Have you been considering adopting a vegetarian or plant-based diet? If so, you’re not alone. With each passing year, more and more people make the decision to eliminate or significantly reduce the amount of animal protein in their regular diets. However, starting a new dietary habit often requires some motivation and conviction if you want to be able to stick with it for the long-run. Here are some of the most common reasons why people start a vegetarian diet:
So, why a vegetarian diet?
- Reduce fat. While meat provides protein, it does so with higher amounts of saturated fat that increase your risk of heart disease. Research shows that those following a plant-based diet have a lower risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.
- Weight loss. When you follow a healthy, plant-based diet, you’ll consume less fat and calories that contribute to fighting obesity.
- Boost daily nutrition. When you replace meat with nutrient-dense foods, like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains, you will increase your daily intake of essential vitamins and minerals resulting in better health and more energy.
- Respect for animals. Large-scale meat production often involves a high level of suffering and inhumane conditions for both animals and human workers. Reducing meat consumption sends a signal that you do not support these practices.
- Create a more sustainable environment. The meat industry frequently damages the environment through water usage, disposal of waste matter, the quantity of feed needed, and the amount of greenhouse gasses generated. Eating a plant-based diet is a more environmentally sustainable decision.
Adopting a Vegetarian Diet 101
Once you’ve determined your reasons for wanting to commit to a vegetarian diet, it’s time to dive in and start making changes. Here are some good suggestions for ways to start a plant-based diet:
- Read and research. There’s no shortage of books, blogs, and podcasts that explore vegetarian diets. Whether your interests lie in nutritional research, personal narratives or journalistic exposes, there’s something out there to pique your curiosity and keep you committed to your dietary choices.
- Save recipes! The internet has plenty of websites devoted to vegetarian cooking. Find a few sites that align with your cooking abilities and interests, and save the recipes you want to try. By having a few recipes, you’ll know what to buy when you’re out at the grocery store.
- Give Meatless Monday a try. Making a gradual transition to a vegetarian diet is a manageable way for many people to stay committed. Start with a popular initiative like Meatless Monday and then each week, add on an additional meatless day or meatless meal.
- Explore meat substitutions. If you find yourself missing the texture of meat, give tempeh, seitan or tofu a try. Take a look in the refrigerator or freezer case of your grocery store for a variety of plant-based “burgers,” “sausages” and “crumbles” that can be added to recipes for a meat-like experience.
- Frozen vegetables make it easy. Frozen produce is just as nutritious, if not more, than their fresh counterparts. The added benefit of frozen is that you can cook exactly what you need, and leave the rest in the freezer for another meal. Frozen vegetables help to contribute to a healthier body and planet by promoting a plant-based, Non-GMO diet that tastes great with minimal food waste.
- Plan ahead and cook extra. Once you find a few vegetarian recipes you enjoy, making a double batch will provide extra servings to place in the freezer for nights when you’re short on time. Keeping veggie friendly snacks such as granola, nuts, crackers, hummus, salsa, and tortillas can help you in putting together a quick lunch or snack.
- Track your intake of plant proteins. Avoiding meat, but eating more junk food is not nutritionally sound! Make sure your diet is varied and includes different kinds of protein sources such as vegetables, low-fat dairy, eggs, grains, beans, and nuts.
- Surround yourself with people who will support you. Chances are, there will be a few people in your life that will disapprove or question your commitment to a vegetarian diet. Having a few supportive friends or family members that want you to succeed is important. Many communities now have vegetarian social groups (check your local library, newspaper, or an online activity site like meetup.com) that provide a friendly and supportive network.
Most importantly, have fun with vegetarian recipes and experiencing the new flavors and tastes they will bring to your palate! Here at Tommy’s Superfoods, we are 100% supportive of your commitment to leading a healthier lifestyle and adding more vegetables to your daily diet. Be sure to visit our Recipes and Super Tips sections for delicious vegetarian recipes that you’ll enjoy making (and eating!) time and again.