What’s your eating style? Would you like to move toward a more healthful diet? Are you concerned about the horrendous treatment of factory-farmed animals? Are you aware of the dwindling ability of Mother Earth to produce enough food for her inhabitants?
Have you thought about becoming a vegetarian? There is a world of reasons to go meatless, from health to animal welfare to the sustainability of our planet.
Becoming vegetarian may seem a rather daunting goal. This is especially true if you have been eating the rather typical meat-starch-vegetable sort of meals. Some people are able to go “cold turkey,” and become vegetarian or even vegan literally overnight. Don’t feel pressured into doing it that way; the gradual approach is fine.
Furthermore, you may decide that you don’t want to be strictly vegan or even vegetarian. Perhaps you will opt to keep fish in your diet. You may even choose to keep some meat in your diet. If you do continue to eat meat, I hope that you make informed choices about the meat you eat. It’s often easy to forget that the burger, steak or drumstick on your plate was once an animal. How was that animal raised? How was it treated? Where did it come from? What about added hormones and antibiotics? Was its growth artificially accelerated to get to market sooner and reduce feed cost?
My Personal Journey
My yoga instructor Kathy taught us the principle of “Do no harm.” This principle was Kathy’s reason for not eating animals, and eventually it became mine. From time to time, Kathy would encourage us to eat less meat. For example, she might suggest that one could reduce meat consumption to one meal a day. That is how I began. Over time, I found myself eating less and less meat. I decided that I truly wanted to become vegetarian, and was trying to work out the logistics. The final turning point came when I discovered and purchased my first vegetarian cookbook: Laurel’s Kitchen: A Handbook for Vegetarian Cookery and Nutrition. This book is true to its title. It’s not just a book of recipes, but an excellent guide to the world of vegetarianism.
Tips For Becoming Vegetarian
- Take it at a pace that works for you. Perhaps you could start as I did, by limiting yourself to meat once a day. Or your first step might be joining the “Meatless Monday” movement. Another approach might be to eliminate red meats first, then pork, then poultry, and finally seafood.
- Find some good resources, starting with a good vegetarian handbook such The New Laurel’s Kitchen. See some recommended resources at the end of this post.
- Build a collection of vegetarian recipes. Perhaps you could try one new recipe a week.
- Learn how to convert any recipe to a vegan one.There are vegan substitutes for almost any ingredient. This web site explains it all: The Vegan Wolf.
- Try some of the meat substitutes. There seem to be more available every day. Here are some that I particularly like:
- Morningstar Farms Veggie Bacon Strips – Even my meat-loving husband likes BLT’s made with these.
- Morningstar Farms Grillers Prime Veggie Burgers – Great on the grill, even good microwaved.
- Morningstar Farms Veggie Dogs – Great on the grill, good microwaved, only 50 calories.
- Lightlife Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style – I use this product to make “meatballs” to serve with Best Ever Homemade Tomato Sauce. It’s also excellent in a shepherd’s pie.
- Lightlife Smart Deli Pepperoni – This is excellent on pizza!
- Hilary’s features a variety of delicious organic burger patties.
- Try tofu in stir-fries. Much like chicken, it absorbs flavors in a wonderful way. If cooked properly, it can be very good. This recipe from Martha Stewart explains how: Tofu Stir-Fry.
- If you are a member of a “mixed eating styles” family, it can be somewhat challenging to prepare a meal that everyone will like. Here are some ideas that have worked well for me:
- Make a recipe that includes optional meat. For example,a bean soup could be served with ham on the side.
- Have a “buffet” type of meal, such as a “burrito bar.” Offerings could include beans or chili, as well as grilled chicken.
- If you are having a cookout, it’s simple! Just grill the “veggie burgers” and “veggie dogs” along with the meats.
- If you are doing a stir-fry, it’s easy enough to prepare some grilled chicken strips separately for someone who insists on having meat.
- Have a meal that includes optional protein sources. For example, Lightlife Smart Sausages® Italian Style for the vegetarian choice; Italian chicken sausages for the meat choice. The other meal components might be pasta and tomato sauce, salad, and bread.
- Encourage other family members to eat vegetarian, at least some of the time. My husband is a meat-eater, but he has tried and liked many of my vegetarian dishes.For example, he loves my Simply Perfect Lasagna.
- Tips for dining out:
- Explore ethnic options. For example,Thai and Indian cuisines include many vegetarian choices.
- Before ordering a soup, check to be sure it has a vegetarian base.
- Consider asking for modifications to menu items. For example, if a salad ordinarily includes chicken, ask if the chef can substitute feta or blue cheese (to make it vegetarian), or have the chicken omitted altogether (to make it vegan).
I recommend The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook: A Fresh Guide to Eating Well With 700 Foolproof Recipes from America’s Test Kitchen.
- PETA: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
- VegCooking: Making the Transition
- Scott Young: How to Become a Vegetarian
- Ask MeFi: Can a carnivore become a vegetarian?
- Vegetarian Society: Going Vegetarian
- Oh She Glows: Vegan Recipes by Angela Liddon
- Post Punk Kitchen: Vegan Baking & Vegan Cooking