Small Steps to Becoming a Vegetarian
What Motivates People to Eat Vegetarian?
People become vegan or vegetarian for various reasons, more than most others seem to realize. It is assumed by many that vegetarianism is only for those who are animal activists and anti-hunters, however, this is simply not true. There are other reasons people decide to remove meat and animal products from their diet; from wildlife conservation, water conservation, to humanitarian reasons.
What are the differences between vegans and vegetarians? Not everyone agrees on the definitions, but in short, vegetarians do not eat meat or flesh. Some still eat eggs and consume dairy. Vegetarians are also sometimes confused with Pescatarians who only consume fish for the meat portion of their diet. Vegans, on the other hand, do not eat, wear, or use any product that contains ingredients that were used with or tested on animals. Honey is even off limits to vegan, as it was produced by an animal, an insect.
Vegans also avoid foods that contain ingredients such as palm oil, a major cause of habitat and wildlife destruction.
Changing your eating habits isn't easy, but if you take small steps you CAN succeed.
1. Stop Eating One Animal Product at a Time
One of the hardest things for people to do is quit cold turkey, no pun intended. Instead, I suggest eliminating one thing at a time from your diet. Start with heavy meats such as beef and pork, if you bought it from a grocery store its most likely loaded up with hormones and antibiotics. I also highly recommend eliminating milk from your diet. When I did, I lost weight, my skin cleared up, and I felt an all-around improvement. My decision was based on personal health reasons and I believe it made a difference.
If you aren't ready to stop eating dairy, that's okay. Another personal decision I made was for the animals. I don't approve of the way milk is produced in our grocery stores or the cruelty involved, so I stopped buying it. However, if you can find a local farmer, who you know by name and are able to see exactly where your food comes from, then I say go for it. For example, I know someone who raises chickens. She takes excellent care of them and is able to use their eggs rather than the store bought ones.
Keep in mind, most vegans do not believe in the use of animals for profit. Even if you do not intend to eat the eggs that your chickens produce, it is not considered vegan if you use them for income. Again, Veganism does not end at dietary needs.
Take it slow and look for advice from others who have successfully made the change. Although I choose not to consume dairy, as it upsets my body, I believe it is important to support local farmers, as they are the better alternative to grocery stores.
If you slip up, don't look at it as a failure. Remind yourself why you decided to make this choice and avoid it in the future.
Easy Vegetarian Snacks
- Baked Lemon-Pepper Zuchini Chips- Just slice the zuchini into thin pieces, put them on a baking sheet and add some lemon-pepper flavoring . Put into the oven at 325 degrees Farenheit. Wait 15-30 minutes (depending on your oven power) and check on it every 5-10 to make sure they don't burn.
- Ants On A Log- Your old snack from kindergarten..a little peanut or almond butter on some celery. Add some raisins and you've got a healthy snack!
Where Will I Get My Protein?
- Nuts such as: Peanuts, Cashews, Almonds, Walnuts
- Greens such as: Spinach, Brocolli
- Chia Seed and Flax Seed
- Vegan Peanut Butter or Almond Butter
2. Ensure That You Are Getting All Your Vitamins
Have you ever seen horror stories on the news about a person who tried to go vegan or vegetarian? They generally end up malnourished or severely harming themselves. Most of the time, this is because they were unaware of which things to eat and how to balance nutrition with their new eating habits.
Please do your research, when you take away the things you usually eat, meat, eggs, milk, you are also taking away the nutrition that they provide. Calcium for example can be found in spinach, but you need to make sure that you are eating enough of it, or other calcium rich greens, to replace what you lose in the milk.
When I made the change, I started taking a daily vitamin to keep myself healthy and allow my body to adjust. B12 is responsible for keeping your blood cells healthy, and a deficiency in this vitamin is a major reason why people end up in the hospital.
3. Surround Yourself With Supportive People
In my experience, lack of support from friends and family is a primary reason why people find themselves failing and discouraged when it comes to changing their habits and choices. Many of your peers will not understand your decision or reasoning, and that's okay. Not everyone will support you, what's important that you find people who will. Find farmers markets, volunteer activities and clubs in your area. More often than not you'll start to meet people who share your morals, interests, and their own reasons for going green.
4. Find Restaurants That Offer Vegetarian Meals
Fortunately for us, the 2000's have opened up a whole new world of options for those who want to have dinner out, but don't want to break their good eating habits. However, finding restaurants can be difficult depending on where you live. The good news is that you can look for cultures that cater to plant based diets, vegans, and vegetarians. Vietnamese cuisines are a great source for a veggie-laden meal. Main ingredients can include tofu, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, mung bean sprouts and peppers.
5. Miss the Meat Texture? There Are Plenty of Substitutes!
- Bean Patties- can be a mixture of anything from black beans, corn, avocado, peppers, mushrooms, carrots, and other veggies.
- Chickpea patties
My favorite substitutes are usually the bean patty mixtures; they are flavorful and have lots of protein, one or two will fill me up. If you have cavities or sensitive teeth, I would not recommend the chickpea patties. There are sometimes harder pieces that can be unexpectedly painful if you have either of the above problems with your teeth, keep that in mind when biting into one. Not everyone will have this experience, but I've cracked a tooth on a patty that was under-cooked.
Vegan Carrot Cake
6. Try Different Kinds of Milk
You would be surprised at how many different substitutes there are for cow and goat milk, these are just a few!
- Almond Milk
- Cashew Milk
- Soy Milk
- Rice Milk
- Hemp Milk
I personally prefer almond milk because of the smooth texture. It comes unflavored, or you can buy chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla. I like the vanilla HEB brand, sometimes you have to play with the brands as they each have their own taste.
What kind of diet do you practice?
7. Read As Much As Possible
This article is only intended to help people transition, I am not a nutritionist and I cannot tell you what's best for your body. Everyone has different needs, I chose to change for moral and health reasons, but I took my time and did my research. If you are unsure of anything consult your doctor.
Don't Become Discouraged
If you eat vegan for a few weeks, and happen to slip and eat a burger, don't beat yourself up over it. Acknowledge it and move on, the best thing you can do from here is start fresh and try, try again until you succeed.