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What is the Easiest Way to Switch to a Vegetarian Diet?

R. Kayne
R. Kayne

The easiest way to switch to a vegetarian diet is to do it gradually. There are two ways to go, depending on if you enjoy cooking and have time, or prefer your meals ready-made.

For those who enjoy cooking, the first step is to purchase a vegetarian cookbook. Many vegetarian cookbooks are available at your local bookstore, or online. Choose a book with dishes that appeal to you, whether Italian, Mexican, American, or a combination of different types of food.

Quinoa pomegranate fennel salad, a vegetarian dish.
Quinoa pomegranate fennel salad, a vegetarian dish.

Start by paging through the book to pick four recipes that you’d like to try first. Pledge to cook one vegetarian dinner per week, and keep track of the meals you like. You can do this by copying the recipe to a 3x5 (76x127mm) index card to place in a special vegetarian diet recipe box, or you can tag the pages with a colored sticky tab, available from any office supply store.

A vegatarian dish.
A vegatarian dish.

At the end of the month, find four more recipes and, again, try one new vegetarian dinner per week. Pick one additional day out of the week to make a dish you have already tried and liked from the previous month. Choose from your vegetarian diet recipe box, or from the colored tabs.

Don’t be afraid to alter recipes as you see fit. Tastes are individual and often a recipe will be greatly improved by simply leaving out a strong ingredient or adding another. You can also experiment with meals you commonly make by substituting a meatless product. For example, if your family likes tacos made with crumbled hamburger, you can substitute crumbled meatless burger instead.

Beans are used to make many vegetarian dishes.
Beans are used to make many vegetarian dishes.

The third month, follow the same routine, trying four new recipes, one each week. Pick two additional days to make recipes you have already tried and liked. In the third month of switching to a vegetarian diet you will be eating three vegetarian meals per week.

As you shop for groceries, explore the vegetarian section for meatless cold cuts, hot dogs, and other vegetarian foods. The delicatessen section will have these items. For vegetarian breakfast sausages, crumbled meatless burger and other items, look in the frozen foods section. Begin expanding your vegetarian diet to include occasional lunches and breakfasts.

A soy hot dog with mustard.
A soy hot dog with mustard.

In seven months you will be eating a vegetarian diet for dinner every night, and should be well established in vegetarian foods for your other meals as well. If it takes longer, that’s okay too. Don’t eat food that is unappealing — there are plenty of tasty vegetarian meals out there, so give yourself time to discover them.

For those with no time to cook, you’re in luck. It is very easy to eat a vegetarian diet by buying healthy meals from the frozen foods section. Meatless burgers of all sorts, meatless chicken Parmesan, meatless buffalo wings, and a wide assortment of other vegetarian meals are available.

Fresh fruits and vegetables can be used in a variety of recipes from entrees to side dishes, and even desserts.
Fresh fruits and vegetables can be used in a variety of recipes from entrees to side dishes, and even desserts.

Follow the same basic routine by buying four new vegetarian meals to try. Try one each week, until you build up a selection of meals you like. Each month determine to increase the weekly vegetarian meal by adding an additional day. Incorporate meatless deli foods into your vegetarian diet for lunches. Try to cook fresh vegetables occasionally, whole grain rice, and eat plenty of fruit.

Vegetarians often substitute vegetable proteins, like soya mince, for ground meat.
Vegetarians often substitute vegetable proteins, like soya mince, for ground meat.

It was once thought that vegetarians could not get enough protein in a vegetarian diet. This myth has been proven false. Most vegetarian diets are high in soy which is rich in protein. Meatless luncheon meats, meatless burgers and virtually all meat substitutes are made from soy. Other foods such as legumes (beans), whole grain rice, vegetables and fruits all combine to provide protein. If you have access to these meatless products and foods, there should be no problem getting sufficient protein in your new vegetarian diet.

Vegetarian versions of meat dishes like meatloaf made with lentils in place of ground meat can help ease the transition.
Vegetarian versions of meat dishes like meatloaf made with lentils in place of ground meat can help ease the transition.

While many doctors claim a well balanced diet is easily achieved by simply eating a wide variety of foods, some people feel more comfortable supplementing a vegetarian diet with a good multiple vitamin. Note too that as you drop meat from the diet, your taste buds will likely change, allowing you to appreciate a vegetarian diet even more. For this reason you can revisit vegetarian foods that you might reject at the start of your quest, as they may taste different in time. By switching over to a vegetarian diet gradually you should find it not only easy but enjoyable.

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Discussion Comments

anon163780

a vegetarian diet causes weight loss because meat actually contains a lot of fat. as long as you supplement the iron and protein missing from your diet

love0876

ChessPlayer- I have heard that switching to a vegetarian diet plan can actually cause weight gain because your body is suddenly deprived of many essential nutrients like protein.

It is crucial to make sure all of your nutritional needs are being met if you decide to become a vegetarian. Make sure you take a daily multivitamin and eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. You will also need to get protein from alternative sources including nuts, soy and dairy products.

ChessPlayer

Has anyone had any success losing weight by switching to a vegetarian diet plan?

shoeshopper

When I decided to become a vegetarian, I tried initially to do it cold turkey. This was too difficult and I ended up giving up and going back to eating meat within one week.

I tried once more and took a different approach. I tried cutting out one category of meat each month. The first month, I cut out beef. The next month, I cut out pork. Each month I cut out a different meat category and before I knew it I was not eating any meat.

This gradual approach worked much better for me. Going cold turkey is very difficult and more often than not does not work.

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    • Quinoa pomegranate fennel salad, a vegetarian dish.
      By: James Cohen
      Quinoa pomegranate fennel salad, a vegetarian dish.
    • A vegatarian dish.
      By: Marco Mayer
      A vegatarian dish.
    • Beans are used to make many vegetarian dishes.
      By: tfazevedo
      Beans are used to make many vegetarian dishes.
    • A soy hot dog with mustard.
      By: Brenda Carson
      A soy hot dog with mustard.
    • Fresh fruits and vegetables can be used in a variety of recipes from entrees to side dishes, and even desserts.
      By: marucyan
      Fresh fruits and vegetables can be used in a variety of recipes from entrees to side dishes, and even desserts.
    • Vegetarians often substitute vegetable proteins, like soya mince, for ground meat.
      By: andystjohn
      Vegetarians often substitute vegetable proteins, like soya mince, for ground meat.
    • Vegetarian versions of meat dishes like meatloaf made with lentils in place of ground meat can help ease the transition.
      By: charlottelake
      Vegetarian versions of meat dishes like meatloaf made with lentils in place of ground meat can help ease the transition.