It’s been over 15 years since I made the decision to become a vegetarian. This choice was made when I was very young (low middle school). For me the choice itself was simple. I didn’t really care for the taste of meat and my own morals/logical reasoning made the decision rather second nature. Overcoming a typical American cuisine, social pressure, and backlash from family was a much bigger issue as well as the mental hurdle in my adolescence.
I’ve heard it all. You can’t do it. It won’t last. You’re going to get sick. You can’t have heathy pregnancies while vegetarian. It’s just a faze. How do you not like meat? Great news, I’m here to tell you. YOU CAN DO IT! Take the leap into vegetarianism, you’ll be glad you did.
1. Do your research. See if vegetarianism is right for you. Also ask around you’d be surprised how many people don’t eat meat. In my family these were few and far between. When I was young I researched in books, checked online, read magazine articles, and looked at celebrities for examples. Now there’s so much information at your fingertips.
2. There’s different types of vegetarians or vegans. When I first started looking into vegetarianism I didn’t think I could do it. I liked dairy and eggs way too much and they were already a large portion of my diet. Then I found out there were Lacto Ovo and even Pesco vegetarians. I fall into the category of Lacto-Ovo(eggs and dairy). I have since cut a large portion of dairy out because there are so many affordable option now than 15 years ago. I’ve never understood how eating fish is considered vegetarian but hey who am I to judge.
3. Be Prepared: at some point in your vegetarian journey people will question. judge, and mock your decision. You’ll just have to power through. What others think doesn’t really matter. For a while I thought something was wrong with me because aside from the occasional chicken nuggets or turkey sandwich I really wanted nothing to do with meat. Stick to your guns.
4. Read Labels and Ask Questions: Just like anything else meat and animal products hide in just about anything. One time I found anchovies listed in a nacho cheese sauce or ground chicken powder in crackers. Restaurants also put things like chicken broth or bacon bits in a lot of things just ask and send back if necessary. It happens. If you accidentally eat something you weren’t supposed to. It’s okay. It will not be the end of the world and it will probably happen again.
5. Get-togethers: Get used to bringing a side or entree that’s vegetarian approved and that others will enjoy. No one wants to always make something just for that ‘one,’ person. So you might as well make sure you have something you like to eat. After a while people will likely get more invested in what you can have especially if you are always willing to pitch in.
6. Health: I’m no health professional but there are ways to live a healthy vegetarian lifestyle, but be careful. Especially if you have a very meat rich diet when transitioning to your new lifestyle. I’ve known a lot of people who did get sick or get malnourished when suddenly attempting vegetarianism. Most of these people were treating it as a crash diet or did not do their research or were not eating enough of the right foods. Just eating bad foods such as sweats will do you no good. If you are trying to become a vegetarian and are worried about negative health effects talk to a doctor or nutrition specialist. Keeping your diet balanced, full of vitamins, proteins, and iron go a long way. While I was still in adolescence I would occasionally take iron. During pregnancy I took prenatal vitamins+iron and DHA. Now I take B12 vitamins. During both full term pregnancies I always had healthy weight gain, sugar levels were normal, blood pressure was great, my iron was at normal levels, and I had two healthy babies.
7. False Information Some people really have no idea what they’re talking about. When in doubt look it up.
8. Weird Questions: you’ll have people who know nothing about vegetarianism and then those who are genuinely curious.
So what do you eat?
Me: Whatever I want.
What does your husband think about this?
Me: What does your husband think about what you eat?
How do you make dinner?
Me: The same way everyone else does.
Do you touch the meat?
Me: Uh… Sometimes.
Don’t you just crave a cheeseburger?
Me: No I haven’t eaten one in like over 20 years. I didn’t like it then and probably won’t now.
When’s the last time you had a big juicy steak?
9. It’s Not for Everyone: If it’s a struggle it’s probably not for you. There’s a plethora of meat substitutes out in the world and if those aren’t satisfying your meat craving then it’s okay. There’s also no one saying you can’t have a heavily vegetarian diet with meat every now and again. I always get the feeling that people think all vegetarians believe all meat eaters are terrible. It really does not bother me to watch someone eat meat, it doesn’t bother me to see an animal get killed or butchered, and I really don’t have an issue with cooking meat for my very non vegetarian husband. I also have no intentions of forcing vegetarianism on my children. They both eat meat, but they are both really picky eaters so who knows.
10. Meat Substitutes. I do not eat anything that looks like meat or has a meaty texture. I won’t eat a veggie burger, watermelon steak, or tofu chicken nuggets. Am I the only one out there that doesn’t eat the ‘fake stuff?’ I seriously have no interest in it. I also have no meat cravings with the exception of liking the smell of fried chicken every now and again. (I think it’s more of the fried batter, but you get the smell I’m talking about.)