Going Vegetarian: First Steps

Becoming a vegetarian is something that many people have been choosing to do, especially as of more recently. Vegetarianism isn’t a diet craze like some people might expect but rather a lifestyle change.

Choosing to become a vegetarian can happen for a variety of reasons, but if you are looking to become one yourself, it is best to know where to start.

Oftentimes, you are eating a vegetarian diet certain days without even realizing it. Spaghetti sauce with pasta, a meatless salad, or even a grilled cheese sandwich are all vegetarian. For some people, a vegetarian diet can be implemented in just a few short steps. To find out these important steps to becoming a vegetarian, continue reading below.

Know Your Reasons Why

Becoming a vegetarian might be easy for some by incorporating more vegetables, no meats and more fruit. However, the difficulty might be in staying a vegetarian. This is why it is important to know your reasons for becoming a vegetarian. When your reasons do not justify time and dedication it takes to be a vegetarian, then you might not be a vegetarian for long. Common reasons for becoming a vegetarian include:

  • Health.
  • Animal welfare.
  • Diet.
  • Religion.
  • Environment.

There will be many reasons in which you are considering being a vegetarian, but usually the more substantial reasons will help you stick to a vegetarian diet. For instance, choosing to become a vegetarian for health reasons versus just to lose weight will usually end up being more of a long-term change rather than just for someone looking for a quick fix. Additionally, when someone becomes a vegetarian because of a love of animals, it tends to become a long-term deciding factor rather than just a momentary change. Knowing why you want to become a vegetarian and valuing the change within your life will be a great place to begin.

Cutting Out Certain Foods

The next step to becoming a vegetarian is to cut out all the foods that vegetarians choose not to incorporate into their diets. Foods that vegetarians do not eat, involve:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Pork

These are the foods that most people know to omit in order to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. However, there are other food items that many new vegetarians are unaware that they shouldn’t be eating. These foods include the following:

  • Gummy candy – contains gelatin
  • Caesar dressing – contains anchovies
  • Worcestershire sauce – contains anchovies
  • Refried beans – contains lard
  • Tortillas – contain pork fat
  • Some pie pastry – contains lard
  • Marshmallows – contains gelatin
  • Some peppermint candies – contains gelatin

Gelatin is a gelling and thickening agent that is added to certain foods in order to give them a smooth mouthfeel. Yet, what many new vegetarians should know is that gelatin is made from the skin, bones, and hooves of animals. So while you might think that a product is vegetarian because it doesn’t seemingly have animal products, make sure to check for gelatin, too.

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Lard also is a product to watch out for. Added to many different baked products to make a flaky crust, lard is actually made of rendered pork fat. Lard can also lead to increased cholesterol levels, which can lead to heart disease. The good news is that many products such as refried beans, tortillas, and pie pastry crusts are being made today without adding lard. All you need to do is make sure to check the ingredients first before you consume the products.

Do the Research

Before you begin your adventure into vegetarianism, you should start by researching the lifestyle and knowing necessary substitutions to consider in order to make the transition easier. Research the different types of vegetarianism, the health benefits, and recipes that can make being a vegetarian a swift decision. It can also be helpful when learning to research substitutions, by starting with one of your favorite recipes. Try to incorporate tofu, or replace the meat with a vegetable. Researching different substitutions for foods that you love that will no longer be a part of your diet can make the transition into being a vegetarian much simpler.

Researching the health benefits associated with vegetarianism is also a good idea, especially when health is not the reason why you are trying it. Sometimes knowing the ways in which being a vegetarian can help your body and your overall health can aid in maintaining the lifestyle change. Specific health benefits can include:

  • Reduced risk of heart disease.
  • Reduced risk of cancer.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.
  • Weight loss.
  • Decrease asthma symptoms.
  • Promotes bone health.

Start Slowly

Some people like to jump head first into things in order to make the change quickly. However, with vegetarianism, it is better to start off small and ease your way in. Before committing fully to vegetarianism, begin with something small like cutting out chicken or red meat. Some vegetarians begin with being pescatarian, which removes red meat and poultry, but leaves fish and seafood in the diet. A gradual transition into vegetarianism can be more beneficial rather than doing everything at once, which might make things feel hopeless. Conquering one meat product at a time will be much less overwhelming. Begin with the least healthy meat, which is red meat, and then move forward through the rest. After a few weeks of cutting out red meat, move on to cutting out chicken, then pork, and then seafood. Choose the appropriate amount of time for yourself that makes you feel most comfortable with the transition.

Another way to begin slowly is by incorporating at least one vegetarian meal into the mix every day. Eat one vegetarian meal for the first week, then two vegetarian meals for the second week, and so on until your entire diet is comprised of vegetarian meals.

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