While switching to a vegetarian diet has many benefits, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns for everyone who makes the transition. That’s why it’s important to know the steps and considerations for how to become a vegetarian.
But fear not! No matter your reason for becoming a vegetarian, this guide will explain the benefits, risks, types, and much more:
Are More People Becoming Vegetarian?
Undeniably, vegetarianism is becoming rapidly popular worldwide. Let’s look at what the statistics show and why people are leaning towards a plant-based lifestyle.
Statistics on Vegetarianism
The number of vegetarians globally has seen a consistent rise and currently stands at 22% of the global population, almost 1/4th of the total. Although most are vegetarians due to diet or health constraints, around 75 million or 1% of the total population are vegetarians by choice.
The number of vegetarians in the developing world is also on the rise. For instance, Nigeria saw a massive uptick in the number of vegetarians, currently having 1.4 million of them. Similarly, other developing countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, etc., have also been following a similar trend.
The story of the developed world is no different, where people are economically strong and become vegetarians out of choice or health constraints. The UK is a major hub of vegetarianism, with almost 6% of the population following it, which amounts to more than 3 million people.
Similarly, Germany also now has 7.5 million vegetarians, and the number seems to be rising with time. The United States today has 9.7 million vegetarians. India has always been a vegetarian heaven, as 80% of its population restricts meat consumption. Reports show that vegetarianism is becoming even more popular in India due to health and economic reasons.
Why Are People Becoming Vegetarian?
People are becoming vegetarians due to various reasons ranging from health to environmentalism. Some people have serious budget constraints, so they cannot afford to include meat in their diet.
Vegetarians get their protein from a plant-based diet and exclude meat completely. Flexitarians do include meat but limit its consumption. A report revealed that individuals could save up to $750 per year, and a family of four can save up to $3000 after switching to a vegetarian diet.
Many people become vegetarians due to their conviction to save the environment. Animal agriculture is dangerous for the ecology as it leads to deforestation and doesn't make the best use of precious arable land.
We need significantly higher amounts of water and grain to raise one pound of beef, which is incredibly taxing for the ecosystem. Similarly, factory farms also use many resources and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
A meat-based diet isn't particularly healthy, so many people switch to vegetarian alternatives to have an improved lifestyle. Meat eating can contribute to heart diseases, blood pressure, and diabetes. Similarly, animals are injected with growth hormones and antibiotics, resulting in antibiotic resistance in humans.
Benefits of Becoming a Vegetarian
A vegetarian diet can provide us with multiple health benefits.
Becoming a Vegetarian Healthy?
Vegetarian diets are much healthier than meat-based options as they prevent different diseases and promote healthy lifestyles. Vegetarians are at a significantly lower risk of having heart issues, blood pressure problems, and diabetes.
The plant-based diet has less fat and cholesterol, protecting your heart. Cardiovascular diseases are a serious problem even in the developed world, as they kill 1 million Americans every year. In addition to that, plant-based foods have lots of fibers and antioxidants that pack lots of health benefits.
Strong bones are required for a strong body, and calcium is essential for strengthening them. If there is a calcium deficiency in the body, it is extracted from the reserves inside our bones, making them weaker.
Usually, people get their calcium intake from dairy products such as milk, yogurt, etc. Many vegetarians don't consume dairy, but they can still get more than enough calcium from dark green vegetables, dry beans, tofu, soy milk, etc.
Therefore, consuming plant-based foods and dairy alternatives like almond, oat and soya milk is an excellent option for those who are lactose intolerant but don't want to compromise their calcium intake.
Will Becoming a Vegetarian Help Me Lose Weight?
A vegetarian lifestyle is suitable for those who want to lose weight or maintain their current weight. It doesn't guarantee weight loss but can aid it if you eat the right foods containing the right nutrients.
There are multiple positive aspects of a plant-based diet that can help you lose weight. For instance, it is well understood that vegetarians consume fewer calories than meat-eaters, so they don't put on any weight in the long run if they stick to their diet.
