How to Get Started as a Vegetarian

By eating local organic produce the benefits of a healthy vegetarian lifestyle can be multiplied.
By eating local organic produce the benefits of a healthy vegetarian lifestyle can be multiplied. | Source

Have you ever thought about living a vegetarian lifestyle?

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What are the different kinds of vegetarians?

The first step in becoming a vegetarian is deciding what type of vegetarian that you want to become.

  1. Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: These vegetarians eat a plant based diet that includes whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. They also supplement their diet with dairy products and eggs. They exclude meat from their diet. This is probably the most common type of vegetarianism, and many people use it as a stepping stone to becoming vegan.
  2. Lacto-vegetarian: This diet is similar to the diet of a lacto-ovo-vegetarian, but they excludes the eggs while still ingesting the dairy products.
  3. Vegan: Also known as a total vegetarian. Vegans exclude all animal food sources from their diet including: fish, eggs, and dairy products. Because of this, they have to be careful about their diet and make sure that they eat a varied diet of different types (and colors) of vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and fruits. Otherwise they run the risk of developing a deficiency in iodine, vitamin b12, iron, calcium, zinc, riboflavin, and vitamin D.
  4. Flexitarian: This is a fairly new term that is catching on in the United States. These tend to be people know the health and environmental benefits of becoming a vegetarian, but don't feel strong enough to make the full switch to vegetarianism. So they decide to begin cutting back on their meat consumption, and they range from having 1 vegan meal a week to living a vegetarian lifestyle but indulging in meat and meat products on special occasions.
  5. Pescatarian: A pescatarian diet is a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet that focuses on the basic vegetarian diet, but it also includes the eating of fish while excluding all other animal flesh products.

A vegetarian lifestyle is adopted by many cultures around the world, for many reasons.
A vegetarian lifestyle is adopted by many cultures around the world, for many reasons. | Source

It takes 441 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, while it takes only only 14 gallons of water to produce a similar pound of wheat.

Many vegetarians face criticism by clearly unhealthy people about their diet choices
Many vegetarians face criticism by clearly unhealthy people about their diet choices | Source

Why People Choose to Become a Vegetarian

Environmental Benefits of Vegetarianism

According to Dr. David Brubaker, PhD, at Johns Hopkins University's Center for a Livable Future, "The way that we breed animals for food is a threat to the planet. It pollutes our environment while consuming huge amounts of water, grain, petroleum, pesticides and drugs. The results are disastrous."

It takes 441 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, while it takes only only 14 gallons of water to produce a similar pound of wheat. On an earth that is quickly finding itself at odds with the earth, it's important to use our water wisely. Yet, we continue to steal more water from aquifers than is being replaced by natural rainfall.

Of all the water used in the US, half of the water is used on livestock This water could be much more productive being used to grow sustainable crops instead of meat.

Just as meat production uses larger amounts of water, it also depends on larger amounts of land. Across the world, land is being cleared to allow for grazing. This deforestation affects the biodiversity and increasing the rate of extinction of many species.

Animal Cruelty

Some people switch to a vegetarian lifestyle, because they feel the need to not be a part of the cycle of animal cruelty. The way in which animals are treated in the major slaughterhouses, how dairy cows are treated to harvest milk, and especially how the chicken industry treats egg chickens and chickens for meat affect the conscious of people so that they choose to give up consuming meat or meat products.

PETA has plenty of information on animal cruelty, and which companies have the worse track record for animal cruelty. Be warned, PETA is a little extreme, and not all vegetarians, even the ones who choose to be because of morals against animal cruelty, support PETA's actions.

Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet

There are many health benefits of vegetarian lifestyles. Some choose to live the lifestyle to maintain a healthy weight, rid their body of toxins, lowers cholesterol, and lowers blood pressure. Due to the other benefits, a vegetarian lifestyle can also lower the cost of medications and has been shown to cure certain medical problems.

Fruits contain high levels of water, antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins, as well as very low amounts of fat. Vegetables follow a similar make-up, and unprocessed grains are argued to use more calories to digest than they contain. Nuts do contain fat, however it is a very beneficial type of fat that combats the dangerous yellow fat that forms around organs and causes major health problems.

The exclusion of toxins, added antibiotics, and "pink slime" has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, and in some cases help to heal fatal diseases.

Since the industrial age, people have increased their meat intake, and their intake of processed foods, thus causing increases in self-inflicted medical problems.

Religious Reasons for a Vegetarian Diet

There are two religious groups that exclude meat and animal products from their diet for religious reasons. They are the Seventh-Day Adventists and Muslims. Some Buddhists and Hinuds also limit their intake of meat, however it is not a requirement for the religion. Some followers of the Jewish faith also follow a vegetarian lifestyle to help them keep to their kosher diet.

