More and more of us are turning vegetarian or vegan, and it’s never been easier to make that happen for you if it’s what you want.
1. Make changes at a speed that works for you
Some people find it easier to go veggie overnight, and others prefer a gradual process. There’s no right way to do it, so do what you are comfortable with. Don’t let others tell you what you should or shouldn’t be eating, and don’t feel you have to give up all animal products straight away.
Here are some easy ways to make changes:
- Start with one day a week of veggie meals
- Go veggie one meal at a time, e.g., breakfast
- Give up one form of meat at a time; for instance, avoid red meat first, then give up chicken and fish when you’re ready
- Decide which meals will always be veggie and which won’t – you may want to eat fish soup while going for veggie curry
2. Start with your favorite dishes
Take stock of what your favorite meals are, and go for veggie options of those.
If you are a fan of chili, go for crumbled tofu chili (if you don’t know what to do with tofu, go here to learn how to prepare it for cooking).
If you love chicken curry, try using tempeh in place of the chicken.
You can keep a Pinterest board of recipes with the veggie equivalents of your favorites, as well as new recipes to try.
Start with recipes, and then gradually branch out to learn to experiment with your own food combos.
I like to have a cooking session once a week to either make something new or a big batch of one of my favourites to freeze portions for those busy weekdays.
3. Treat yourself to meat substitutes
There are many brands of meat substitutes for all kinds of dishes – veggie options for ‘ham’, ‘bacon’, and more abound at supermarkets everywhere. Some brands may be more to your taste than others, so experiment to see what you like.
You don’t want to rely on meat substitutes as daily foods as they are highly processed. However, as with all convenience foods, they certainly come in handy when you’re first getting started or if you want to cook something fast.
4. Know where you’re getting your protein
If you are concerned about getting enough protein, know that tofu, tempeh, chia seeds, spirulina, and Quorn are complete proteins (they contain all nine essential amino acids).
In addition, lentils, eggs, beans, cheese, nuts, and seeds are excellent veggie sources of protein.
5. Educate yourself about ingredients
Depending on how strict you want to be about a vegetarian diet, you may or may not want to learn about some hidden foods that are not vegetarian.
Some examples to watch out for are:
- gelatine, found in jelly, gummy bears and other sweets, and marshmallows
- animal-derived flavourings, found in potato chips and other flavoured snacks
- animal rennet, found in some cheeses
- animal lard, found in some dumplings and baked goods
- tallow, found in margarine
6. Stock up ahead of time
It’s worth preparing your pantry before starting your veggie diet so that you have plenty of tasty options to hand.
Make sure you have things like:
- Canned or dried beans or lentils
- Canned or frozen veggies
- Canned tomatoes (great for sauces)
- Jars of sauces (pesto, tomato sauce, etc.)
- Jars of antipasti veggies (capers, roasted peppers, artichokes)
- Boxes of grains (rice, pasta, quinoa, buckwheat)
- Herbs and spices
- Oils and vinegars
7. Try new produce items
When you go to the supermarket, buy a new fruit or vegetable that you’ve never used before. Recipes abound online for literally anything you could possibly find in your local supermarket.
If you aren’t a fan of trying new foods, try a new recipe with one of your favourites. For instance, if you love eggplant and always make eggplant parmigiana, try some Chinese eggplant curry instead. You get the idea!
8. Be kind to yourself
Go easy on yourself as you embark upon this new culinary journey. Food is an integral part of our cultures and our daily lives, so you’ll want to arm yourself with patience and kindness. It isn’t the end of the world if you are tempted once in a while to eat your aunt’s Spaghetti Bolognese that she made just for you, not knowing your new eating plan!