Veg-Curious? Maybe you are interested in trying meatless Monday? Perhaps you would like to add more more vegetables into your diet? Do you want lose weight? Would you like the help the environment?
The motivation to incorporate vegetarian meals, into your diet can come from a lot of places, and has many benefits. I tried a vegetarian diet solely to lose weight, but besides losing weight, I also:
- Solved a number of chronic health problems,
- Became more aware of how substances I put in my body make me feel, whether it be sugar, caffeine, alcohol, or any other food.
- Gained clarity and peace of mind.
- Felt less stress and anger during day to day frustrations.
- Became more aware of the environment and the importance of preserving nature for humanities long term well-being.
- Have more energy.
- Sleep better.
- Rarely (never?) get sick.
A year and a half ago, I would have never guessed that all of these benefits could be possible simply by changing what I ate, mostly by incorporating more vegetables, more fruits, and more whole foods into my diet. In the beginning, making these changes takes time and effort, but if you become conscious of what you eat, it will be easier to start making simple changes that will lead you to a lifetime of good health.
Here are 6 tips to help yourself transition to good health by adding more vegetarian options into your diet:
1. Educate yourself.
I became interested in vegetarianism because food, meat and dairy in particular, in the U.S. just didn’t taste the same when I returned home from a year living abroad. I wanted to know why this was, and I found out that most of our factory farm animals eat an unnatural diet of genetically modified corn and soy, as opposed to grass. The animal are also confined to small spaces and their muscles do not develop properly. You really are what you eat, and I didn’t want to eat sick, unnaturally raised animals. The more I learned about genetically modified foods, pesticides, and factory farming, the easier it was to choose to avoid products containing these ingredients.
2. Be patient.
Often, we are looking for a quick fix, but these quick fixes do not work. When moving to vegetarianism, you will not see results overnight. I lost 50 pounds over the course of a year and a half. Though I was losing weight pretty regularly, it was a pound or two a week, and sometimes I would gain a pound and get frustrated, but if you stick with something that is working slowly and relatively consistently you will thank yourself. I found the same thing happened with the emotional benefits of vegetarianism, six months into my lifestyle change, a friend of mine asked me if I felt some sort of clarity and peace of mind from eating vegetarian. I didn’t. I felt the same as I always had. But now, a year and a half later, I do feel much more emotionally stable and things that would have made me angry, or sad before, do not anymore.
3. Make daily swaps.
Even though I eat pretty well now, I still make daily swaps and try and eliminate the unhealthy things from my diet. No one is perfect and it takes time and patience to reset a lifetime of eating habits. Try a different brand, try a different grocery store, try using brown rice instead of white, try saying no to that brownie and picking up some nuts instead. You will get there, it is a process!
4. Prepare yourself for uncomfortable situations.
This was one of the biggest shocks for me. No one complained when I was a fat girl eating cheesy nachos, but when I started to eat vegetables, they suddenly had a lot to say about my diet and what I was doing. It happens, you go to someone’s house and they are offended you don’t eat their food. Or someone tells you you are unhealthy for not eating animal proteins. Or you go to a restaurant and the only choice is a plain salad, or pasta with red sauce. These social situations can be very frustrating and leave you feel alienated from the things you used to do or the people you are friends with. When changing your lifestyle, you have to take the good with the bad. Arm yourself with knowledge, be prepared to (politely) explain, and don’t stress out over one dinner. You eat dinner everyday, so what if one meal is not perfect. Plus, many of my harshest critics are now trying to transition. My Guatemalan friend used to tell me “you eat like a poor person in my country now” but these days, she is mostly vegetarian and will choose meatless options always when available. Uncomfortable social situations are no fun, but they get better with time. Plus, do you know what else is uncomfortable? Being overweight, unhealthy, or lacking daily energy, so just do your best in these situations, make the best possible choice, and don’t think too much about it.
5. Pack snacks!
To follow up on the last point, I always eat something before going to a social gathering, in case the choices for me are a bit dismal. This way, you can snack on something at the event, to be polite, and you are not starving the entire time and feel like you are really missing out. And bring some snacks along, wherever you go, you never know when you will be stuck without food choices. I usually bring some easy to eat fruit, grapes, bananas, or apples, and some mixed nuts. Sometimes I make granola and bring that dry as a sweet treat. When you are not hungry, food choices at a party or event will be much easier for you.
6. Have fun!
Learning to cook, and leaning about different foods people eat traditionally around the world (a lot of which are vegan or vegetarian) has been really fun for me. Food is a great way to share culture and experience. And so what if you don’t like something, there were plenty of foods I never ate when I was a meat-eater, like beans, hummus, falafel, all of which are my very favorite foods now. There are a ton of recipes available online (including this site!) to make the switch a little easier. Just keep tasting, trying new restaurants, new types of cuisine, and having fun. doing it. You can get your friends and family interested too by having them meet at an Indian restaurant for example. Lots of choices for them and you, and new flavors for everyone!
I hope you found this helpful. What was the hardest thing about going veg for you? What tips and advice would you share?