When we began our transition to health, we started taking small steps. I strongly believe in transitioning slowly is the best way to achieve being a vegetarian because it eases the body into your new lifestyle. I’m not a believer in changes overnight… or cold turkey! At least, it didn’t work for us! So here are five easy ways to begin the transition to a healthy vegetarian lifestyle.
Start fading red meat and pork from your diet
One easy way to accomplish this is to find how many times do you eat red meat and pork and fade both gradually. For example, if you eat red meats 2 times a day 5 days a week, start by eating it once a day for three weeks. After three weeks, eat red meat 3 times a week only and so forth. Calculate how many times a week you eat pork and apply the same principle. In addition, after the first two months, stop buying pork and red meat at restaurants. Only eat it if you buy it to prepare at home. If you go out very often, order poultry only, chicken and turkey. After six months, eat meat and pork only once a week, and after that every other week. Very soon your body won’t even remember what flesh tastes like! After a year, say goodbye to flesh!
Increase amount of vegetables and whole grains
As you eliminate the amount of red meat and pork you eat, begin to increase the amount of vegetables and whole grains in your meals. For example, if you eat two hamburgers a day, eat one and replace the rest with your favorite vegetable or whole grains such beans, chick peas, lentils, quinoa, or buckwheat to name a few. I suggest experimenting with frozen vegetables because they are less expensive and that way you can begin to identify what you like. Vegetable and wjole grains have lots of protein and vitamins that your body will need to begin the transition. Once you know what your favorite vegetable and grains are, buy them fresh and experiment with different seasoning, etc.
Decrease the amount of dairy and eggs you consume
I became allergic to dairy at 21, so it was very easy for me to give up dairy. You may find that you may be allergic to dairy too. The problem became learning to read labels. A lot of “vegan” and “vegetarian” products such mock cheeses and even crackers have dairy in them, so I had to learn to read labels when shopping. I was also allergic to eggs since I was 14, every time I ate more than one egg a week, I would get chest pains.
Apply the same rule as in eliminating meats, find how many times you consume dairy and eggs, and begin decreasing the amount slowly. Eggs have high amount of cholesterol. One easy way to start is by buying a carton of 6 eggs as supposed to 12 and make them last for two weeks. After a few months, make them last for three weeks until you reach a point in which you can eat one egg a week. In addition, start buying less milk, cheese, butter, and other dairy products. If you are able, replace milk with soy or almond milk. Start with small amounts, for example instead of buying a gallon of milk, buy a small jug, a smaller pack of cheese, and replace your butter with a vegetarian option that doesn’t contain hydrogenated oil.
Fish, your new best transitional choice!
I loved fish! This was the hardest thing to give up when I became a vegan especially because I loved sushi (don’t worry; we won’t go there in this list). But we didn’t always like fish until we started giving up meat, pork, and chicken. I come from a country where is very hard to buy fresh fish and what you get smells very bad… which as we all know, if the fish smells, it’s not good to eat anymore! So as we began eliminating meat, we began ordering fish at restaurants and buying to make at home. We started with salmon which was our favorite and later incorporated trout as well which is a great source of omega 3. I don’t recommend canned fish, but if that’s what it takes to begin eating fish, I’d say do it for the first two or three months until your body learns to like fish. Anything canned has tons of sodium and preservatives that the body doesn’t need.
Go to a vegetarian restaurant
This is a very easy step towards health. Going to vegetarian restaurants or even preparing vegetarian dishes is the best way to begin. Apply the same rule as eliminating meat, calculate how many times a week you eat out and begin replacing one restaurant with a vegetarian choice. For example, if you eat out 5 times a week, 1 time a week choose a vegetarian or vegan restaurant. Lots of restaurants have vegetarian meals nowadays, if you think you can resist from choosing the steak over the vegetarian meal of the day, then go ahead. But it may be hard to watch everyone else eat the steak while you eat a plate of grains and vegetables. In addition, vegetarian restaurants are more creative with their meals and they tend to taste much better than the “veggie” plate at the local steak house that usually serves canned veggies with only salt and pepper.
To find a vegetarian restaurant near you, visit Happy Cow, a directory of vegetarian restaurants in the country and even outside the U.S.
Any transition takes time and consistency. After the first year we stop eating meat and pork completely, we lost between 20 to 25 lbs each without doing anything else. That was the most “visible” change we had in our lifestyle, but there were other changes as well. I also recommend visiting a doctor and get your blood tested before making any changes to your lifestyle. Some people may want to add vitamins and even a B-complex vitamin as they eliminate red meat and dairy. After you fade out red meat and pork, get your blood tested again and compare it with the previous test. Most likely, your health will have improved!
- Vegetarian Times Vegetarian Beginner’s Guide by the Editors of Vegetarians Times
- Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman
- Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World’s Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples by John Robbins
- The Newman’s Own Organics Guide to a Good Life: Simple Measures That benefit You and the Place You Live by Nell Newman
- The Great American Detox Diet: Feel Better, Look Better, and Lose Weight by Cleaning Up Your Diet by Alex Jamieson
- The Healthy Kitchen by Andrew Weil (Andrew T. Weil, Rosie Daley)
- The Chopra Center Cookbook: A Nutritional Guide to Renewal / Nourishing Body and Soul by Deepak Chopra M.D. (Deepak Chopra, David Simon, Leanne Backer)
- If the Buddha Came to Dinner: How to Nourish Your Body to Awaken Your Spirit by Hale Sofia Schatz (Halé Sofia Schatz, Shira Shaiman)