A meatless diet that consists primarily of plant-based foods has been proven to help the heart stay healthy. Vegetarian diets yield better health benefits and can reduce the risk for various types of cancer as well.
Before you decide to eliminate meat from your diet, however, many experts advise you to transition to a vegetarian diet gradually. Not only do you want to succeed at changing your eating habits, but you all must maintain a well-balanced diet in the process.
For those who are motivated and creative, going meatless can prove to be very exciting. The good news is that it’s not as difficult as you may think to eat a delicious, well-balanced vegetarian diet. This is especially so if you plan ahead and ease into your new eating habits over time.
Here are 24 tips to help you establish your new meatless eating habits:
1. Begin with Meatless Mondays
Eliminating meat is not something that is necessarily easy to do. You should slowly work your way into an meatless diet. You can do this by starting with your own Meatless Mondays. Eliminating meat from just one meal a week is a great way to acclimate yourself to a new way of eating.
Most typical dishes can easily be altered for vegetarians. For example, if pizza is one of your favorite foods, you can remove the meat and pile on as many vegetables as you want or use tofu sausage as an alternative to meat.
The key is to start small so you won’t overwhelm yourself. If you try to do too much too soon you will be less likely stick with it. Even if you decide going meatless is not ideal for you, incorporating even one or two meatless meals a week can go a long way toward improving your health.
2. Vary Your Diet
There are many different plant foods from which to choose and hundreds of imaginative, tasty recipes for vegetarians. Many of them simply replace the meat and leave the rest of the ingredients intact. As with any other healthy eating plan, it is important to eat a wide variety of foods each day in order to receive the proper nutrients that the body needs.
3. Be Committed
Not everybody will be positive about your decision to eat meatless. Friends and family members may question your decision and be less than supportive, since a vegetarian diet requires so many changes. If you have done your proper research and planning for your new diet, you will be able to explain the nutritional values and health benefits to them. You may even convince them to join you!
4. Make It Fun
If you’ve decided to include your family in a meatless diet, be sure to make the transition fun and easy for them. Projects such as planting a small garden with the kids can be fun for them, especially if they know you’re going to use the vegetables in their food later on. Make fun smoothies and have your kids help with the preparation. Discovering fun, vegetarian recipes for kids can also help make this transition more exciting at home. Enlist them in as many dietary changes as possible to make the experience a positive one.
5. Have A Family Recipe Challenge
Eating vegetarian is not always easy, especially if you’re used to eating meat with every meal. You can further make the process fun by instituting a family recipe challenge. This can also be done with friends. The idea is for each person to come up with a meatless recipe for the others to try.
The person with the best recipe can win some sort of prize. Generally speaking, bragging rights may often be a reward in itself. Do this once a month or even once a week. By the end of the year, you will have many meatless dishes you can use regularly that everyone loves.
6. Be Adventurous
Great meatless recipes from Turkey, Italy, Asia, and Greece are easy to introduce to your family. It’s a great way to try meatless dishes from different cultures.
7. Experiment! Experiment! Experiment!
To be successful in your new eating habits, it’s important to experiment with different meatless dishes. If you aren’t quite ready to make a meal at home, consider trying one out at your favorite restaurant. You can get some ideas about foods that you do and don’t like. There are many vegetarian and vegan restaurants available today, plus some restaurants offer a few meatless meals on their regular menu.
8. Start A Recipe Collection
In order create a regular routine for meal planning, it’s a good idea to develop your own recipe collection. Choose your best vegetarian or vegan recipes that you and your family enjoy, and add to your collection over time. This is one of the best ways to increase the chances of sticking with your new diet.
9. Have A Cookout
As a new vegetarian, you may think you can’t enjoy a cookout with family or friends due to limited food options. This is completely false. You can create a delicious meatless version of just about any traditional dish. In fact, you may surprise everyone with how tasty your version of the recipe can be! Even though you can’t have a grilled chicken breast or a slab of ribs, you can enjoy soy burgers, soy hot dogs, fruit kabobs, all types of salads, grilled veggies, and potatoes. Don’t forget the plant-based seasonings that add zest to any meal. Find a great barbecue recipe and join the summer fun!
10. Get Plenty Of Protein
One of the challenges of this type of diet is making sure to get enough protein. It’s important to find plant sources for the proper amount of protein to keep you healthy. If you don’t get enough protein in your diet, you won’t feel satisfied and your health may suffer since the amino acids provided by protein play a crucial role in bodily functions. If you find you are feeling well, you may abandon meatless meals altogether simply because they aren’t balanced.
Plant based sources of protein are plentiful, and you should make the effort to try as many as possible to find those you love. Learn to make proper meat substitutions in your favorite recipes, such as replacing meat with black beans in chili and tacos, or using chickpeas to make meatballs for pasta. Use tofu in stir-fry, stews, and soups. Snack on nuts and seeds, and add half an avocado to your lunch plate. There’s always a way to add the proper amount of protein to a meatless diet, but you must plan ahead.
