Every since I was little, I have been obsessed with animals. On the fateful day that I found out my beloved steaks, pepperoni, chicken fingers, etc. were byproducts of the cute and furry faces I loved so much, something in me changed.
In this post, I’m going to go through my history of becoming a vegetarian, how I made the change, and how I maintain a healthy diet that doesn’t includes meat.
Since the day I made the connection between my food and where it came from, I was hesitant and reluctant in eating the meals that I once loved. Then, at the mere age of 11, I cut meat out of my diet completely.
Though the process of hunting has long been an integral part of the evolution of society, the concept has burdened me ever since I grew old enough to understand the general workings of it. Removing meat from my diet began with my soft-hearted love of all animals. Once my dog’s were introduced to the family, it became impossible to disassociate their warm eyes to the hamburgers on my dinner table. Growing up in a family with a Norwegian heritage that has fish, mutton, and pork as a staple in cuisine, being steadfast in my decisions became a necessity. Despite over half a decade of being the sole vegetarian of my household, and consistently abiding by my own moral beliefs, every single night my father still insists upon offering me the choice meat of the day.
Luckily this is done in jest, and my family is actually incredibly supportive and considerate in regards to my unique diet.
More often than not, when going out for a meal with friends or family, I am questioned on how I manage to find something appetizing with such little options before me. However, what these people do not recognize, is the fact that the grand majority of times they themselves place their orders, they generally choose a commonplace meal that is no different than that of any other selection from the day before. I, however, am constantly challenged to find new flavors to investigate and assess. Although meat is no longer an aspect of my taste pallet, I have found that my now narrowed array of dishes to choose from has actually broadened my appreciation for the things I would have never thought to try before.
While converting to a vegetarian diet can indeed be daunting, in the next portion of this post, I am going to lay out 10 tips on making the transition a little bit easier.
- Do it for YOURSELF: There are few things that annoy me more than when people pick up vegetarianism simply because it’s a “fad.” My main suggestion is that you do some research, and determine FOR YOURSELF why you would want to change your entire lifestyle and switch to this diet. If you’re becoming vegetarian just for show, chances are you won’t actually make it for a very long time. Once you feel a passion for making the change, the rest will come easy.
- Take Cooking Classes: One of the best things I have ever done since becoming a vegetarian has been attending a cooking class. One day, me and my Aunt (who is also a lifelong vegetarian) decided to sign up for a Thai cooking class. For anybody who doesn’t know, Thai cuisine is abundant with vegetarian dishes. Even though this class took place years ago, I utilize the recipes and skills I learned as often as I can. My go to meal is now Pad Kee Mao (aka Drunken Noodles) and it feels reassuring that I have a variety of recipes under my belt that suit my lifestyle.
- Don’t Rely on Junk Food: I cannot begin to tell you how many people I have known who switch to vegetarian diets in the unhealthiest way possible. It is essential to recognize that just because you aren’t eating greasy meats, it doesn’t mean that you can expect to eat whatever junk you want and still consider your diet healthy. Just remember that being a vegetarian doesn’t mean pizza for dinner every night and cinnamon rolls for breakfast every morning.
- Understand Your Nutritional Needs: With this tip, I’m going to be a little bit of a hypocrite. But that being said, it’s still incredibly important to remember. When making the decision to cut meat out of your diet, be sure to do your research on all of the nutrients that you are going to be losing when you stop eating meat. And once you know what you are going to be losing, find alternative foods to gain them back. The obvious one is protein- this you can alternatively find in nuts, grains, dairy products, beans, tofu and more. Also be sure to maintain healthy blood sugar, and include foods with iron in your diet.
- Know That You Will Have Relapses (And that it isn’t the end of the world- or your vegetarian diet): Becoming a vegetarian through the technique of “cold turkey” is highly unlikely. And that’s ok. Within the first few months of this new diet, there is a huge chance you are going to slip and take a nibble on some meat. It happens to the best of us. Just remember, going vegetarian is a process and it most likely isn’t going to happen overnight. It gets easier as time goes on.
- Involve Your Loved Ones: It’s a really wonderful feeling when you get to share your alternative lifestyle with those you love. For example, my father and I bond over recipes that we can make together that we both would enjoy eating. My boyfriend (who is a huge carnivore) also knows to look at restaurant menu’s before going to a meal, and has even found vegetarian restaurants to go to. As a bet, my oldest sister went an entire summer without meat. Remember that you aren’t trying to change other people and their beliefs, but it’s nice to meld your lifestyles together to create a coherency between you.
- Decide the Type of Vegetarian You Want To Be: What most people don’t realize about vegetarianism is that there are more than one kind. A few examples are vegan, lacto, ovo, lacto-ovo, pescatarian, and flexitarian. The three most common types are lacto-ovo, pescatarian, and flexitarian. I personally am Lacto-Ovo. This means that I do not eat any meat or fish, but I do eat eggs and dairy. A pescatarian does not eat animal meat, but does eat fish. And a flexitarian is somebody who, for the most part, doesn’t eat meat, but on occasion will. And vegans do not include any animals products in their diet- no meat, fish, dairy, or eggs.
- Find a Favorite Restaurant: This is actually something that makes vegetarianism a whole lot easier. Having a place to eat that is reliable and you love makes choosing restaurants a much less painstaking process. Having 3-5 restaurants that you know cater to your diet is a very important thing for your vegetarian arsenal.
- Create a Vegetarian Grocery Guide: Make a list beforehand! Include all the foods you know and love, and ingredients that can be whipped up to create a delicious home cooked meal. This is an act of trial and error as well. Go shopping and browse, read the ingredients and if you see something interesting, try it out. The worst that can happen is you find out you don’t like it and no longer buy it.
- Don’t Give Up: This facet in my life began with an innocent declaration of my own personal ethics, yet has throughout the years ironically led to a more headstrong and prideful sense of self. Should I give into the temptation of once again experiencing the flagrant meats that I that I am offered daily, what would have been the point of the last eight years of my determination to avoid just that? I would simply be throwing in the towel of standing tall amongst all opposing, whilst my pride and accomplishments would be ultimately diminished.
That’s it for my Top 10 Tips on converting to a vegetarian diet. This lifestyle has been a part of me for the past 8 years and I don’t see that ever changing. I truly hoped this post helped some of you with your conversion, or even helped with simply understanding why and how people like me do this.
Thank you for reading and have a wonderful day!