Becoming a vegetarian can be a big lifestyle change, and any major transition in your life is never easy. Many things can be affected, from grocery shopping to social interactions.
But that doesn’t mean becoming a vegetarian is impossible, of course! You can definitely transition to a plant-based diet with dedication and the right information. In this article, we discuss the first steps of becoming vegetarian, including how easy it is (or not), what to expect, and first steps.
How Easy is it to Become a Vegetarian?
Your interactions with others can go through a significant change after becoming vegetarian. People conceive you a little differently than before. It has changed somewhat in some communities, but the issue largely still persists.
For instance, meat-eaters sometimes become defensive about their choices when interacting with you, as they think you are judging them. However, an open and honest discussion on the topic can resolve these issues. You can become a vegetarian ambassador by engaging people positively so that they also think about switching to vegetarianism.
Usually, we do not pay attention to the ingredient list and just buy what we like. However, the whole picture of grocery shopping changes once you become a vegetarian. Instead of grabbing a product and throwing it in your bag, now you have to read the ingredient list carefully and check whether the ingredients suit your dietary habits or not.
For beginner vegetarians, it is hard to read the ingredient list and decide on the spot that the product is vegetarian-friendly. It takes time to learn about the ingredients and their sources. Many vegetarians tackle this issue by avoiding processed foods altogether, which can be impractical for some people.
In addition to that, some countries have vegan stores that you can visit and buy whatever you like. Buying from them ensures that you do not have to spend your valuable time reading ingredient lists. You can still keep buying other items such as fruits and vegetables from the supermarket.
Meal Preparation & Eating
Vegetarians have to make an extra effort in meal planning than their meat-eating counterparts. For instance, they only have to use certain ingredients and avoid all others. Vegans have an even harder time deciding about the ingredients based on their limited options.
In addition to that, vegetarians also have to attend events carefully, as they usually offer non-vegetarian options only. So, they have to check whether there is any non-vegetarian dish being offered at the event or not to avoid an embarrassing situation.
Eating out can always be a real challenge for vegetarians. Those who live in larger cities have more variety than those who belong to smaller towns. You will find a handful of restaurants offering vegetarian meals, while you may not find even one in a small town.
It is also true for those who travel to faraway places. Usually, historical sites are not located in cities, so getting vegetarian food may become tough if you move to a remote place for sightseeing and stay there.
Nonetheless, the problem of dining out can be resolved by cooking yourself. It is not only a crucial life skill, but it can also be a healthier lifesaver for vegetarians who may not have any other option sometimes.
Another trick to get around this issue is to locate vegetarian restaurants beforehand. For instance, you can use Google Maps to look for vegetarian restaurants in a particular area and visit their website and social media to see if they offer your favorite meals or not.
Vegetarianism is not just about avoiding meat and eating plants. It is a fundamental shift in your worldview, which changes your perspective about almost everything. Thus, it can also affect how you approach your love life.
For instance, vegetarians usually get along well with other vegetarians and make closely-knit communities. In such a situation, getting into a relationship with a non-vegetarian can become practically impossible.
The situation can turn awkward when you want a plant-based diet while your partner insists on consuming meat. It can also affect your financial situation, as you may need to split your bills, which may get uneconomical.
While it’s easier to choose a vegetarian partner to avoid conflicting dietary viewpoints, most individuals are still involved in healthy relationships with their non-vegetarian partners. The trick is to be mindful of each other’s space and personal beliefs.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Vegetarian?
It’s no secret that people are often impatient about seeing the results, and beginner vegetarians are no different. Any change takes time, and becoming vegetarian is also a long-term game.
For vegetarianism to become your second habit, you need to give your body some time. Everybody responds differently to dietary changes depending upon their physiology.
For some, it will take a month or so, and for others, it may take a year. Similarly, it also depends upon how much meat you consumed previously and how quickly you decrease your consumption.
Let's discuss some physical, mental and emotional changes you feel when you become a vegetarian and how quickly you can get used to them.
The Nutritional Learning Curve
You can never claim to be a complete vegetarian unless you get maximum nutrients from a plant-based diet. It is crucial to focus on your nutrient intake and ensure that you're getting them in the right quantities.
If you don't get them from vegetarian meals, you will have to resort to taking supplements or reintroducing meat into your diet, which defeats the purpose of being a vegetarian. Getting enough vitamins is a major issue. So, it takes some time for you to find the right nutrient sources for your meals.
For instance, vitamin B-12 deficiency has often been observed in vegetarians. So, you have to look for sources that can fulfill your vitamin B-12 needs and help you become a healthy vegetarian in the long run.