11. Learn To Substitute
Make an effort to learn how to make appropriate substitutions so you can still enjoy your favorite dishes. Many of our favorite traditional recipes can be made vegan. For example, at breakfast, try soy sausage patties. At lunch, make chickpea patties. For dinner, cook delicious vegetable lasagna.
In the beginning, this may seem like a difficult task, but with experience you will soon know exactly what to reach for in preparing your favorite dishes without meat or chicken.
12. Keep Nuts Around
Nuts make the perfect vegetarian snack. Just make sure you choose the unsalted and unflavored varieties. They taste great and provide a ton of health benefits. They’re not only for snacking, because nuts can also replace cheese and meat in salads. Nuts can add a crunchy topping to steamed vegetables or a tasty addition to rice.
13. Fill Up On Beans & Peas
Beans and peas are both high quality proteins that are very low in fat. Beans are also great sources of fiber. Because of this, it’s recommended that vegetarians consume both foods on a regular basis. You can enjoy a three-bean salad, bean tacos, chickpea burgers or falafel, pea soup, or vegetarian chili to feel completely satisfied at meal time.
14. Try New Fruits And Vegetables
You’ll be surprised at how many fruits and vegetables are available and how you can prepare them to eat. Many vegetarian meals look and taste just as good, if not better, than non-vegetarian alternatives. The big difference, however, is that they are often a lot healthier for you.
Make smoothies or homemade vegetable juices for refreshing, healthy meals and snacks. Try different cooking methods and recipes for vegetables. You can also consume them in raw form on a regular basis.
15. Learn How To Make Substitutions At Your Favorite Restaurant
Just because you are a vegetarian doesn’t mean you can’t go out to your favorite restaurant and enjoy a meal. The key is learning how to make the right substitutions. Most restaurants will gladly make vegetarian modifications for their guests. All you have to do is ask.
Some restaurants offer soy options to substitute meat and soy cheese to substitute for regular cheese, gourmet salads, and veggie burgers. If you live in a metropolitan area, there are usually plenty of vegan cafes where the entire menu is meatless. Before heading out to a restaurant, you can often access the restaurant’s menu online so you’re prepared to order when you get there.
16. Take A Vegetarian Cooking Class
A great idea to really get started eating meatless is to learn from those who are already experienced. Joining a cooking that teaches you how to cook meatless is fun and rewarding. Not only will you learn to cook vegetarian dishes, you can meet and network with others who are eating a vegetarian diet as well.
17. Limit Sweets And Junk Food
When you stop eating meat, it doesn’t mean that you are consuming a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol if it includes too many sweets and junk food.
Becoming a vegetarian does not shield you entirely from unhealthy eating and the abundance of junk foods available today. A meatless diet, like any other, is about making healthy choices. French fries, donuts, candy, ice cream, white bread, pies, cakes, cookies and potato chips are all vegetarian, but not healthy and especially not in large amounts.
Vegetarian snacks are becoming easier to find since many people are switching to meatless foods. However, not all are healthy options. Moderation is key. Keep in mind that to reap the health benefits, a meatless diet should consist primarily of plant foods. In fact, for the best meatless diet, choose organic plant foods.
18. Don’t Compare Everything To Meat
Some get into the habit of comparing all the soy substitutes to meat, like veggie burgers or soy hot dogs or chicken nuggets. This is a typical pitfall. Learn to appreciate all the new and distinct flavors. Developing a new mindset about food is part of succeeding with a vegetarian diet.
19. Enjoy The Health Benefits
If you have a high A1C, (type 2 diabetes) or high cholesterol, check the again after eating the new diet for 6 months. You will probably be surprised to find that your numbers are better, plus you will feel better. Many people with various diseases report amazing results from eating a meatless diet, as long as they eat balanced, nutritious meals.
20. Be Kind To Yourself
If you slip and have a steak, it’s okay…forgive yourself and start again! This is the case when many people try to adjust to a new diet or change eating habits. The more you learn about eating meatless and continue to develop a good repertoire of recipes, the less you’ll likely slip back to old habits.
21. Eat In-Season Produce
Not only will the produce taste better, but it will also save you money. In-season produce is cheaper because it’s readily available in your local area.
22. Plant An Organic Garden
Fresh, no pesticides and within easy reach…enough said!
23. Benefit from Your Extra Energy
Plant-based diets tend to provide so much more energy than conventional diets. You may be able to start a new hobby or sports activity that you’ve just not had enough energy to enjoy. This will only add more health benefits along with your new eating habits!
24. Find the Vegetarian Diet That Works For You
No two vegetarians are alike. You have to find the right system that works best for you. There are several types of vegetarian diets. Choose what suits your life best and adjust to it. Committing to a vegetarian diet is not easy. That’s why it’s so important that you take your time and plan well. Follow the simple tips above to get started on a meatless diet. Your transition will be a lot smoother and more successful.