Similarly, there is usually much less fat in a vegetarian diet than in a meat-based diet, which decreases the chances of weight gain. Plant-based foods digest slowly with lots of fiber, so you feel fuller for longer and have fewer cravings.
Does Becoming a Vegetarian Make a Difference?
Some people think going vegetarian doesn't make a difference, but their viewpoint is mistaken. Switching to a vegetarian diet strongly impacts your personal life, the people around you, and the planet.
First of all, even if just one person reduces meat consumption or cuts it down entirely, there is some reduction in animal suffering, even if a little. Secondly, once you switch to a vegetarian diet for any reason, you won't be alone, as others would join you too.
That's how the vegetarian movement has grown over the years. If you keep eating meat, people will keep installing more animal farms as demand rises.
Indeed, you cannot impact the big farms on an individual level, but on a collective level, you definitely can. Once you become a vegetarian, you can advise and guide others to join the change and set a chain to reduce the demand for meat.
Types of Vegetarians
There isn't a set type of vegetarianism that everyone ought to follow. Over the years, people have developed several types of it depending upon their tastes, health, budget, and other considerations. Let's discuss all types of vegetarianism for you to make the right choice.
Let's start with the strictest form of vegetarianism, called veganism. Vegans don't eat any meat, dairy, etc. So anything animal-based is off the table. They rely solely on plant-based foods and processed foods that don't contain animal ingredients.
So, everyone can't follow it due to different constraints. Raw veganism is even stricter, as it only allows uncooked vegetables and plants and nothing else.
Flexitarianism or semi-vegetarianism is the most flexible form of vegetarianism, as evident from its name. Flexitarians even include different kinds of meat in their diet, due to which some don't consider them vegetarians.
However, they limit their meat consumption, so many consider it more a transitional diet than a proper vegetarian diet. In addition to meat, flexitarians also consume dairy products. Flexitarians don't have to worry about their protein intake as they can have it from multiple sources.
Lacto-vegetarianism is another form of vegetarianism that allows consuming dairy products such as milk, yogurt, etc., while keeping meat off the table. Usually, Lacto-vegetarianism is adopted by those who don't want to give up on dairy or fear protein deficiency.
Ovo-vegetarianism allows the consumption of eggs but doesn't include meat or dairy. Some people like eggs or don't wanna give up on them due to nutritional reasons. For them, a balanced option is to reduce meat consumption while consuming eggs to switch to a new diet without affecting their bodies too much.
Eggs are a complete nutritional source, so those who have difficulty planning what to eat shouldn't give up on them easily.
Lacto-Ovo-vegetarianism combines both lacto-vegetarian and ovo-vegetarianism so that people don't have to go overboard with their transition to vegetarianism.
It allows the consumption of both dairy and eggs, helping people meet their nutritional needs easily. Milk, yogurt, eggs, etc., contain many important nutrients that we need daily to run our body properly, and their deficiencies can lead to serious health issues.
Therefore, the switch to vegetarianism shouldn't be rushed and must be pursued slowly. Usually, vegetarians face protein deficiency, but they can be countered easily with eggs and dairy.
Pollotarianism or pollo-vegetarianism refers to the type of diet that includes poultry but excludes other meats such as beef, pork, etc. You can add eggs and dairy to it if you want. Besides that, pollotarians consume traditional vegetarian foods such as nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.
The reason behind consuming only poultry is that it reduces the environmental impact and also doesn't cause as much harm to one's health as red meat does. Moreover, poultry is relatively cheaper than red meat, so budget-conscious consumers who can't give up meat easily go this route.
There is no set guideline on how much poultry you can consume, so choose the amount according to your budget and nutritional requirements.
Pescetarianism or pesco-vegetarianism means a diet that includes fish but no other meat. Pescetarians eat fish because they need to fulfill their protein requirements. However, they don't go all-in on meat for various reasons.
