10 Steps Toward Becoming a Vegetarian

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A little off topic for today, but I thought this article really might be helpful for some that are thinking of choosing the Vegetarian lifestyle.

Did you watch Forks Over Knifes and now you are thinking about making the transition to a vegetarian or vegan?  Are you thinking of all the animals who lives will be spared?  Are you thinking about your health?  Whatever the reason is for your decision to become vegetarian, it is essential that you prepare yourself before cutting out meat cold turkey.  Your body may be put in a shock and you will need to know what to expect.

What drives you:  Evaluate your reason for becoming a vegetarian.  What inspires you?  Why do you want to change your dietary decisions?  The biggest reason I made the decision to become a vegetarian is because I wanted to contribute the lives of the animals that are innocently slaughtered each year.  After being diagnosed with high blood pressure and allergic to beef, I also wanted to improve my health.  The importance of knowing what drives you in becoming a vegetarian will help you stay focused and on your path.

Educate yourself:  Anytime I make any decisions, I jump on the computer and start researching and learning as much as I can about being a vegetarian.  I started watching any documentaries I could get my hands on.  According to the author Amy Bradley, she lists the top documentary picks as Vegucated, Forks Over Knifes, Earthlings, The Cove, and Crazy Sexy Cancer.  I started reading blogs, magazines, and online articles.  Also, I researched new recipes online and how to transform my current recipes to vegetarian friendly.  By educating yourself, you are equipping yourself to make educated decisions.

Evaluate what you eat:  What meat meals can you make meatless? I was surprised to find that my meals consisted mostly of fast food, pizza, and cereal.  If you love spaghetti, then know that Boca has some amazing meatballs that you can integrate.  If you love burgers, the possibilities are limitless.  If you like sausage for breakfast, there are pretty delectable meatless substitutes as well.  I also like to use eggplant and mushrooms if I want a heartier meal especially with my Italian dishes.  I encourage you to try a new recipe once a week and it will teach you to not only try new foods, but that there really is not much of a difference after your body adjusts.

Protein:  Knowing the best sources of protein such as protein shakes, spinach, to hummus and edamame.  Incorporating protein to make up for the meat that you are eliminating is vital.  I personally like to drink a shake in the morning, a nice salad with spinach for lunch, and then a meat supplement with sides for dinner while incorporating two snacks of nuts and berries.  I must admit that since I have become a vegetarian, I have lost about forty pounds and continue to lose weight and get fit.  I am currently pescatarian which means that I have added fish back into my diet which I will divulge throughout.  I enjoy eating fish on Fridays, but don’t really eat it much throughout the week.  I was raised believing that fish was the freshest on Fridays, so that has been a tradition for me and my family.

Vitamins:  Taking vitamins as a vegetarian is crucial.  You can evaluate with your doctor to determine if you need more than a daily supplement, but I recommend taking one daily.   I know I personally take a daily vitamin and vitamin D supplement.

Joining support groups:  Getting advice from others is a big help.  There are online forums, Meetup groups, and vegetarian dating groups.  I joined a Vegetarian Meetup group from Meetup.com and met some new friends and enjoyed exploring really nice vegan/vegetarian restaurants around town.  I tried tofu for the first time, but it was not good to me.  But I did like trying other vegan options.  I also joined a cooking group and I learned a few new recipes that I love.  Joining a community really made me try harder at becoming vegetarian and gaining a healthier lifestyle choices.

Dealing with cravings:  The hardest thing for me was taking most fast food out of my diet.  I have always worked in very high stress and fast paced positions, so not having the easy access of eating out was really tough.  I mean you can eat cheese pizza and bean burritos, but the wide variety stops.  So planning my day and preparing my food in the morning was very different.  It took a while to adjust and many unplanned days very hectic.  Know if you are craving meat, you need a source of protein.  I really missed chicken, but after several months I learned to pack a protein sack which consisted of nuts and a protein bar to eat on the go.  I also explored with different brands such as Boca and Morning Star and found what products I liked the most.  And, I found chicken products that fill the void of a chicken-less life.

Stay in tune with your body:  Some of the best advice I got was from a friend who has been a vegetarian for over twenty years was that if your body feels deficient or lethargic and unhealthy, then I need to evaluate my diet immediately.  What does your body want?  What is it truly craving?  Sometimes I will crave a burger, and now I know that I am really craving protein, so I add more protein into my diet.  I notice now that I do not even crave meat and I have learned what I like and do not like.

Consultation with nutritionist: When I first made the decision to become a vegetarian, I started by cutting off red meat, which eventually led to cutting out all meat.  Within six months of being on a diet of cheese pizza and bean burritos, my body was screaming “HELP ME.”  I started to feel deficient and my hair was falling out more than usual.  I made the decision to add fish back into my diet.  So technically I am pescatarian, which is a sub-group of vegetarianism.  So anytime I tell a friend that I am a pescatarian and they share their interest, the first thing I recommend is discussing this with their nutritionist.  You can usually find a nutritionist through your doctor, but if not, you can usually find one through a hospital.  Also, you and your nutritionist can plan out weekly meal plans to ensure that you are getting all the nutrients and vitamins that your body necessitates.

Consultation with doctor:  After about three months of being a vegetarian, I began getting sick and could not fight off the colds.  I met with my doctor and when asked about changes in my diet, the doctor informed me that she wanted to run blood work.  She found out that I was vitamin D deficient.  If I had not gone to the doctor, I would have not known what was going on.  She said that if my body continues to stay in a state of deficiency that is ruins my health and causes more damage.  So I highly recommend meeting with your doctor and running necessary tests to ensure this is the best route for your body.

Good luck on your vegetarianism journey.  Please know that we all experience things differently and these tips are mostly reflective of my personal venture.  Stay focused, continue to educate yourself, and make a change in the world.

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