Updated: Oct 16, 2021
Have you been thinking about going vegetarian but don't know where to start?
It's not as hard as you may think-- your life will be better for it! As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, the need for vegetarian meals has risen tremendously. Vegetarian food is not only healthier, but it is also more sustainable for our planet because less land is required to grow crops compared to livestock.
First off, which are the different branches of vegetarianism?
The vegetarian diet has evolved over the years since it originated in ancient times. There are several branches of vegetarianism that people will generally classify themselves as being either ovo-lacto, pesco-lacto and vegans. On the basis of whether or not you eat eggs and dairy, the vegan branch refers to people who don't use any animal products in their diet at all.
The main branch of vegetarianism is vegans. The largest group of vegans are lacto-ovo vegetarians, who basically eat a vegetarian diet but also consume eggs and dairy products (eg. milk, cheese, yogurt).
Vegetarian diet patterns are based on the type of foods you choose to consume while remaining a vegetarian and these diets will determine what type you fall into.
Let's start with preparation
There are a few things that you will want to consider.
1. Training Videos & DVDs - This is almost essential to your transition into a vegetarian lifestyle. I would recommend purchasing one that deals with cooking and food preparation. Even if you are going to follow a non-vegetarian lifestyle you will want to learn how to cook vegan dishes.
2. Cook Books - I found it very helpful to have a selection of books with me while I was transitioning into the vegetarian lifestyle. The one that really helped me the most was Vegan Cooking for the Soul. This book has a lot of great recipes and it is easy to follow.
3. Knowledge - You are going to need to be educated on what you can and cannot eat. You will want to know what vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you are lacking. There is a lot of information on this subject but a good place to start is with The Vegetarian Resource Group.
4. If you are going to make the switch to cold turkey you may want to also have some food with you that will help out in the beginning. A few ideas are vegetarian meat, nutritional yeast, and soy protein powder.
5. Find a good local health food store, I would recommend Whole Foods or Trader Joe's for the best prices. You will be able to get a lot of deals on bulk foods and produce.
You are going to want to start stocking up on foods that are vegetarian and vegan-friendly such as whole grains, legumes (beans), tofu, seitan, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables, and nutritional supplements. There are many other items that can be helpful in your new life as a vegetarian. I found that certain products were better or more preferred to me than others, but it is all up to you.
Just remember when you are buying meat and dairy-free items that the soy and tofu will often give off an odor when cooking; so if you are going to cook them combine them with other products such as garlic so they don't overwhelm the dish.
I found that becoming a vegetarian was very difficult at first, but I had tons of support from my family and friends. It was not easy to break the habits we were used to. It was important for me to have my support system with me and I could feel better about myself when I had their support.
Since making the change into a vegetarian lifestyle there have been many ups and downs. The hardest part is getting your family and friends on board with the idea. This can take a lot of work and some convincing. I found that it was very important to find people who understood my decision and supported me throughout the entire process.
I have noticed a lot of benefits since making the change into a vegetarian lifestyle. First off I had more energy and I didn't feel as sluggish as before. The biggest improvement was with my acne; I have struggled with acne for years and it has finally gone away. I feel healthier than ever before.
So, how do you actually do this?
Educate yourself: Read books, talk to people, and talk to others about the foods. Ask yourself:
What are you going to eat?
Do you want to become a vegetarian or do you prefer vegan?
Do you want to eat a certain way for a limited time, such as for two weeks?
Do not worry about making something complex - simply choose one food at a time and stick to it.
Once you've made the switch:
Follow a vegetarian diet.
Don't keep meat around your house, if you have to buy it for dinner parties, then go out and get it at the store.
If you're in a hurry, look for foods that don't require cooking - potato chips or granola bars for example - they're not good food choices but they are quick and easy when you're in a rush. I also like to make smoothies or buy salads from Whole Foods or Trader Joe's.
