10 Things I Wished I Knew Before Becoming a Vegetarian
Whether it is for dietary or ethical reasons, going vegetarian is a delicate personal decision. I used to think that my diet was just a small part of my daily life, but after quitting meat and animal products, I have come to realize that food is a social activity, and as such, it affects our relationships with other people and with ourselves.
Even now, when we have access to a lot of dietary information (thanks to the internet), there are a lot of myths and prejudice surrounding this diet. You might have heard rumors about vegetarianism making you feel weak. You might also have been told that it is expensive.
The truth is, not everyone has access to vegetables or other fresh ingredients, but that fact applies for any type of diet. Also, a well-planned vegetarian diet will not affect your body in any negative way, as long as you find the right substitutes and use ingredients that provide nutritional value.
If you're willing to get rid of animal products in your meals, there's a discipline obstacle you'll need to hurdle. After all, you might be used to certain flavors and textures. Giving up some dishes might seem like too big of a challenge or a hassle, but it's not impossible.
What to Know Before Becoming a Vegetarian
- You don't have to go to special restaurants.
- You will open yourself to new flavors.
- Substitution is key.
- The hardest thing is the cravings.
- You will be more sensitive towards animal rights.
- You can still gain weight.
- You may need a specialist's help.
- A lot of people will tease you.
- You might succumb to temptation a few times.
- It is easier than you think.
1. You don't have to go to special restaurants.
For me, becoming a vegetarian was a process. I started cutting down on the amount of animal products in my diet little by little. This was fine when I was at home and could plan my meals, but it became a challenge when I went out to eat with friends. Since I was used to ordering the same items from the menu, I usually caved and ordered regular dishes. That said, with discipline, you'll be able to choose vegetarian options, which are available at most restaurants.
2. You will open yourself to new flavors.
Let's be honest, most of us don't eat tofu or soy on a daily basis. But, when you force yourself to replace some items in your diet, you'll most likely branch out in search for new ingredients, which often leads to discover new flavors. You'll like some of these flavors and hate others, but the important thing is to keep expanding your culinary horizon.
3. Substitution is key.
There is a myth about vegetarianism being a bland diet, composed mainly of salads and boring dishes. The truth is that there is almost always a way to make a vegetarian version of your favorite dishes. For example, you can substitute ground meat for crumbled tofu or make hamburgers with black beans. The key is to take your favorite recipes and, by twisting small details, to make them fit into your new lifestyle.
4. The hardest thing is the cravings.
As I explained before, I try to plan my meals ahead of time. But, sometimes, especially at work or after a tiring routine at the gym, I am desperate to eat something and I don't have home made food within reach. Luckily, you can think ahead and buy snacks or sweets and carry a few around so that you don't run to the nearest restaurant.
5. You will be more sensitive towards animal rights.
If you are changing your diet because of ethical reasons, it will be easier to refrain from eating meat because you will be unable to dissociate the food from the suffering of the animal. In my experience, it is hard to see people on social media reacting to or sharing videos that show animals being mistreated or tortured to be turned into food. I cannot simply forget all about it when I watch someone else order or buy meat products.
6. You can still gain weight.
A lot of people have asked me if I have lost weight since changing to vegetarianism. If I'm being honest, the answer is no. Bread and pasta are my favorite comfort foods and I still consume a lot of cheese, so my meals are not always on the healthier side of the scale. If you are cutting out meat in order to lose weight, keep in mind that you will still have to make an effort to stay fit.
7. You may need a specialist's help.
While it's not necessarily true that vegetarianism is damaging to your health, not everyone can transition on their own. If you have anemia, are pregnant, or have a significant health condition, the best thing you can do is consult a nutritionist or your family doctor before making any drastic changes in your eating routine.
8. A lot of people will tease you.
I'm sure there are some radical vegetarian/vegan people out there trying to convert everyone else to the lifestyle, but so far, I have encountered far more carnivores that seem to have an opinion about my eating habits. From mocking your meals to “tempting” you to eat some meat, you will be teased to no end. My advice is to simply focus on what's on your plate and not pay any mind to the mean comments.
9. You might succumb to temptation a few times.
If you decide to go “cold turkey” on meat, congratulations, you already have a stronger will than I. But, if you choose to do so progressively, you might find that sometimes you sneak a hog dog or a piece of ham into your plate every now and then. I don't recommend cheating on your diet, but you also shouldn't be too hard on yourself. You need to understand that no one is judging you or testing your discipline.
10. It is easier than you think.
Once you get over the first meals, you realize going vegetarian is not so complicated. If you maintain your habits, plan your meals, and stick to your goals, pretty soon you will realize that changing your diet is not as impossible as you once thought it was.
- "Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Vegetarian diets". Journal of the American Dietetic Association. October 27, 2014.
- "Vegetarian and vegan eating | Better Health Channel". Betterhealth.vic.gov.au. April 2, 2015.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.