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Making the transition to a vegetarian lifestyle is not as awkward or complicated as one might think. People choose to make the transition for a variety of reasons such as an aversion to animal products, health concerns, desire to be more ecologically friendly, or concern for animals. There are many reasons a person might want to try vegetarianism, even as an experiment. Here are some tips for vegetarian living.
1. Read Food Labels–One of the first steps to vegetarian living involves learning how to scan food labels for animal products or other foods an individual may not want to ingest (e.g. dairy, gluten, refined sugars, etc.). Thanks to the new labeling laws, it is a more streamlined process in which most vital information is located at the bottom of a label to check for common additives and allergens. The new labels include indicators for foods that contain gluten, milk, eggs, etc.
2. Try New Recipes–There are so many recipes available online, at the library, or via cookbooks that accommodate meatless eating and alternative lifestyles. Not to mention, all the recipes that can be easily adapted for plant or soy-based eating. The possibilities are limitless.
3. Eating Out–Eating out can be fun as well as healthy. The trick involved with vegetarian living is that a person needs to do their research ahead of time and locate the eating establishments in their area that offer meatless options.
4. Investigate Microwavable Meatless Meal Options–There are tons of vegan and meatless microwavable meals, as well as convenient snacks, available on the market. A few examples include Tofurky Jurkey (vegan jerky), Tofutti Cuties (soy-based ice cream sandwiches), Fantastic Foods’ 3-Bean Chili, and Yves’ line of cheese and veggie meat products. Not to mention, staple meatless food items such as fresh fruit, peanut butter and jelly, as well as any of the vegetarian soups by Campbell’s, Progresso, or Amy’s Organic (e.g. lentil, tomato, hearty vegetable, etc.).
5. Local Suppliers–Locate and frequent local suppliers of plant-based foods. Depending on the area in which a person lives, the awareness level of healthy eating options provided could be limited. Therefore, it is important to do one’s research and support those suppliers who are offering alternative eating options.
6. Use the Internet as a Research Tool–In this day and age, the Internet is a good friend and research tool for aspiring as well as existing vegetarians. It helps those interested in making a transition to vegetarian living. It provides people with the most current results and information available on nutrition, as well as plant-based foods and living.
7. Adapt and Survive–Start off by making vegetarian versions of a person’s favorite foods. For example, if someone is a taco fan, forget the beef and substitute ground turkey, chicken, or seafood instead. Of course, it depends on what type of vegetarian someone wants to become. There are various forms of vegetarianism. If poultry or seafood are not included in one’s diet, try tofu or a meatless alternative for filler.
8. Expand Social Circle–When making a major lifestyle change, it is also important for a person to expand their social circle and start hanging out with like-minded people. This new community can help make the transition to vegetarian living easier. This new group could be online or a person-to-person gathering. These like-minded individuals can share tips, advice, recipes, and/or experiences about making the transition.
9. Check Out Meatless Options–Visit the local supermarket and check out all the meatless options available. Nowadays, the variety is very impressive. There are so many meatless options to consider such as chicken or turkey sausage, turkey or veggie burgers and hot dogs, Boca or soy burgers, faux turkey deli slices and chicken patties, and even meatless spare ribs just to name a few. Moreover, dairy alternatives include rice or soy milk, soy yogurt, non-dairy ice cream, and vegan cream cheese among many other options. With all the meatless options available, a vegetarian never needs to go hungry.
10. Explore Meatless Ethnic Foods–While someone can make vegetarian versions of their favorite classic American or traditional dishes, they can also spice things up and challenge their taste buds by sampling a variety of meatless ethnic foods, including hummus (a tangy spread made from chickpeas), falafel, which is a spicy mix of beans that can be made into meatballs, pancakes, or patties, as well as dozens of other meatless Middle Eastern foods.
Vegetarian living is not only about food but also involves lifestyle choices. However, making the transition to a meatless lifestyle is not as awkward or complicated as one might think. People choose to make the transition for many different reasons and some may view it as an experiment. There are many advantages to living an alternative lifestyle, but ultimately, it is a personal choice whether or not it is a lifestyle that suits the individual.
Written and Edited By Leigh Haugh
PETA–6 Tips for Becoming Vegetarian
Food Republic–10 Easy Vegan Tips for Living Vegan-ier
Care2.com–10 Simple Tips for the New Vegan