Slowing Going Veg (in 4 simple steps)

I gradually stopped eating meat about 3 years ago. My main reason for giving up my beloved burgers, meatloaf, and chili was to do my part in fighting climate change. I also recognized the health and financial benefits of going meatless, so it just slowly became a lifestyle change. (Full disclosure: I have eaten meat a few times over the past few years - Holiday meals with relatives and pregnant red meat cravings mostly. BUT that’s okay with me. I am open about my mostly vegetarian lifestyle. I wanted to be transparent here.) Have you been considering a switch to vegetarian diet (or semi-vegetarian diet), but you are not sure you can take the plunge?  Or maybe you just want to eat less meat to do your part in the fight against climate change? If so, you don’t have to quit cold turkey…no pun intended. One of biggest mistakes make when deciding to go vegetarian is doing it too quickly. Making a hasty and abrupt change can set you up for failure. Here are some tips on making a slow and successful transition to a vegetarian (or partial vegetarian) diet. Step 1 - Observe Your Current Diet Make a list of all the foods and meals that you normally eat each week. Make a special note of all your favorite meals that just so happen to be vegetarian. These can create your foundation, and you can build from there. For example, if you like veggie stir fry, bean burritos, and smoothies plan to eat these meals several times a week. That way you are already eating foods you know and enjoy.   Step 2- Revamp Meat Based Meals For your favorite meals that DO include meat, try to find vegetarian versions of those same recipes. For example, chili can be made using beans, tempeh, or tofu in place of ground beef. And a hamburger can be replaced with a hearty barley mushroom burger or spicy black bean burger. Here are some great veggie substitution ideas from Eating Well. Step 3 - Expand your Horizons Have fun expanding your food horizons by investing in new cookbooks or trying different products from the store. One cook book that was very influential in my own vegetarian journey was “The Forest Feast” by Erin Gleeson. I also love trying new vegetables.  For a while I made it a priority to try one new veggie each week, and I ended up liking every one. I had never had yuca, garlic scrapes, or ramps before and now they are some of my favorites! Step 4 - Plan for Meals on the Go Inventory your options at your local restaurants and coffee shops. It’s no fun to go out for a nice dinner with friends and then realize you cannot eat ANYTHING on the menu besides a side salad or buttered noodles. Check the menus ahead of time and try to choose restaurants that have veggie options.  Or if you know you will be out-and-about or traveling where veggie options may not be available, pack a vegetarian lunch or snacks. That way you won’t be caught hungry and desperate. One of my favorite meals on the go is a peanut butter, honey, and banana sandwich on Ezekiel bread. After a few weeks or months, you may notice your tastes starting to change! Don’t rush it. You may not even miss the meat after a while. But once you make the switch, check your intake. Are you eating a variety of grains, legumes, soy products, vegetables, and fruits? Aim for at least 5 servings of fresh fruit and veggies per day. And do NOT be afraid of grains! Whole grains like barley, quinoa, and wild rice give us energy and keep us grounded, so aim for 6-11 servings per day.  We often associate carbohydrates with weight gain, but if you avoid processed carbs like bread, bagels, pastas, pastries, you will be just fine.  Good luck saving the planet (and being kind to your body) on burger at a time. ;)

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