Why a Vegetarian Diet Can Heal

A vegetarian diet is one of the healthiest in the world, with low intakes of fat and cholesterol. Also, the high fiber, high antioxidant, and high nutrient diet can purge the body of toxins.

Even Oprah agrees, who posted this article supporting the claims that a vegan diet can heal a sick body, specifically that it can help to heal cancer and diabetes. The antioxidants found in a plant based diets neutralize cancer feeding cells, thus stopping further development and in many cases healing damage.

Many food documentaries support these claims including: Forks Over Knives and Food Matters. Both show many instances in which a vegetable-based diet have cured the sick.

The Great Khali, a 7' 1" WWE wrestler, is a strict vegetarian.  His size proves claims that vegetarian children cannot grow "big and strong" completely false.
The Great Khali, a 7' 1" WWE wrestler, is a strict vegetarian. His size proves claims that vegetarian children cannot grow "big and strong" completely false. | Source

Where to Start When Becoming a Vegetarian

When starting the switch to a vegetarian diet, it can be difficult, but one of the ways to make it simpler is to try vegetarian versions of foods that you would normally eat. If your a chicken nugget fanatic, try Morning Stars chicken nuggets, a lot of people prefer the taste and texture to normal nuggets. Bonus: they're microwavable, just make sure to let them sit after cooking so that become the right texture. There are meatless hotdogs, hamburgers, cheeses, and veganaise (a vegan version of mayonnaise).

There are even a lot of foods that are vegan that you probably already eat. Kool-aid, Fritos, Triscuits, some progressive soups, Pillsbury crescent rolls, and Oreo's are all vegan friendly. These aren't the healthiest options, and are extremely processed, but they can help make the change not feel so difficult.

Online Support

There are plenty of online communities that exist to help support budding vegetarians, as well as veterans of the veggie lifestyle, and these can be a great starting place to get ideas for recipes, how to bring up your changing lifestyle to friends and family members, and more facts and videos to keep your motivation high and not eat that bacon cheeseburger.

Choose Veg offers advice, tons of recipes, facts about the impact of meat consumption and it's impact on the environment, animals, and your health. They also have plenty of advice on how to make the switch smoothly, and foods that are similar to non-vegetarian foods that you regularly eat.

PETA gives plenty of information on how to completely rid yourself of animal products in your food, beauty products, clothes and day to day products. They also offer advice on how to become involved in more ways to help in the ethical treatment of animals.

Vegetarian Times is a magazine that keeps a well updated website with an online community, articles on all aspects of a maintaining a happy, healthy lifestyle, and recipes. With my love of almond milk, my personal favorite article is their article on how to make your own plant-based milk. They also have resources on which foods help to heal specific ailments in the body, such as cayenne can be used as an expectorant and can help to reveal a sore throat.

Pinterest and Facebook both offer vegetarian communities. Pinterest is a great place to find vegetarian recipes, and Facebook has many communities of people that can help you with the switch or with any questions that you have.

Food Sources for Important Nutrients in the Vegetarian Diet

  • Calcium: Milk and milk products, fortified soy and almond milk, dark green leafy vegetables such as parsley, kale, mustard, dandelion, and collard greens.
  • Iron: Legumes, dark leafy greens and other vegetables, whole-grain or enriched cereals and breads, some nuts, and dried fruits.
  • Riboflavin: Milk, legumes, whole grains, and certain vegetables
  • Vitamin B12: Milk and eggs, fortified soy and almond milk, Marmite
  • Zinc: Nuts, beans, wheat germ, and cheese
  • Protein: Eggs, milk, nuts and seeds, legumes, especially soybeans and tofu

How to Plan a Vegetarian Diet

Since meat can provide important nutrients such as protein, and a variety of vitamins and minerals, alternative need to be included in the vegetarian diet. Meat is replaced with an increase in legumes, such as dried beans, peas, soybean products, nuts, seeds and milk products. Soy and almond milk can be used to replace cow's milk as a high source of protein and calcium. Soy and almond milk in fact has higher levels of calcium and protein than an equal serving of cow's milk. Vitamin-D fortified milk is suggest for optimal absorption of calcium.

Because of vegetarians' restrictive food code, it is of the utmost importance that consume nutrient-dense foods. The use of whole grains is critical to provide all of the needed essential amino acids for complementary proteins. Empty calorie foods should be avoided, unless calorie needs are high and all essential nutrients are being consumed in the diet.

When beginning to plan a switch to a vegetarian lifestyle, it's important to let your friends and family know about your switch, especially if your family is the type to regularly eat together. However, it is important to find an appropriate way to let everyone know, and it may help to find a community, either online or in person, that can help support you through the switch.

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Don Bobbitt profile image

Don Bobbitt 3 years ago from Ruskin Florida

Excellent Hub. I learned quite a bit about this lifestyle. Thanks.

DON

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