I came home the other day to this pamphlet. You know the kind. “EVEN IF YOU LIKE MEAT… YOU CAN HELP END THIS CRUELTY.”
It wasn’t the first time I toyed with the idea of becoming a vegetarian. So I cut the meat out cold turkey.
New too this meatless phenomenon, I assumed this minor alteration to my lifestyle would be no trouble at all. Day two came along and I ordered a chicken quesadilla on accident. Maybe it would be a little harder than I had thought.
Becoming a vegetarian is not something you can just “do.” Despite popular belief, vegetarianism takes a little more planning than taking to an all-pizza, all the time diet. If you want to “be” a vegetarian, you must consider and weigh all the different options in order to get the proper nutrition your body needs.
1. THE CHOICE
There are actually many reasons people choose to become vegetarians. Not everyone is trying to lead the crusade for animal rights. Whether it be for a healthier diet, keeping your weight down, reducing the risk of disease and food-borne illness, environmental concerns… starting down the path to vegetarianism starts with the commitment.
Once you’ve committed to the idea of going green, you face a whole new set of struggles.
2. THE STRUGGLE
The trip to the grocery store after The Choice has been made can seem a little daunting. There seems to be nothing to eat. There is meat everywhere I turn.
To compensate for this loss, try adding new foods into your diet that you have never had before. Some people find it easier to quit by simply substituting meat with vegetarian options such as tofu, tempeh (made from fermented soybeans and grain,) and seitan, which is derived from whole grains. Either way, a varied diet will ensure that you are getting all the proper nutrients your body needs.
And no worries, those cravings will eventually subside.
3. THE VITES
You’re going to need several vitamins to make it as a vegetarian. You won’t make it more than a week by eating grilled cheese and cereal. According to the Vegetarian Resource Group, your main focus should be protein, iron, calcium, B-12, and Omega-3.
Protein: Despite popular belief, there is protein in a lot of other foods besides meat. Good examples of a vegetarian protein would be nuts, seeds, legumes, soy, grains, dairy, meat substitutes (see above), fish (for pescatarians,) and eggs.
Iron: Young adults need approximately 8 mg of iron a day. Good sources of iron in vegetarian foods include dried beans, dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, broccoli,) lentils, chickpeas, and quinoa.
Calcium: Calcium is the most important nutrient for your body’s overall health. Since your body does not make it itself, it needs to be maintained at a constant level. Calcium can be found in many foods but the recommended intake is 1000mgs a day for the average adult. Calcium sources include mostly all food groups.
B-12: This vitamin is essential but it required in small amounts. A B-12 deficiency can lead to all sorts of health issues such as vascular problems, infertility, memory problems, etc. Vegetarians are prone to this deficiency. Vitamin B-12 can be found in supplements, soymilk, and some meat substitutes.
Omega-3: Usually found in fish oil, getting your Omega-3 fatty acids into your diet may be a bit of a challenge. Make sure you are eating your plant foods, avocados, seeds, nuts as well as hempseed or flaxseed oils high in monounsaturated fats.
Total vegetarian: A diet that excludes meat, eggs, fish, and dairy products.
Pescatarian: A variation of a vegetarian diet that allows the consumption of fish or seafood.
Vegan: A more extreme version of a vegetarianism diet that excludes all animal products as well as products made from animals, such as wool.
Lacto ovo vegetarian: The mot common vegetarian diet that allows for the consumption of dairy products and eggs.
Semi vegetarian: A mostly plant-based diet that excludes a certain type of meat, such as chicken.
Tempeh: A soy product originating from Indonesia. Made from cooked and fermented soy beans, Tempeh is shaped into a patty and can be used as a meat substitute in many traditional recipes.
Tofu: A meat substitute made from curdled soymilk that is pressed into a block. Tofu acts as a sponge and takes on the flavor of whatever it is put in. It can be firm (idea in a stir fry) or soft (better for smoothies.)
Seitan: Also called wheat gluten, seitan is made from wheat protein and has a similar texture to meat when cooked. It is often used to replace duck.
Fruitarian: A vegetarian diet that allow fruit, seeds, nuts and plant matter that can be gathered without harming the plant.
Hempseed: A superfood high in magnesium, fiber, iron and potassium
Legumes: A protein-rich family of vegetables including beans, lentils, peas, and peanuts.
Flexitarian: a non-committed vegetarian whose diet is largely plant based but allows for infrequent consumption of meat.
Macrobiotic diet: A diet consisting of mostly whole grains and beans. Macrobiotic vegetarians avoid highly processed and refined foods.
Flax seed: This seed comes in two different varieties- brown and gold, and are high in antioxidants and fiber and is considered a “good” fat. This seed is thought to protect against cancer and could help lower cholesterol.
Raw vegetetarian: A type of vegetarian who believe that cooking food eliminates valuable nutrients in food.