There are around 10 million vegetarian Americans today. The conscious choice of not eating meat has a lot of health benefits: it lowers cholesterol and blood pressure levels, decreases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and certain cancers and assists in weight loss. A vegetarian lifestyle is actually more economical, since vegetables cost less per pound as compared to meat.
Here’s how to get started on a vegetarian lifestyle:
Determine your purpose. People decide on a vegetarian lifestyle for various reasons. Some do it to improve their health. Others start because of environmental concerns. There are those who stay away from meat because they don’t agree with current animal farming practices which rely heavily on antibiotics and have a moral aversion to what they consider to be animal cruelty. Whatever your reason, this will help you stay focused on your lifestyle choice.
Do your research. Learn about the different benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. You can talk to vegetarian friends, ask the people at your local whole food market, read up on books or check websites such as goveg.com. Know what foods you should avoid and suitable substitutes. Learn how you can meet your daily nutritional needs as well as the nutritional value of different fruits and vegetables. Find vegetarian restaurants in your neighborhood. Get familiar with your local farmer’s market so you know where to avail of the best produce.
Collect recipes. There are vegetarian cookbooks as well as online recipes to teach you different ways of food preparation. Being vegetarian is not just about eating salads. There are many delicious meatless dishes such as vegetable lasagna, meatless moussaka and a variety of stews and soups.
Substitute. Many meat substitutes are available in major grocery stores nowadays. Brands such as Boca, Morningstar, Quorn, Schneiders au Natural make meatless bacon, hamburger patties, nuggets and other meat favorites. For other recipes, tofu makes an excellent meat substitute.
Go organic. The taste and nutritional content of organic fruits and vegetables is far superior to that of their pesticide laden counterparts. Organic items are no longer significantly more expensive than regular produce because of the increased supply in recent years.
Do it gradually. It may take a while to take away the craving for meat so start eliminating meat and dairy products from your diet gradually. Start with one meat product a week. You may use your meat substitute.
Prepare your kitchen. Arm yourself with the tools you need to make food preparation simpler. You may decide to purchase a food processor since you will do a lot of chopping. Buy pre-washed, pre-cut vacuum sealed vegetables. Fill your pantry with the ingredients you need so you’re not tempted to go back to eating meat out of convenience.
Drink a vitamin supplement. Ideally, a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables should provide you with all your nutritional needs. But just to be on the safe side, take a complete vitamin supplement especially to meet calcium and iron needs.
Get support. Tell family and friends of your choice to go vegetarian so they will not pressure you to eat meat. Also, it is important to let your doctor know of your change in diet, especially if you have specific health concerns that need monitoring such as diabetes.
Choosing a vegetarian lifestyle is a worth endeavor with a multitude of benefits. It may not be easy at the start, as any change is difficult. But with the right information and the proper motivation, it is achievable.