Have you ever considered going vegetarian? Vegan? Have you ever been discouraged by seven dollar vegan cheese or questionable looking meat alternatives? Me too. I used to want to be vegan, but a lack of time, resources, and motivation killed that pipe dream before I could even begin.
For a little context, I’ve been vegetarian for the last 8 years. Long story short, it started with my sisters badgering my mother about trying it until she finally made the decision to start, and we’ve been that way ever since. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the dilemmas of how I’m possibly going to get protein without meat.
Which, can I just say, is meat-eater propaganda? It’s almost a fact by now that Americans eat far more protein than is necessary for an average, everyday diet. One chicken breast is nearly two thirds of your needed daily protein intake, and you get small amounts from almost anything you’re eating. Nuts, eggs, select vegetables, milk, and dairy-free milk alternatives that you consume throughout the day will easily add up to the necessary amount.
“How do I start?” I hear you asking. I may have failed veganism miserably, but in my opinion, being vegetarian is far easier, cheaper, and to begin, all you have to do is stop eating meat. I know how it sounds; easier than it is. However, gradually cutting meat out of your diet is a good way to start. I recommend “Meatless Mondays”, which, as the name would imply, involves foregoing meat on the first day of the week. This is a low-commitment way to start small, and when you feel that one day without meat is effortless, move up to two. Then three, then four, and then eventually, you’ll have cut it out altogether. This is also a great way for your body to adjust to such a change, because for some people, it can feel very drastic depending on your diet and reactions to change.
Okay, so that’s the first step, but what are you supposed to eat instead of meat? While fake “meat” or meat substitutes (like Beyond Burgers, Impossible, etc.) may be tempting, and it can be helpful in the beginning, they almost defeat the purpose of vegetarianism. They have as many if not more of the nasty preservatives and chemicals that we’re trying to avoid by not eating meat. However, this all depends on why it is that you want to become vegetarian, which is something you’ll have to think about and do some soul-searching for. Instead, try making your own substitutions from things like beets, lentils, beans, and other vegetables and legumes. If you’d like to actually enjoy being vegetarian, I’d recommend learning how to cook tofu well. As many know, making a raw cube of tofu delicious is a feat of mastery and something you’ll probably never get right. I’m still trying, so good luck and get practicing.
As far as vegetables go, get used to them, because that’s going to be the majority of your diet. Zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli, green beans, bell peppers, beets, and sweet potatoes are all delicious veggies that are very good for you, but this isn’t gospel. Eating the same four vegetables forever is going to drive you crazy. As a long-time vegetarian, this gets really old really fast. One of the best ways to keep things fresh is to make a habit of buying produce you’ve never seen before when they pop up in the grocery store. Yellow beets, purple carrots, watermelon radish, dragon fruit; if you’ve never seen it, try it! You might just find your new favorite vegetable. Another way is to find new and different ways to use the produce you have, which brings us to the next point.
Obviously the internet will be one of the best resources at your disposal, but I’ve found a few pieces of literature to help you along your journey. The best series of cookbooks I’ve found is Thug Kitchen, which is a humorous romp through a menagerie of the most delicious recipes you can think of. If you’re interested in a more holistic approach to cooking, or you’d like some Ayurvedic-based recipes, I highly recommend any of the Shoshoni cookbooks, The Shoshoni Cookbook, The Kitchen Goddess, and Yoga Kitchen are all incredible books with amazing vegetarian recipes. These three cookbooks come out of the Shoshoni Yoga Retreat in Rollinsville, Colorado, which is a gorgeous mountain ashram and meditation retreat near Boulder. They are entirely self sustained, meaning they grow their own produce, raise their own chickens and goats for eggs and milk, and generally provide all their food sustainably and independently, which means they know a thing or two about food. Another holistic cookbook based off Yogic - more specifically Ayurvedic - principles is How To Eat For How You Feel. Based off balancing your body in relation to, very literally, how you feel mentally and physically - this book is another take on how to approach a meatless diet, in order to support your internal balance.
While starting out as a vegetarian can be a bit overwhelming, it really is a great choice for not only the planet, but your health as well. I hope these tips were helpful, and I wish you the best on your foire into vegetarianism!
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