Hey guys! Janani here, with another post on vegetarianism. So in my last post I talked a lot about imitation meat and how to look for good meat substitutes. I want to backtrack here and talk a little more about how exactly you can incorporate more vegetarian food into your diet. It is a learning experience for me as well, because since I have been a vegetarian all my life I have had to do quite a bit of digging to really get the ethos of people who are trying to either eat less meat or ease off of it altogether. Again, this post is a general guideline in how to start a vegetarian diet. That is, you can modify it to fit your own goals. So without further ado…
Ask yourself “why?”
This one is really important. It is crucial to ask yourself why you want to do anything before you actually do it, so that you have a certain motivation that will keep you going when things get rough. And it can be simple! So why do you want to be vegetarian? And though the end goal (ie. eat less/no meat) is the same, the reasons behind it will differ from person to person. For example, my reason for being vegetarian is that I don’t want to support unethical practices that are used by slaughterhouses. However, my grandparents’ reason for being vegetarian is that for generations in our family, we have all been vegetarian, so this is the norm and they want to stick to that. For environmental science people, it might be the huge carbon footprint and watermark that eating meat leaves on our planet.
But it doesn’t even have to be that complicated. You can do it as a challenge for one month with your friends, and keep the friendly fire as your motivation to keep on going when things get tough. A lot of fitness bloggers and experts recommend a plant based diet, so if you’re into fitness you can look at it as a trial period for your health. And leading into health, you can totally use health improvement as your motivation to stick to the plan. Again, whatever keeps your head in the game.
Where do I even start?
Cool. You’ve identified that you would like to make a change in your diet. I recommend you taking the first step by keeping a food journal and tracking your diet for an entire week. I say an entire week because at least for me, I tend to eat differently on the weekends than I do on weekdays. Track everything you eat, including snacks. As a vegetarian, I realized that going vegetarian for many people seems impossible because they tend to eat meat with every meal of the day. Sausage or bacon for breakfast, chicken for lunch, and steak for dinner, for example. So it feels like they can’t eat anything at all. So, see where you are relying on meat and keep track of it.
I’m ready to get rolling!
Now that you’ve got your food journal and you know where you need to improve, it’s time to get the ball rolling. The first thing I recommend you do is take the meal or snack that you depend least on meat and cut it out. I don’t recommend going cold turkey on any “diet” plan because it can definitely leave you with a negative impression of the lifestyle change and we don’t want that. So make it gradual. Cut out the meat from the meal that you depend on the least first. If it is breakfast, I highly recommend trying Morningstar Farms brand breakfast items. All their products are vegetarian and some are vegan. I love their chicken nuggets and buffalo wings a lot; they are super filling and have my stamp of approval! They also have my friend’s (who eats meat) stamp of approval. They also make sausage patties and other breakfast food items. So if you are craving meat during breakfast, definitely check out Morningstar Farms.
The goal is to create a challenging goal, not an impossible one. If at any point you feel more than frustrated, take a step back and see if you are jumping into something without a plan. That is, if you are cutting meat out of a meal, make sure you have a plan on how you are going to substitute a delicious food in its place. Simply cutting out a part of your meal can make the meal feel incomplete, which beats the purpose of this exercise.
Keep this exercise going until you are able to cut meat out of all your meals. It will take time, so don’t rush it. You want this to be a positive exercise, so take your time and make progress at your own pace.
Track your progress!
You’re able to eat a day’s worth of food without meat! That’s awesome. Now, start a new food journal tracking what you are eating every day, for however long you want to go meatless. A week, a month, or even a lifetime. Take time once a week or so to compare notes side by side on what you ate before your exercise, during your transition to a meatless diet, and what you are able to eat now. Are the meat substitutes and replacements you are eating now keeping you satisfied in the way your old diet was? Keep updating your food selections based on how your tastes and preferences change. Being a vegetarian is a constant lifestyle choice, even for lifelong vegetarians like me. So, if you want to be a vegetarian, you must choose to be a vegetarian every day.
Well, there you have it! And I know: easier said than done. I get it! I did an exercise for a week where I only ate vegan food. And it was difficult, no doubt! But the key is to do it gradually. I learned that one the hard way by going cold turkey on eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt. It is not easy for anyone to make a lifestyle change, but if you choose to do it, know that it is a constant choice you have to make, and know that there is always good, delicious food out there for you!