First of all, eating all types of meat means increasing your carbon footprint, as animal agriculture is a devastating part of the red meat industry. Secondly, red meat isn't great for health, while fish contains healthy fats and other beneficial nutrients that protect your heart. Thirdly, some people don't like the taste of red meat but love fish, which is why they opt for pescetarianism.
Becoming Vegetarian for Beginners
Gone are the days when becoming a vegetarian was a mountain to climb. If you are a beginner who is afraid to take the plunge, here’s an overview of how easy becoming a vegetarian is today.
How Easy is it to Become a Vegetarian?
Vegetarianism is a journey that involves patience and the right information. Beginners often face several dietary and societal issues, which makes their transition difficult. However, with the right information in hand, the switch to vegetarianism becomes less taxing on your body.
Mostly, the level of difficulty you face depends upon how much you like meat. Those who like meat and eat it often have a harder time quitting it than those who don't.
Similarly, becoming a vegetarian means you need to add lots of vegetables into your diet. If someone doesn't like veggies, they must get creative and find different ways of consuming them, such as making smoothies, grilling, stuffing, etc.
Besides all that, deciding about the consumption of dairy and different types of meat can also be tricky. However, looking at your health and budget can easily help you decide about it. For instance, those on a tight budget can opt for pescetarianism which only allows poultry, a cheaper option than red meat.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Vegetarian?
The duration you require to become a vegetarian depends on your current weight, budget, dietary preferences, etc. For instance, switching to a vegetarian diet suddenly is impractical if someone loves meat. They need to remove meat from their diet gradually.
Similarly, switching to a plant-based diet can result in temporary health complications such as diarrhea, excessive hunger, anxiety, etc. Many give up during the transition period due to these issues. However, if you stay patient, you will get over these problems quickly.
How to Become a Vegetarian for Beginners
If you are a beginner looking to start their vegetarian diet successfully, here’s how you can get off to a great start.
How to Start Becoming Vegetarian?
Beginning your vegetarian journey requires a deep understanding of diet, health, budget, etc. The start of the vegetarian journey is always difficult, but if you're steadfast, progress is inevitable.
To start becoming an impactful vegetarian, you need to educate yourself about the foods you can and cannot include in your diet. It is also crucial to learn about different ingredients, especially those used in processed foods, to know whether you're getting a vegetarian product or not.
Many people are unaware of the ingredients and end up paying for a product that contains animal-based ingredients. Secondly, learn what your family usually eats and make a diet plan according to that routine.
For instance, if your family mostly eats veggies, make a list of their favorite vegetables and see if you like them or not. You can add more vegetables to that list later. Similarly, there is no need to follow only one type of cuisine, as the internet can help you find hundreds of them. From Indian to Thai, check out all the cuisines and cook what you like.
First Steps to Becoming a Vegetarian
The first step towards vegetarianism should be about noting down what you like and what you don't. Once you know your preferences, it becomes easier to decide about the type of vegetarianism you want to follow.
Flexitarianism is a good choice if you can't give up meat quickly. Similarly, if you love dairy, Lacto-vegetarianism seems to be a suitable option.
Secondly, quitting meat shouldn't be sudden. Instead, try to get rid of red meat first by following a weekly plan. Once you have done that, you should target poultry, fish, etc.
Giving up meat isn't easy, so you'll need to train your taste buds for the new diet; hence experimentation with newer dishes becomes necessary. Luckily, there is a huge variety of vegetables available, so you can make as many dishes as you like and select the ones you like most.
How to Become Vegetarian Slowly
Your vegetarian journey should be slow and steady. There's no need to rush, as it's something directly impacting your mental and physical health. Becoming a full vegetarian on day one is next to impossible, so you have to start with a weekly plan that doesn't take a toll on your body.
For instance, if you are a regular meat-eater, try limiting its consumption to 3 days a week. Once you are used to it, bring it to 2 days and stick with it for 2-3 weeks. Finally, bring it to only one day and then abandon meat completely
Easy Ways to Become Vegetarian
The easiest way to become a vegetarian is to read up on it and make vegetarian friends. You won't find many vegetarians around you, so having a supportive network is crucial. Otherwise, the switch to a new diet can be overwhelming for you.
