Transitioning to a Vegetarian Lifestyle
Reasons to Go Vegetarian
Firstly, it's important to establish your reasons for becoming a vegetarian. These will be incredibly important to keep in mind when maintaining motivation. There are generally two larger reasons to become a vegetarian: Health and Morality.
- Vegetarians tend to have a smaller waist line than their meat-eating counter parts.
- A proper vegetarian diet can lead to large amounts of energy.
- There tends to be a lot of hormones and chemicals in animal products.
- Removing meat from the diet can lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Vegetarians have a significantly lower risk of developing chronic diseases associated with diet.
- Mortality rate among vegetarians is 12% lower than meat-eaters.
- Many slaughterhouses deal in very cruel forms of death.
- Many animal product companies will torture or kill animals unnecessarily.
- Many would argue there is no real way to kill an animal humanely.
- Dairy industry keeps cows pregnant to continuously produce milk and separate them from their young after only two days.
There are also some very serious implications on the environment. The meat industry is the leading cause of global warming. Just consider these facts:
- Livestock production contributes about 15% to 24% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.
- More than two-thirds of agricultural land is devoted to growing feed for livestock.
- Only 8% of agricultural lands are devoted to growing food for human populations.
- 50% of antibiotic use globally is used on livestock (this is related to the growing concern in antibiotic resistance).
- Researchers have also discovered that the meat industry uses dwindling water supplies, destroys forests and grasslands, and causes soil erosion.
- Run off from fertilizers, livestock fecal matter, and other pollutions of the industry have caused "dead zones" in certain costal areas and are contributing to the destruction of coral reefs which are essential to the ocean's ecosystem.
You can read more on this at: https://woods.stanford.edu/environmental-venture-projects/consequences-increased-global-meat-consumption-global-environment .
Vegetarian Safe Spirits
Certain alcohols can also be problematic. This is because certain beers and spirits are produced using a filtering process that utilizes fish bones. If you aren't a pescetarian then it's important to know which beers are a safe bet and which aren't. A site really good for this is going to be www.barnivore.com
Transitioning to vegetarian is a big decision and as such will take some planning. It's important to familiarize yourself with how to read product labels. Perhaps the most important part of label reading is knowing some key terms.
- Casein or similar sounding words are milk products
- Whey is a milk protein
- Collagen and Keratin
- Lard and tallow are animal fats
Now some of these you can eat as a lacto-ovo vegetarian. However, if you plan on going vegan or giving up dairy products then it's a good idea to avoid ingredients derived from milk. Ultimately the main ingredients to avoid for vegetarians are going to be gelatin, lard, and tallow.
Veg on Veggies!
A critical part of going vegetarian is incorporating vegetables and fruits into your everyday diet. In general, the average American, doesn't get enough of these anyway. As a vegetarian, however, they should make up the larger part of your diet. A good rule of thumb is to eat a large array of colors in order to ensure proper nutrition.
The longer you remain vegetarian, as well, the more your taste will change. Soon raw meat, no matter how fresh, will begin to smell sour and unappealing. Vegetables and fruits you once hated will grow on you and you may even begin to love them. For example, before I went vegetarian, I hated bananas. I couldn't stand them. I didn't like the way they smelt, the taste was overpowering, and the texture disgusted me. Now, I eat them literally every day and I love them.
So the lesson here: Going vegetarian is an opportunity to try new things.
Try New Products
At first, it may be a little difficult to completely give up meat. Personally, I found it hard to have a meal without something like meat. I very much liked the taste, smell, and texture of meat before I gave it up. I started out by eating a lot of the same meals as I did before but by switching out meat with mock meat products. There are several brands that you can try. Here are just a few examples:
- Morning Star
- Nature Life
My personal favorites are Gardein, Morning Star, and Amy's. Gardein and Amy's tend to make entrees, such as orange chicken and burritos, while Morning Star makes more basic "fake meat" products, chicken patties and veggie burgers. Many long time vegetarians and vegans consider these products "junk food". That being said, there isn't any shame in eating them when first transitioning and then once you've become accustomed, reducing them to a once and a while food choice. Also, note that many of these products are NOT VEGAN as many of them contain egg as a binding agent.
Types of Vegetarian
Flexitarian: Often sticks to a vegetarian diet but will occasionally consume meat.
Lacto-Ovo : Eats dairy and egg products but not meat.
Pescetarian: Eats fish but not any other kind of meat.
Vegan: Does not eat meat, fish, or any animal products. Many may not even eat Honey as it requires "bee labor".
Keep in mind, vegetarian is a broad term. So when making the transition it is completely acceptable to call yourself vegetarian and be a mix of any of these (although I'd like to point out that flexitarians are not literal vegetarians).
Once you've made the switch, it's incredibly important to keep motivated and not give in to midnight McDonald's cravings. This isn't a diet. It's a lifestyle. This is what you must always keep in the foremost of your mind. Even if you've made the decision to go vegetarian for health reasons--this is the most important mantra to have.
However, there are many other things you can do to keep motivated. Here are some:
- Look up celebrity vegetarians and vegans
- Watch vegetarian and vegan documentaries on Netflix
- Follow vegetarian and vegan feeds on Instagram
- Make a vegetarian board on Pinterest and pin recipes to it.
- Make it normal to try a new recipe every week
Talk About It
This is perhaps what people hate most about vegetarians and vegans: their constant need to talk about it. Sincerely, this helps. When you discuss and address why you've made this decision to others it concretes the decision for you as well. It's okay to label yourself as such as well. It's okay to be considered a vegetarian or a vegan. Adopting it as a part of your identity makes it that much more paramount as a decision. As it becomes a part of you, it'll become less and less difficult.
I am constantly told, "I could never do that." or asked, "Is it really hard for you to stay away from meat?" Honestly, it's the easiest thing in the world. People who say they couldn't never avoid meat are really saying that they don't want to. There is nothing wrong with that but do not allow other's hesitation to discourage you from keeping with your diet choice. After a month of being vegetarian, I didn't even think about meat much. When I went out I often forgot that meat was an issue I had to tackle when ordering. It truly becomes second nature.
Ya Gotta Laugh
Lastly, learn to laugh. There will always be people who make fun of you for the decision to forego meat--especially in America. There will also be those who applaud your decision like it's the most impressive feat. Take both in stride and learn to appreciate both. They are a part of your development and growth as a person.
© 2014 Sienna Finder