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September 06, 2018

Eating A More Plant-Based Diet: Vegetarianism 101

If you haven't tried eating vegetarian or vegan in the past, preparing meals for these kinds of diets can be intimidating at first. If you're used to having meat as the main part of your meal, what becomes the centerpiece if you make it vegetarian?

Why would you want to eat a vegetarian diet anyway?

Even if you don't go all-in, eating like a vegetarian a couple of days a week is very beneficial to your health. It causes the focus to shift away from mainly meat to more vegetables, which we can always stand to eat a lot more of.

If I don't eat meat, what do I eat?

Vegetarians consume plenty of delicious and nutritious foods, such as:

  • Vegetables and fruits (of course)
  • Grains (not just pasta, but think brown rice, quinoa, couscous, barley, farro, etc.)
  • Legumes (beans, lentils, etc.)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Tofu (and other soybean-based products, such as tempeh)
  • Oils (coconut, olive, etc.)
  • Eggs (vegans do not eat eggs)
  • Dairy (in moderation, but also not on the vegan diet)
  • Natural sweeteners (no honey for vegans)

There are plenty of meat-like processed foods which are great for transitioning meat-eaters (more on that later), but remember that processed foods can be difficult to digest, and they often contain added salt, sugar, and preservatives.

Packaged meat alternatives also cost more than regular meat, and it's better to load up on those inexpensive fresh fruits and vegetables instead.

I like to dine out frequently. Is it difficult to eat vegetarian at restaurants?

Choosing to eat vegetarian when you dine out can actually save you money, as those menu items are priced significantly lower than their meat counterparts.

This doesn't mean just choosing a salad either. Many restaurants now offer meat-free options, and code them accordingly right on the menu with a "V." When in doubt, ask your server what they would recommend. You may find that you enjoy eating vegetarian when you go out more often!

My family is very attached to meat. How do I get them to accept more plant-based meals?

In the beginning, meat substitutes can be very helpful for those transitioning to a more vegetarian lifestyle. Try Quorn chicken patties, black bean burgers, or other packaged meat-free alternatives to start, then move to more creative vegetarian centerpieces like tofu or jackfruit.

From there, you can start experimenting with cauliflower wings or portobello mushroom burgers. The vegetarian meal possibilities are endless! Remember to encourage adding vegetables to your meals rather than thinking of subtracting meat from them. 

Choosing to eat vegetarian more frequently is a wonderful way to increase your intake of plant-based colorful foods, and support an overall healthy lifestyle.

[Credit: Jhaveri, Anisha. A Beginner's Guide to Going Vegan and Living Your Best Plant-Based Life. Greatist.]