Lately, a few friends have asked us about going vegetarian and we have lots to say on the matter. We’re pretty thoughtful about our own vegetarianism and are currently sliding into veganism. We have many reasons for this, but I’m skipping over that here and focusing on the practicals of how to become a vegetarian regardless of your reasons.
Don’t go cold Tofurkey.
Start by eating less meat. You’re much less likely to fall off the wagon and give up altogether if you take it slow. Try going meatless one day a week. Or for one meal of every day. Cut meat out of your home cooking and only eat meat when you’re dining out or at friends. Shift to only eating it at those major holidays that seem bereft without meat. Slowly you’ll find that you don’t miss it so much. You’ll discover that your friends don’t stop inviting you over just because of your eating habits. And if after all that you just can’t live without gyros? Then don’t. But don’t use gyros as an excuse to eat ham sandwiches.
Eat good (vegetarian) food.
There is lots of delicious food that is intended to be meatless. Don’t just skip the meat in recipes. And stay away from imitation meat products. They may taste like chicken to people who haven’t tasted chicken in five years, but you won’t be fooled. Instead try some of the unexplored meatless recipes in your favorite cookbook. Use fresh, in-season vegetables; they taste better. Find a vegetable you like and prepare it in your go-to cooking method: sautéed with pasta, stir-fried, tossed in an omelet, battered and deep-fried. When dining out, try ethnic foods from areas with large vegetarian populations, like Indian and Thai. Don’t settle for food you don’t enjoy. You can be vegetarian and never eat tofu, veggie burgers, soy crumbles, or bulgar. Remember that cheese, wine, and chocolate are vegetarian!
Over time, eating vegetarian may become habit. But there will always be situations, like smelling the neighbors’ grill, that make you rethink a restrictive diet. The best defense is to have a multitude of reasons for living meatless that are backed up by facts. There may be one single reason that motivates you to change your eating habits, but chances are there are quite a few reasons that further support your decision. Learn about different reasons for vegetarianism and seek out the facts, statistics and philosophies that ground your gut reactions. Being well educated also allows you to clearly explain your choice to curious friends and family.
For most people the decision to be vegetarian is based on priorities, morals, emotions, thoughts. But not taste. Therefore, take the time to form your decision when you can pay attention to your thoughts and feelings, not when you’re thinking about what would taste good for dinner that night. Before shopping, make a grocery list that reflects your choices. Before dining out, glance at menus online to confirm there are vegetarian options. Give others time to plan ahead too; let friends and family know what you’re not eating well before the meal. Springing your vegetarianism on someone at dinnertime can leave hosts feeling awkwardly unprepared and your dining partners feeling self-conscious. Instead, give warning, and offer to choose the restaurant or bring along a vegetarian side-dish for everyone.
Got more ideas? Have questions? Need recipes? Let us know!
This info is based on our own 10+ years of becoming vegetarian and from listening to Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals, speak. You can listen to him here.