Similarly, look for recipes where you can use a meat substitute. Trying new vegetarian recipes every week can help you refresh your taste buds and avoid boring repetition. If you like the new recipe, add it to the list of your favorite recipes and repeat it every week.
Once you have done it for a month or two, you will have a list of your favorite recipes that you can cook regularly. The number of dishes we eat regularly is 5-10, so having that many delicious vegetarian recipes is enough for anyone.
Best Way to Become a Vegetarian
The best way to go vegetarian is to determine the amount and sources of the important nutrients in your new diet. For instance, vegetarians often face the tough question of adequate protein intake because getting it from a plant-based diet can be confusing for someone who has been getting it from meat.
However, there are some excellent protein sources in plants, such as nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and protein-fortified foods. Similarly, iron needs can also be fulfilled by well-balanced plant foods such as beans, tofu, dried fruit, seeds, etc. Once you have figured out the important nutrients and their sources, you can be confident in yourself in your vegetarian journey.
How to Successfully Become a Vegetarian
Being a successful vegetarian isn't just about changing your diet from meat to plants. It requires much more than that. For instance, people may not welcome your new diet and may respond coldly, so you have to bear those attitudes with patience and calmness.
Secondly, having a positive attitude matters a lot in your vegetarian journey. Instead of taking it as a burden, embrace the challenges and learn to adapt to the new diet. It may take some time, but the wait is worth it, as you will enjoy multiple health benefits once you've completed your transition.
Thirdly, going easy on yourself is crucial. Many new vegetarians want to achieve results quickly and work too hard, which results in fatigue and ultimately quitting vegetarianism altogether. Those who make the transition slowly and cut down on meat steadily are the ones that generally succeed.
Becoming a Vegetarian - What to Eat
Vegetarians have a lot of dietary choices full of healthy nutrients, as given below.
How to Become Vegetarian When You Love Meat
Switching to vegetarianism for meat lovers can be a nightmare. However, you can do a few things to transition successfully from meat to a plant-based diet. There are no set deadlines for becoming a vegetarian, so you can go at your own pace without overburdening your body.
Starting realistically can help you achieve your goals more effectively. Cut down meat to 3, 2, and then 1 time a week. You should also prepare a list of your favorite vegetarian foods easily prepared.
You'll avoid the danger of going back to meat by doing that. Similarly, you don't have to force-feed yourself food you don't like. Always go for dishes that you like after consistent experimentation so that you do not have to rely on meat anymore.
How to Become Vegetarian When You Don't Like Vegetables
If you don't like vegetables, it can be a serious hurdle in your vegetarian journey. However, you can overcome this obstacle by being a little creative. If you don't like your vegetables cooked, you can consume them in multiple other ways to make them more palatable for you.
You can add vegetables such as spinach, cucumber, pumpkin, carrots, etc., with different ingredients in a blender and enjoy a smoothie. Other ingredients include maple syrup, yogurt, bananas, apples, mangoes, etc.
Similarly, you can also grill the vegetables you don't like, which helps neutralize their bitter taste and makes them more delicious. Besides that, stuffing is another popular method of adding your favorite ingredients to your vegetables and achieving a different taste.
Becoming a Semi Vegetarian
What is a Semi-Vegetarian aka a Flexitarian?
Semi vegetarian or flexitarian consumes meat alongside the traditional vegetarian diet. Many use it to transition towards a proper vegetarian diet as it is a flexible diet. There are multiple reasons why people choose to become flexitarians.
The most important and prevalent reason is that some people find it hard to transition from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet. They want the change to occur slowly, so eating some meat while increasing their plant-based intake is a more practical approach for them.
Secondly, some people don't have the luxury to find proper meat alternatives, so they have to stick to some consumption of meat. Thirdly, some people fear protein deficiencies; hence, they consume moderate amounts of meat.
