet one day a week. We suggest Mondays. First of all, no-one wants to go out on a Monday, so you’re more inclined to whip up a meal for yourself at home. And since it’s the first day of the working week, your fridge and pantry are probably stocked up with fresh groceries.
Amp it up to meat-free weekdays.
Once Meatless Mondays have become a habit, consider going vegetarians on weekdays. Most of our daily lives are pretty routine, especially during the week, and playing around with veggie recipes and getting used to eating meat-free meals can be a part of that. Then, allow yourself a little leeway on the weekends, and give yourself permission to eat those pork dumplings.
Eat whatever meat you have left in the fridge/freezer.
If you’re going vegetarian purely for health reasons, and you still feel comfortable eating and cooking meat, work your way through any meat you have left at home. That way, you’ll be starting with a clean slate. And you won’t be wasting food, which is a bonus.
Focus on seasonal produce.
Fact: veggies taste better when they’re in season. When you’re going green, buy seasonal, local produce. You can do some Googling before you hit the supermarket, or just judge veggies on the cost. A $7 mango means it travelled a long, long way to land on your plate.
Head to your local farmer markets.
It’s the best place to buy fresh produce for cheap, and learn about what’s in season (and take an Insta sipping a smoothie in your activewear). So go on, be that girl listening to Drake on the way to the farmers market.
Spice up your life.
Aka your spice cabinet! If you’re used to eating juicy meats, your palate may feel like it’s missing something. Use spices to jazz up your meals and tantalise those tastebuds. Sprinkle za’atar and turmeric on roasted veggies, cumin on lentils and curries, and paprika to add a tangy flavour to your stews.
Eating is such a simple pleasure, so try to bring those vibes into the kitchen by playing around with new recipes and ingredients, like mushrooms or cauliflower. It’s amazing how creative you can get.
Help out at dinner parties.
When you’re invited to a friend’s place for dins, let them know you’re vegetarian and offer to bring a delish veggie dish. Not only is this polite, saving the host from feeling crappy when you announce you won’t be tucking into the roast chicken she’s been slaving over, but it also ensures you have a good time. At a certain point, potato salad gets boring.
Learn from your veg friends.
Don’t expect your meat-loving friends to join the movement. Rather, invite your vegetarian pals over for a potluck dinner, or supply copious amounts of wine and ask them to show you how to cook their favourite dish.
Look up restaurant menus in advance.
These days, it’s standard for cafes and restaurants to have vegetarian options, but it can be tricky to find something substantial. To avoid the awkwardness of being blindsided, check out the menu beforehand. If it’s very meat-heavy, you’ll know to order a bunch of salads and sides.
Expand your food horizons.
This is a fabulous time to taste-test other cuisines. Grab a foodie friend or a fellow vego, and venture to restaurants you’ve never been to before. Ethnic ones are a good bet: think Indian, Thai, Mexican, Italian and Greek.
Take a vegetarian cooking class.
Get excited! You’ll learn some tips and tricks, and meet like-minded people.
Try a new vegetable each week.
Forget broccoli, potatoes, and carrots. Challenge yourself to branch out and sample one new veggie each week. The key to a vegetarian diet is variety, so buy those veggies you’ve overlooked in the past, like artichokes or radishes.
Follow vegetarian blogs and Instagram accounts for inspiration and support.
There’s a vibrant community out there just waiting to take you in.
Research what makes a healthy vegetarian diet.
Class is in session! When you stop eating meat, you need to make sure you’re still getting the nutrients you need to function. Read vegetarian books and articles to find out how to sneak protein, iron, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12 into your new diet, so that you can be a healthy vegetarian.
Protein and iron are the big ones.
The amino acids in protein are the building blocks of the body. In other words, we need them for energy, digestion, and just about everything else.
Some good sources of protein are:
- Nuts and nut butters
- Dairy products – e.g. Greek yoghurt
- Rice and quinoa
There are two types of iron: the kind that comes from animals, and the kind that comes from grains and plant-based foods. Our bodies don’t absorb the iron from plants and grains as well, so vegetarians have to eat MORE iron to meet their needs.
Iron-rich foods include:
- Green leafy veggies like kale, cabbage and broccoli
- Sprouted beans and seeds
- Almonds and cashews
- Breakfast cereals
Cook food in bulk.
Life gets bussssy, and you’ll be less motivated to stray if you have pre-made meals in the fridge or freezer. Think soups, casseroles, stews, pasta sauce, cooked grains, and so on. Set aside a couple of hours on a Sunday to cook up a storm, and you’ll be golden for the rest of the week.
Explore meat alternatives.
Maybe you’re missing the texture of meat. Maybe you’re pining for the days when you could just throw a sausage on the BBQ. When the meat cravings hit, reach for meat-like products – there are plenty on the market now. They might help with your transition to a vegetarian diet (and stave off boredom). Or, make your own! Whip up burger patties with lentils, mushrooms and quinoa or sweet potato. Hearty and de-lish.
Find your go-to weekday recipes.
If you can make your vegetarian lifestyle EASY, you’re more likely to stick to it. Nobody has oodles of time to spend in the kitchen during the working week (or if you do – jealous!), so have a handful of staple recipes. If it takes less than 20 minutes to prepare, it makes the list! Veggie pasta, broth and burgers are a good place to start. Use those blogs, cookbooks and Insta accounts for inspo.
You do you.
Don’t worry about labels, deadlines, or other people’s judgements. Find the level of vegetarian that suits your lifestyle, and roll with that. If you slip up, who cares – what you eat is your business! And please, please don’t preach. That’s just annoying.
Food inspo by Katia Iervasi