If you're at work, keep a healthy snack on your desk so you don't get too hungry until lunchtime.
Don't worry about eating the same thing over and over again, just try and make informed choices and you'll soon have a routine that works for you.
Different foods have different effects on the body:
Eggs are a great source of protein, and a lot of vegetarian folks like to have them in their diets.
Soy products like tofu and miso are lower in fat, sodium, cholesterol, and calories than animal products.
Look for whole grains whenever possible - they're high in fiber but low in calories.
Remember that many breakfast kinds of cereal are loaded with saturated fat (the bad kind).
If you get advice that seems to be going against what you've read or heard, don't necessarily dismiss it - there are many nutritional theories out there.
Why is vegetarianism sustainable?
By eating a vegetarian diet you will not only protect animals from being killed for your dinner, but you will also be contributing to the sustainability of the world. The damaging effects that animal agriculture has on the environment are well documented. Making small changes in how we eat can have a significant impact on our planetary health.
Here are just a few ways that being vegetarian can help:
Reducing the carbon footprint of your lifestyle.
Reducing fossil fuel emissions, which is an important step in efforts to combat climate change.
Protecting water and wildlife.
Promoting conservation of biodiversity. As more and more people go vegan, demand for meat will decrease and provide a sustainable way of life for farmers.
Seek out sustainably grown products, including organic fruits and vegetables, free-range eggs, and grass-fed beef.
Why is it good for your health?
Vegetarian diets are also better for human health than meat-centered ones. This is how being vegetarian would improve your health:
Lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer. Vegetarian diets focus on a greater variety of plant foods that contain protective substances called phytochemicals.
Lower total body mass index, leaner body silhouette, smaller waist, and hips.
A sense of spiritual well-being.
How can you change your diet?
Being a vegetarian is not an all-or-nothing type of change: You can make small changes that will have an immediate positive effect on your health and the environment. There are many ways to make small changes in your diet.
Buy only organic or local produce when possible.
Avoid fast-food restaurants - instead make a list of places you can go for breakfast, lunch, or dinner while traveling and take it with you.
Make a vegetarian meal at home every now and again. This could be a whole meal or just one dish. Choose the ingredients that you will eat that day, but put the rest in the freezer, and make it whenever you want.
Eat smaller portions of meat or animal products when you eat out at a restaurant.
If you have a vegetarian friend, invite them to your house for dinner, and if possible take them to a fast-food restaurant.
Read labels on food items when you're shopping: many of the chemicals that are in common foods can be harmful. Be sure to avoid synthetic fertilizers, artificial sweeteners, and other unnatural additives (you can also check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for reputable sources).
Save your own food scraps for use in your garden - you'll get daily fiber, minerals, and microorganisms that will help make you healthier.
What is considered healthy?
In general, an important component of health for individuals is protein. This has been said to be a food that is crucial for growth and health.
In a study published by the New York Times, high protein foods are now being found to have some risks associated with them. Researchers are now finding out that eating large amounts of protein can be bad for you in two ways:
First, there is the issue of your kidneys. Your kidneys are responsible for removing waste and excess water from your body. The problem with getting too much protein is that it can be very difficult for your kidneys to remove the waste products that are created when proteins are broken down in the body. These waste products can end up as acids in the blood, which causes even more problems for the kidneys.
Second, there is the issue of your bones. They are important in growing children and those who have lived a long time.
Among the foods that contain protein that is shown to be problematic for people with kidney disease are tuna, sardines, crab legs, and oysters. Remember that you must eat a balanced diet in order to avoid malnutrition. One of the main benefits of getting enough protein in your diet is that it will help build and repair muscle tissues. If you are eating too much protein, you will be losing your strength and feeling much sicker as these acids build up in the bloodstream.
When people eat too much protein, they can also lose calcium from their bones. The osteoporosis that is associated with getting too little calcium is known as bone loss. Too much protein can also cause gallstones which are hard lumps that make it harder for the body to release bile into the intestines for digestion. In addition to the above, there are other nutrients that you need for healthy bones. These include Vitamin D and Vitamin K2.