What do Flexitarians Eat?
Flexitarians eat typical plant-based foods as well as meat. Those who still can't meet their nutritional requirements add dairy and eggs to their diet. As it is a flexible diet, there is no particular limit to what to consume and how much. However, flexitarians usually restrict their meat intake and increase the amount of plant-based foods in their diet.
Benefits of Being a Flexitarian
A Flexitarian diet combines different vegetarian diets with some meat, so it offers some important health benefits. When you increase the amount of fiber in your diet by eating more plant-based foods, your heart health improves.
Similarly, flexitarians who limit their meat consumption can also lose weight or maintain it. Besides that, a flexitarian diet can also help in diabetes prevention because you consume less processed foods and bad fats. Consuming less meat and more plants is also beneficial for the environment, reducing your carbon footprint.
How to Transition to Being a Flexitarian
Transitioning to flexitarianism is much easier than transitioning to other forms of vegetarianism. Cut your meat consumption gradually while increasing the intake of plant-based foods. For instance, you can start by reducing meat consumption to 4 days a week for the first two weeks and bring it down to 3, 2, and 1 day in the upcoming weeks.
What to Expect When Becoming Vegetarian
What Happens to Your Body When You Become Vegetarian?
Switching to a vegetarian diet affects your body in multiple ways. When you eat more fiber from plants, your bowel movement will change. Fibers are usually associated with better bowel movement, so you'll see less constipation.
However, you may feel more bloated than usual, especially if you consume vegetables that cause gas, such as broccoli, cabbage, etc. Plant-based foods are rich in nutrients, which means you will be fuller for longer and more energetic when compared to other diets.
Becoming a Vegetarian Side Effects
Vegetarian foods can have some side effects, especially when you don't have a proper plan and don't consume the required amount of nutrients. Vegetarians are at significant risk of depression and anxiety. There can be different reasons behind it, such as vitamin deficiency, lack of motivation, etc.
You can get many nutrients from a vegetarian diet, but getting all of them is difficult. Vitamin B12, iodine, and zinc are particularly hard to come by as they aren't abundant in plants. A deficiency of these nutrients can cause several health issues such as goiter, diarrhea, fatigue, etc.
If you're not getting enough vitamins from your diet, consider taking supplements.
What’s more, the high amount of fiber in plants can cause bloating, such as broccoli, cauliflower, etc. To avoid this problem, test different vegetables and see what suits you best.
Things You Notice When You Become Vegetarian
You notice a lot of differences around you when you become a vegetarian. For instance, people's attitude towards you might change as they feel guilty about not being as ethical as you.
They might feel you're judging them based on their food choices during your conversations. Similarly, your relationship dynamics face a transformation, too, as you now prefer being with someone who shares your vegetarian worldview.
And the best thing you’ll notice when becoming a vegetarian is a positive change in your health. In addition to feeling more energetic, you’ll feel light and happier overall — i.e if you plan your vegetarian diet properly.
Tips for Becoming a Vegetarian
The most important tip for becoming a vegetarian is to gain as much knowledge about the subject as possible. Vegetarianism is vast, and the more informed you are, the better your chances of success.
Moreover, make vegetarian friends who constantly motivate you and guide you throughout your journey. You shouldn't rush things as your diet directly impacts your body. Go slow, observe how your body reacts to dietary changes, and adjust accordingly. Your body may not like the new diet initially, but it will adjust slowly, so give yourself time.
Books on Becoming Vegetarian
Vegetarianism is something which sparks interest in a lot of people. Hence, you'll find many good books from cooking guides to the environmental impacts of vegetarianism. Some of the most notable ones are:
A Complete Guide to Becoming a Vegetarian for Beginners — The Takeaway
Now that you have all the important information regarding vegetarianism, you can begin your journey confidently.
Keep in mind that becoming a successful vegetarian won't happen overnight. Your body needs time to adjust to its new diet. So, go easy on yourself and enjoy the benefits of a healthy plant-based diet by transitioning gradually.