Many people ask me how I transitioned to a vegetarian diet and how I got used to it. Luckily, to me it was a simple and smooth process. One day I simply decided to give up on meat after watching Food Inc. and I never looked back. Of course, this may seem a bit drastic or exaggerated for some but it worked beautifully for me. I may be an exception but I’m sure you can too.
For most people, making a slower transition is the best way to go. For my boyfriend for example, it was easy to make a switch because, first, he already wanted to switch to a vegetarian diet. This is the first step you need to take. If the desire is already there, all the following steps will be a lot easier.
Not yet convinced why to switch to a vegetarian lifestyle though? Here are some of the reasons why you should give it a go:
- You’ll live longer
Several studies have proved that vegetarians have longer life expectancy than meat-eaters. About 6 years longer to be more precise.
- You’ll trim down some weight
Eliminating meat from your menu will help you lose some weight and keep it off. Including more veggies and fruit helps you maintain your weight in the healthy range.
- You’ll be healthier
As mentioned before, not only will you lose some weight but also, you’ll have a healthier diet promoted by the increase of vegetables, legumes, beans and nuts. Having a much more nutritious diet and leading a healthier life.
- You’ll help save the planet
Animal agriculture is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to greenhouse emissions. Reducing or eliminating your consumption of meat will help reduce the production of these harmful emissions and save the oceans and land that is destroyed by factory farming.
- You’ll be savings the lives of thousands of animals
Pretty self-explanatory but pretty important. Animals are sentient beings that feel pain and sadness as much as we do. They are exploited in terrible conditions to provide us with their meat. It’s a pretty gruesome industry. As Paul McCartney once said:
“If slaughterhouses had glass walls everyone would be a vegetarian.”
- You’ll save money
Not buying steaks, chicken thighs & pork ribs make your groceries shopping trip a lot cheaper. Plus, vegetarian options in restaurants are always cheaper. Win, win!
If you are already totally convinced though but need a hand making the leap, read on.
Giving up on meat is easier to some people than to others. Some rely heavily on the consumption of animal protein and have great difficulty abdicating completely of meat.
Nonetheless, the majority of the population would be mostly fine leading a vegetarian diet or at least having their intake of meat reduced. Our ancestors who lived before the discovery of agriculture would live off mainly of vegetables, fruits and other plants as meat would be very scarce and much harder to get as well.
After agriculture techniques were discovered and introduced, grains started to be used in a larger scale in our diets, and we learnt to domesticate animals but they still would be consumed in a reduced scale. Only in the modern era, around the 1950’s, the consumption of meat increased so drastically with the advances in factory farming and animal agriculture that it more than doubled. With this outcome, the processing and management of farm animals deteriorated immensely and with it, the environment and the livelihood of these animals.
For these reasons and much more, vegetarianism/veganism is growing quickly. So if you are interested in giving it a go and seeing what is all the buzz about, here are some helpful tips to start to reduce your meat intake or even eliminate it completely.
How to Make a Healthy Transition to a Vegetarian Diet
Transitioning to a vegetarian diet may or may not be a breeze, but if you start slowly, you can definitely be successful and make changes that will impact your health and the environment.
- Cut Down on Processed Food
Many vegetarians or even vegans can have unhealthy diets if they continue to eat processed foods regularly. The focus here is to transition to a healthier and plant-based diet. So, first off, cut down on your consumption of processed food. Try to keep it to a minimum as much as you can. Products that contain lots of ingredients in their packaging may look ‘healthy’ but don’t be deceived by the pretty words in their packaging. Learn to read labels and avoid any numbers and ingredients you are not sure how to pronounce, specially the sneaky monosodium glutamate (aka MSG) which is a flavour enhancer but also linked to many diseases including obesity and more.
- Join the ‘Meat-Free Monday’ Campaign
Meanwhile you reduce your intake of processed food, start by trying a few vegetarian dishes. If you really can’t stay away from meat all at once, start slowly and cut it for just one day a week. See how you like it and get inspiration to cook different meals that don’t have meat in them. You can always find inspiration in the Meat Free Monday website (there’s some other good reasons to give up meat too). Pinterest is also a great place to look for ideas of vegetarian & vegan recipes.
- Reduce your Red Meat Intake
The production of red meat is one of the most harmful to the environment. It uses large amounts of land and water to produce the beef we see ‘beautifully’ packed in the supermarket shelves. If you still can’t avoid it, reduce and swap it for either Organic Grass Fed Beef or Free Range chicken and Stow Free Pork. This way, you are also sending a message to the farmers, saying you prefer a product that is (at least) better for the environment.
- Then Reduce Other Meats
Once you reduce your red meat intake, it’s easier to cut down on other meats too. Then, reduce your red meat intake completely. Focus on fish and chicken as an option for meat but try to maintain most of your meals meat-free. You can start off by cutting down red meat, then poultry, seafood and dairy/eggs lastly. I personally still eat a few cheeses and egg (all organic) every now and then or when I go out. I rarely buy cheese and not having them in sight, helps me not to eat it (although my partner still eats it).
- Swap Proteins & Introduce More Vegetables
While you slowly removing meat from your diet, start adding more vegetables, nuts and seeds which are all rich in protein and other essential nutrients. If you are not sure how to start and what to buy, you can start with building a healthy pantry (you can find it here). And remember: ‘out of sight, out of mind’. If you only keep healthy and wholesome ingredients in your pantry and fridge, this is what you gonna eat.
- Get Creative
You can still have delicious meals without the meat and be completely satisfied. I never thought I could live without cheese but now I don’t really crave it and I found great swaps for it (like nutritional yeast). Learning to cook vegetarian meals is easy and you don’t have to be eating the same boring stuff all the time. Pick your favourite meals and make them vegetarian. Swap the meat for mushrooms, cauliflower, tofu, tempeh and etc…Sure, it will take some time until you adapt your taste with the vegetarian options but you’ll find out that most food will have a lot more flavour once you give up on meat and on processed food.
- Give Yourself Some Time
Be gentle and patient with your body and mind. Sometimes it can be challenging to make a switch or maybe you’ll slip on a bit of meat accidentally (guilty!) but that’s alright. Learn to allow yourself to do things at your own pace and don’t rush anything if you don’t feel ready yet. Usually the first steps take between 1 to 6 months. Take your time and keep going.
- Talk to Your Family & Friends
It’s always easier if you have the understanding of your family and friends around you to achieve your goal. Explain why you’d like to become vegetarian/vegan or simply reduce your meat-intake and ask for support. I understand that some people will think you are crazy or you are going to get sick, but be patient and ask for their understanding. It’s easier to have an open conversation about it and explain the reasoning behind your decision. Stay strong and believe in your journey.
- Look For Support & Ask Questions
It’s important to be sure of what you are doing and if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask. There’s lots of places where you can get support, information and share experiences. My community is one of these places where you can talk to other like-minded people about your journey and talk to others that also have the same goal.
In any case, every person will have a different way to switch to a vegetarian or completely plant based diet. The most important thing to know is that you are sure about your decision. If you have this settled in your heart, everything else will follow with a lot more ease. If you still are not sure, learn more about it, read and even watch documentaries (these ones literally changed my life). It will open your eyes to the reality our planet is facing right now, so you can also make part of the change and help shape the future for the better.
Peace & Love,