Going Through Mood Changes
It is natural to expect mood changes when you switch to another diet. When you start consuming a plant-based diet, you may experience anxiety and irritation, as you no longer consume the foods you have loved for a long time.
However, the good news is that it will slowly start disappearing, and you will feel better after a while. If there's no respite, you can occasionally tweak your diet and eat some meat to see if it makes a difference. Best of all, a vegetarian diet is actually good for your mental health in the long run.
The Regular Energy Boost
It doesn't take much longer to feel the positive effects of cutting meat from your diet. For instance, meat eats up a lot of energy from your body during digestion. However, plants consume much less of that, so you will start feeling more energetic as you go deeper into a plant-based diet.
Getting Used to a Changed Palette
Taste buds respond to what you eat and get used to your diet in the long run. However, they can also change their sensitivity if you change your diet. As a result, they no longer like the older diet once you get used to the new one.
Similarly, once you have consumed plant-based foods for a few months, you won’t like eating meat or other non-vegetarian products anymore. It is a positive and welcome change, as your meat cravings will decrease as well.
Adjusting to Changes in Sleep
Switching from meat to a plant-based diet may also help you sleep better. There are many antioxidants found in vegetarian diets that will positively affect your sleep in the long run. Since your digestive system is improved and you have more energy, it usually results in a better, deeper sleep.
The Varying Adjustment Period
The adjustment period is tricky terrain since you feel many changes happening at once. You are going through detox because you withdraw something you have been consuming for a while.
It can go on for weeks or end within a few days, depending on your physiology. However, don't give up, as detox effects will die down as you move forward in your vegetarian journey and your body gets used to a plant-based diet.
How to Become a Vegetarian for Beginners
Becoming a vegetarian is easier than it once was, but it still takes a lot of effort. Those who are just starting have more questions and confusion than answers, and not getting a suitable answer can put them off. Let's discuss some of the most important questions beginner vegetarians have in their minds and answer them in detail so that you can transition smoothly.
How to Start Becoming Vegetarian?
The most important thing to starting your vegetarian journey is getting the right information. Without it, you will feel lost and do more harm than good, as good intentions only work when coupled with quality information.
Whether it is about preparing meals, the effect of your vegetarian diet on the world, or its impact on your relationships, you need to prepare yourself thoroughly before diving in.
Grab a good book on becoming vegetarian and read personal stories of people who became vegetarians and the challenges they had to face in the beginning. Meet vegetarians around you and listen to them carefully, and you will have a good idea of how to prepare yourself for the upcoming challenge.
Make Vegetarian Friends
Having vegetarian friends around you with similar ideas and habits can work as a solid support system. So, beginner vegetarians need to befriend vegetarians who can support them through their journey. Otherwise, you may feel lonely, if most people around you are non-vegetarians.
You can implement many small things to have a long-lasting impact on your journey. For example, you should stop ads from companies that sell meat and other non-vegetarian products on your social media accounts.
It will help you get rid of the cravings that you might have after seeing those ads. Similarly, you may also have to stop visiting your favorite restaurants that serve only non-vegetarian options. However, you can still visit them if they have plant-based options available to smoothen the transition for you without abandoning your favorite dine-out place.
First Steps to Becoming a Vegetarian
Choose Your Type
The first step to becoming a vegetarian is to choose the type of vegetarianism you want to adopt. However, that's possible only if you have quality information. There are 8 different types of vegetarianism, and each has its advantages and drawbacks. These types include:
If you love fish and can’t give it up easily, choosing pescetarianism makes more sense, as it includes fish and seafood. Similarly, if you love dairy, you would do well by choosing Lacto-vegetarianism so you don't have to give up milk and other dairy products.
However, do not panic if you cannot decide which category you belong to. Give yourself some time and experiment with different combinations such as Flexitarianism, aka semi-vegetarianism, to see what suits you well.
The key to becoming a vegetarian is not going too hard on yourself. Some people make the mistake of saying "never again" to meat but pay the price in the form of fatigue and irritation.
It is always advisable to take baby steps and check to which extent you can tolerate the absence of meat from your diet. There is no need to spend weeks and weeks without eating meat.
For instance, you can start by bringing down meat consumption to twice a week and see its effects on your health and mood. If everything goes well, you can continue with it for a while and then bring it down to once a week. Once you are done with it, you can think about cutting meat from your diet entirely..
Make Different Vegetarian Dishes
Being a non-vegetarian surely doesn't mean you only consume meat, as vegetables and fruits are still part of your diet. So, you can continue with the vegetables and fruits you like and cut down on meat gradually.
Once you start focusing on vegetables, you can explore more of them and add new ones to your diet. When it comes to cooking, you can try new recipes, as the internet has hundreds of them just one click away from you.