Another way that you can protect your bones is to do weight-bearing exercises, like walking, jogging, or weight training.
What are some good sources of protein that are not harmful? The New York Times article suggests that vegans may have more difficulty avoiding high levels of protein than vegetarians or those who eat meat.
How to eat delicious vegetarian food?
Vegetarianism can also be a delicious way of eating. You can eat various types of dishes made by vegetarian chefs. It requires some effort to create such a dish but it will be delicious and healthy. You are not restricted to simple vegetables in the kitchen. You can try various kinds of dishes made with different ingredients in order to find out what you like.
Here is a variety of vegetarian dishes that you can try:
Potatoes, beans, and lentils are the basic ingredients. You can add them to a curry or make soup with them. Lentils are especially useful because they are small and can be added to many other dishes without being noticed.
Savory pies and cakes - The first-ever vegetarian pie was made in France around 1750, but the world's earliest known meat-free recipe is from 1788 and was published in London. They are easy to make. You only need some patience because they need some time to bake.
You may want to add some cheese and/or tofu into it, depending on the filling you choose and the culture you have grown up in. Some people like to bake only part of the pie with meat (usually a chicken), and then add cheese on top for a vegetarian pizza.
Vegetable curry is also a very popular dish served in restaurants around the world. It can be made in different ways based on what spices you like (eg. Indian curry), but the basic ingredients are the same: onion, potato, carrots, beans, and lentils.
In Persian cuisine, you can add a bunch of sauteed vegetables on top of rice or make thick soup with vegetables. Persian food is a blend of herbs and spices that come from many different countries such as Italy, Spain, and India.
Food made from grains (cereals) is also very popular in vegetarian restaurants such as Ethiopian food, Chinese food, and Japanese food.
The best dishes are normally found in restaurants where vegetarian dishes are made 100% by vegetarians. They know what is healthy and tasty. There is a variety of tasty food available just for you. I hope you will try these tasty vegetarian recipes sometime soon. Bon appetit!
How to make Vegetarian Lasagna
This recipe for vegetarian lasagna is a real crowd-pleaser. It is a more filling meal as it contains zucchini, and spinach as well as lasagna noodles. The recipe takes about 45 minutes to make and will serve 8 people. This vegetarian lasagna recipe would be wonderful served with a green salad, garlic bread, or garlic toast on the side.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 (14.5 ounces) jars of marinara sauce
8 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, chopped
1 pound noodles
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
10 ounces spinach, stems removed, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups assorted grated vegetables (zucchini, mushrooms, peppers), divided
DIRECTIONS: Cook the noodles according to the directions on the package. Drain the water and rinse the noodles with hot water until ready to use. Heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add in the spinach and cook, stirring frequently, until it is wilted. Add in the remaining ingredients (except the noodles) and cook for 5 minutes.
Brown Rice Casserole
Brown Rice Casserole is a wonderful seasonal dish when it is in season. It makes an excellent main course when served with warm crusty bread for dipping in tomato sauce. You can also serve it with chopped tomatoes or salad on the side. This recipe serves 6 people and takes about 45 minutes to make.
1/2 cup brown rice, cooked according to package directions
16 ounce can baked beans, drained
1 1/2 cups crushed pineapple, drained
1 tablespoon ketchup
3 tablespoons honey or jam
DIRECTIONS: Mix together the rice and beans. Spread this mixture into a 9 x 13 baking dish. Pour the pineapple sauce over the top of the casserole and spread out evenly. Top this with ketchup and honey or jam to taste. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until heated through. Serve hot.
It's a great feeling to serve something that you've cooked, and even more if it's healthy food. Read our article below about Home Gardening in order to create an idea of why you should be growing your own home garden and how it can benefit your vegetarian diet and your healthy lifestyle.