How to Become a Vegetarian: 9 Simple Tips for a Successful Transition

Want to know how to become a vegetarian? Follow the simple tips below for an easy, healthy, and enjoyable transition.

Take it slow

How quickly you convert depends on why you're switching, and how big a role meat plays in your current diet. If you're converting because of a serious health issue, only your doctor can tell you what to do.

But, if you have other reasons, like spiritual, environmental, animal welfare, or to maintain your good health, the answer is, "slowly."

Are you a meat lover? Then it's best to start by just eliminating red meat. Once you're comfortable with the change, eliminate fish and poultry.

Another option is to start by eliminating meat from just one or two meals a day. When you're ready (only you can decide when that is), eliminate meat from all your meals.

Some people never fully convert. And, that's ok, too. They follow a semi–vegetarian diet (also known as a flexitarian diet). This is a plant-based diet, but they still eat small amounts of meat, poultry, and fish.

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Read up on the special nutritional needs of vegetarians

There is one small drawback to a vegetarian diet. It's difficult to get zinc, vitamin B12, and omega-3 DHA fatty acids. Be sure to read the Vegetarian Nutrition Guide for the details.

Also, keep in mind that there are different types of vegetarian diets, so some have additional nutritional needs.

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish, and poultry, but allows eggs and dairy products. This website is based on the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.
  • Lacto-vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish, poultry, and eggs. Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter, are still allowed.
  • Vegan diets are the most restrictive. They exclude meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products.

Make sure you get enough vegetarian protein

It isn't hard to get enough protein on a vegetarian diet, but it does take planning.

Protein is essential for your health, and for vegetarians, it plays another important role. A good protein source like seitan and tempeh can also make you feel more satisfied and full.

Many new vegetarians don't add the proteins they need and feel hungry all the time. This becomes a big road block to sticking with the diet. So read up on vegetarian protein and try to include one good source in at least two meals.

Transform your old favorite recipes into vegetarian delights

Take a non–vegetarian favorite and convert it into a vegetarian dish by switching out the meat or poultry with tempeh or seitan. This is easy to do, but do not expect it to taste exactly like your old recipe. You'll be disappointed if you do.

Start by working with the simple vegetarian recipes on this site. Once you get the knack of working with these products, you'll be able to transform any non–vegetarian dish into a vegetarian dish that you'll love.

You've probably noticed that I haven't mentioned tofu. Tofu is difficult to cook with, so unless you're a big fan, you don't need it.

Try new, but easy vegetarian recipes

Don't get caught up in making elaborate, vegetarian recipes. That is, not unless you're accustomed to spending a lot of time in the kitchen.

Many vegetarian recipes use loads of ingredients and more advanced cooking techniques that can frustrate a newbie vegetarian.

Add more fruits and vegetables

You'll want to go slowly here, too. Your digestive track needs to get accustomed to the new food choices that you're making. What's more, too much fiber or raw vegetables can cause gas, bloating, and cramps.

Don't be a vegetarian food junkie

It's easy to get into bad eating habits. Supermarkets now carry a relatively large selection of processed, vegetarian foods. They're quick and easy, but just because it's vegetarian doesn't mean it's healthy.

So read the labels. Some of these products contain preservatives and unhealthy soy byproducts.

Plan your meals well in advance

Plan your meals for the entire week. This makes it so much easier to get the nutrition and protein you need and to prepare meals you enjoy.

Pick the right restaurants

You don't have to eat in a vegetarian restaurant to have a great vegetarian meal. Most restaurants have at least one or two vegetarian selections. To be safe, always call ahead, or check online to see if they have their menu posted.

Even better, when eating out with family and friends that are carnivores, pick a good Italian and Chinese restaurant. They usually have a big vegetarian selection.

Follow the tips above on how to become a vegetarian, and you'll be on your way to a lifelong, healthy, and enjoyable vegetarian lifestyle.

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