Doing that will make you a better cook and help you learn what you like and what you don't. As a result, you will have a clear dietary map to follow in the future.
How to Become a Vegetarian Slowly
Going slow is the mantra in vegetarian circles, and luckily it works. Steady progress is better than a rushed effort that doesn't bear any results. Cutting your non-vegetarian diet suddenly is impractical and unhealthy, as you may not get all the benefits from a plant-based diet in the short run.
Getting used to a vegetarian diet is a learning curve involving trial and error, and you should take it lightly too. However, just saying that you'll bring a change gradually doesn't work. You have to plan every step of your journey.
For instance, for getting enough protein from a plant-based diet, you need to have some foods already in mind, such as nuts and seeds. Let us explore how you can slowly become a vegetarian without putting your health at risk.
Experiment but not too fast
The only way to know what you like is by experimentation with your diet. Switching to a plant-based diet doesn't mean everything will suit your body automatically. We all have different digestive systems; hence everyone responds differently to a new diet.
The best way to know whether something is healthy for you or not is to consume it for a while and see its effects. More importantly, start slow. You can start with meatless mondays or you can simply start with replacing your meat-based dinners into plant-based.
The goal here isn’t to change your diet overnight. Rather, it is to slowly introduce healthier plant options into your diet and gradually transition to a vegetarian diet.
Do not Label Yourself too Early
Try different combinations with pollotarian, pescetarian, and lacto-vegetarian dishes to see how it goes. If different dishes from different categories work for you, there is no need to put yourself in a single compartment. Do not fall for labeling and choose what works for you..
Eat Simpler Meals for a While
Instead of doing things too quickly, you want your transition to be slow, simple, and practical. There is nothing better than preparing and eating simple meals for beginner vegetarians seeking a slow start to their journey. The biggest advantage of a simple meal is that it can be cooked easily without consuming too much of your time.
Focus on simple vegetarian meals that can be prepared without much effort such as rice, beans, peas, sauces, broths, and soups. They are readily available too, so you can get them in bulk and keep consuming them for a long time.
Easy Ways to Become a Vegetarian
Some people are turned off by vegetarianism because they think it is too hard for them. The reality is much different from this perception. You can take some easy steps toward vegetarianism, such as:
Include Prepared Food
Being a vegetarian does not mean you cannot enjoy processed foods. However, you have to be cautious enough to avoid animal-based ingredients or ingredients you are allergic to. Whenever you visit the supermarket, read the ingredients list carefully to avoid eating any animal-based products.
Vegetarianism does not have to burn a hole in your wallet, as you can have an economical plant-based diet too. The best way to cut costs on vegetarian foods is to buy them in bulk from your local grocery shop.
Usually, perishable fruits and vegetables are sold for less if there is a chance that they will go stale. You can buy them in bulk and then store them in your refrigerator for some days.
Dining Out When Needed
While cooking for yourself is welcome, it does not mean you always have to do it. Sometimes you are tired, and sometimes you do not feel like cooking for some other reason.
Gone are the days when the only vegetarian option at restaurants was a side of fries and a bland salad. You can now eat out at plenty of vegetarian restaurants near you. Make sure you ask your friends about suitable restaurants in your area or search for them on the internet.
Best Way to Become a Vegetarian
Perhaps the best way to become a vegetarian is to look for all the essential nutrients from alternative sources so that you do not face their deficiency in the future. For instance, you must search for protein sources once the meat is out of your platter.
Some of the best plant-based protein sources are beans, nuts, seeds, lentils, etc. Additionally, if you add dairy or fish to your diet, you can get more protein to fulfill your requirements.
Similarly, getting enough Vitamin B-12 is another major concern for vegetarians, which you can get from nutritional yeast, fortified cereals, etc.
Moreover, Iron is another nutrient that needs special attention since its deficiency can lead to several problems such as fatigue, damaged skin, etc. Vegetarians can get it from legumes, nuts, tofu, broccoli, etc.
How to Successfully Become a Vegetarian
Transitioning successfully from eating meat to vegetarianism requires a holistic strategy. You may relapse several times during this transition which is totally alright since it gives your body some rest from the new diet.
Similarly, having an honest discussion about your goals with your friends and family also goes a long way in gathering support from them. As you move further in your journey, you will realize how important that support becomes for your transition.
You will have recurring thoughts of giving up during your journey, but the trick is to stay focused and keep moving regardless of the hurdles. Only those who are determined can become successful vegetarians in the long run.
Vegetarianism may seem daunting at first, but it is certainly an achievable goal if you dedicate yourself to it.
You now have a detailed guide that you can follow to start your journey and conduct it successfully. However, one vegetarian size doesn't fit all, so feel free to modify your strategy according to your circumstances as you move on.