More and more people are shifting to a vegetarian diet for a variety of reasons—whether it’s about improving one’s health, for religious reasons, or to help save the planet. But whatever the reason may be, if you want to go vegetarian, it’s important to have a plan. After all, it’s a major life change; it’s not as simple as just resolving to ban meat from the dinner table.
Here are eight tips to help you in your shift from omnivore to meat-free:
Do it gradually
Quitting meat isn’t like quitting smoking—you can’t just go cold turkey (excuse the pun). It is better to start eliminating meat slowly from your diet to give your body time to adjust. You can start by adding more vegetables and whole grains to your diet, letting you feel more full, before removing meat. Or maybe you can go lacto-ovo vegetarian first—someone who doesn’t eat meat, but still consumes eggs and dairy products.
Go for variety, especially when it comes to common ingredients
You will easily tire of a vegetarian diet if you always eat salad for each meal every day. That’s why it’s important to build a collection of meat-less recipes early on—so you can choose from a wide range of dishes to cook. For example, you can experiment with tofu one day; go for beans and greens for the next. There are so many fruits, vegetables, and even meat substitutes available that you won’t run out of ideas.
Going vegetarian doesn’t mean losing flavor, eating only vegetables boiled to blandness. In fact, it’s the perfect time to experiment with various herbs and spices to add new flavors to your veggies. That’s especially since many flavorings and sauces are vegetarian or have meat-free equivalents.
One such example would be the Vegan Mushroom Gravy from Tomas Test Kitchen. This recipe is the perfect replacement for the traditional gravy made from the drippings of meat dishes. Instead of those drippings, it utilizes red wine and vegetable broth—truly a healthier alternative.
Make the most out of the seasons
By that, we don’t mean hitting the beach in summer or going on a ski trip in winter. This simply means that you should cook with whatever vegetables and fruits are in season. Not only will this let you save a bit of money even while eating healthy—you won’t need to worry about the supply of produce, too. Hence, go for tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchinis in summer; cabbage, beets, brussels sprouts, and potatoes in winter.
Try new vegetables (or food based on vegetables)
There’s more to vegetables than lettuce, carrots, and cucumbers. Just like introducing new flavors to your usual food, you can experiment with unique ingredients, especially those coming from other parts of the world. Some interesting vegetables you can try are hearts of palm and bamboo shoots (popular in Asian cuisine). Or you can try vegetable-based items such as Korean kimchi and German sauerkraut. While these two ingredients are both made from cabbage, they taste so differently because of the ingredients used to ferment them.
Let friends and family know—and give them time to adjust
Of course, if you’re living with family or going out with friends, they need to know about your dietary restrictions. That’s why it’s important to tell them, especially if you’re not the one who cooks at home. When dining out with friends, you can ask them to choose a restaurant that has vegetarian options.
Sadly, not everyone is still open to the thought of people going vegetarian, so you have to give them time to adjust. You also need to make sure to tell them in a nice manner—don’t impose your vegetarian diet on other people. Remember that not all people can go full vegetarian. While you can advocate for your views, the choice of your food is not necessarily a religion you have to preach.
Go easy on yourself
It’s okay if, on some days, you can’t cook up a good vegetarian meal and just settle for making a simple salad. Being vegetarian is not a contest of who can make the best meatless dish. The most important thing is you stick to your chosen diet, even if you do go for the easy recipes. Besides, some of the best-tasting recipes are those that only took minutes to prepare!
Going vegetarian is tough—but it shouldn’t be miserable. By exploring new flavors, trying out new recipes, and experimenting with new ingredients, you’ll surely have a better dining experience even without meat.
With these eight tips, you’ll have an easier transition to being vegetarian to the extent that you’ll not even miss meat.