Have you thought about becoming a vegetarian? Maybe one of your kids wants to stop eating meat? With a few simple changes, and a little planning you can easily become a vegetarian!
About 5 years ago my lovely husband was having a lot of stomach pain. (I personally think it was gall bladder but he doesn’t want to think about that.) He noticed that it seemed to coincide with every time he ate meat.
“Do you think we could cut out meat for a while and see if that helps?” he asked one night.
Well, let me tell you, I was all over that idea. You see I’ve never been a big fan of meat. In fact when I was a freshmen in high school I stopped eating red meat altogether. It was just a matter of personal preference, I wasn’t a fan of steak or roasts, just like some people don’t like broccoli. I didn’t eat any red meat for the next 10 years or so (except when I was pregnant… I craved Arby’s roast beef and Whoppers!) But over the years I’d started eating it again.
So when my husband suggested going vegetarian I jumped in with both feet. Quinoa, lentils, beans and veggies galore. I made him swear that if he wanted me to cook vegetarian food that he would try anything.
Now 5 years later we are still primarily eating a vegetarian diet. My husband does sometimes eat meat like pepperoni on a pizza or bacon bits on a baked potato. (I often joke he’s not a very good vegetarian!)
Why have we stuck to it?
We love how we feel, love the decrease in our grocery budget (seriously meat is pricey!) and we love that nothing has to die for us to eat. I honestly didn’t think I’d ever look at it that way but it started to dawn on my as the years have gone by. I am an animal lover and I think that has always been something that was in the back of my mind. That being said though I don’t judge anyone for their diet choices. My boys all still eat meat, for me it’s just all about personal preference.
Over the years a lot of people have asked me about how to become a vegetarian. They are curious about how to make the transition, what to cook, and how difficult it is to adjust. They are worried about if their kids will be on board, or if they’ll like the food choices.
But becoming a vegetarian isn’t difficult. In fact with just a little planning and adjustment you can be meatless in no time!
So here’s my guide for how to become a vegetarian!
-Ease Into Becoming a Vegetarian
Are you wanting to make the change but are uncomfortable with jumping in with both feet? Start with a couple of meals a week. Maybe make a habit of Meatless Monday until you get the hang of it. Or you can change one meal at a time. Make your breakfast meat free, then tackle lunch, and finally go for some vegetarian dinners. Making it gradual can be less stressful and it doesn’t seem like such a major change. Start learning how to plan meals that are healthy and nutrient rich and meat free. You don’t have to jump in with both feet, you can make changes a little at a time and it adds up to a change in your lifestyle
Your Plate Will Look Different With Vegetarian Meals
If you’re like our family your typical meal consists of a portion of meat, veggies and a side dish of grain. When you make the switch to vegetarianism the face of your plate changes. The veggie section gets larger and the grain may be the main dish. At first I tended to make a lot of patties, quinoa patties, black bean burgers, it helped with the transition. There are a lot of vegetarian versions of things you are used to like “meatloaf” or pot pie. So to ease through the adjustment you can find things that you normally eat and make a veggie version!
Don’t Force it on the Whole Family–
When you want to make a change it can be hard to get the whole family on board. It’s not a good idea to try and force it, you may end up with a lot of resistance and uneaten meals. If you ease into it things can go a lot smoother. You can also consider cooking things that can be served with or without meat. My two oldest sons have always been fine with my vegetarian experiments but my youngest isn’t always a fan. I try to keep things on hand for him that he likes, or dish his out before I add things like beans or lentils that he doesn’t like.
Learn Some Simple Vegetarian Swaps-
There are some ingredients that make becoming a vegetarian much easier. They are simple swaps that can turn a recipe from meat filled to meatless with just one ingredient. I love swapping lentils for ground beef, they are great in tacos, pasta sauce, and they are full of nutrients. You can add eggs to a lot of dishes like fried rice or lo mein to add protein where there isn’t meat. Beans are super versatile too, I love to add chickpeas to salads and black beans to tacos. Quinoa is also a very nutrient-rich ingredient that is easy to use in so many dishes. Once you experiment a little you’ll find swaps that you like the most and new ways to use them.
Tell Your Friends and Family
This is one you may not think of but it can be important. It’s not like you have to make a big announcement but if you’re invited to a cookout or a holiday dinner you’ll probably want to mention it, that way you don’t arrive to grilled steaks, confusion, and nothing for you to eat.
Take something you’ll eat–
Speaking of cookouts, holiday dinners or other gatherings… Say you’re headed to a potluck, or a cookout where you’re asked to bring a dish. Go with something that you’ll like to eat, that could end up serving as your main meal for the night. When I first became a vegetarian we had a swim banquet to attend and out of the huge table full of dishes there were very few that were meatless. I was glad I had brought a garbanzo bean salad that was filling and tasty! If you are going to a friend’s house or a family gathering offer to bring something. Often people aren’t sure what to do with the vegetarian so it can help to arrive with a dish you know you’ll like!
Be careful with your menu
When you first become a vegetarian it is super easy to end up eating pasta. All.The.Time. You’ll need to learn about meat alternatives so that your diet stays stocked with the protein you’ll need. It’s easy to turn to dishes that have meat in them meatless by just omitting the meat, but that doesn’t always make for a well-balanced meal. So it is important to learn about protein-rich foods that you can add to your diet in replacement of meat. Here is a great list of vegetarian protein sources to get you started. You can also check out my favorite vegetarian protein snack boxes for some great ideas for nutrient-rich snacks & light meals!
-Don’t be afraid to try new things–
Start pinning some vegetarian recipes (you can follow my vegetarian board here!) Download a couple of ecookbooks. Ask friends who are vegetarians what their go-to recipes are. Then get brave. You may encounter new ingredients and combinations that you’ve never tried- give it a go! You’ll probably encounter new textures and flavors, just stay open minded! When you first become a vegetarian you’ll have some hits and misses, it’s ok there is a bit of a learning curve as you figure out what you like and what you don’t. But don’t be afraid to try, you never know what you’ll discover!
Have you ever thought of going vegetarian? Maybe you’ve already made the switch, what made you do it? What’s your favorite meatless recipe?