How to Become a Vegetarian

This post provides easy-to-follow Tips on Becoming Vegetarian including motivating Reasons to Become Vegetarian and Alternatives to Being 100% Vegetarian as a way to ease into a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

A photo of a care peering from behind a fence.

A vegetarian is a person who won’t eat anything that can have children. — David Brenner

I tried for years to become vegetarian. I also failed miserably at it too.

I would start at it for awhile and then give it up when the next family dinner rolled around. Or if we went out with friends, or I had a stubbed toe, or any other little excuse that came to mind.

I think it just took me awhile to work up the nerve to say the words, “I’m a vegetarian.” I live in the Midwest so meat is a big deal here and I was a little too worried about what others would think of me. I’m recovered from that condition now. In fact, I even took it one step further and became vegan.

But that’s a subject for another post.

The beautiful thing about failing at something is that you learn a lot too. As a result I compiled  some resources that now can be used to help others going through the same thing. Below are some reasons that I think being a vegetarian is a great way to live and some resources on how to do it:

Reasons to Consider Becoming a Vegetarian

  • Meat is gross. I’m sorry. I just had to start with this one because I think it’s true. Can you imagine eating your dog? Maybe your cat? Here’s the part where you’re supposed to respond in disgust and say, “Of course not!” But they do this in Asia. They keep cats and dogs in cages and people go to the market and pick the one they want to take home and cook for dinner. To me, eating the flesh of another animal is disgusting, whether it be pig, cow, dog, cat, or gecko.
  • Vegetables are Cholesterol Free! You can eat as many vegetables as you want and not worry about your cholesterol. Mine hovers around 150. I know some people may be predisposed to lower or higher numbers, but veggies are always a good option for low cholesterol dining!
  • Vegetarian is Green! Meat leaves a heavy carbon footprint. The Environmental Defense Fund suggests that, “if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off U.S. roads.”
  • Don’t Support Industrial Farming. Factory farming has found a way to turn cows, pigs and chickens into production units and the result isn’t pretty. Today over 9 billion animals are slaughtered each year. Linda McCartney once said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls the whole world would be vegetarian.” Every time we spend money on something, we’re basically voting for the company that produced the product. Don’t give factory farms your vote!
  • Get Physical Study after study indicates that vegetarians weigh less. Dr. Dean Ornish calls the vegetarian diet the “eat more, weigh less” strategy for weight loss. Here’s another helpful resource if you’d like to learn more about vegetarian diets and weight loss.
  • Food Labels are Misleading. I highly recommend Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book, Eat to Live where he discusses misleading food labels. Because our food is evaluated by volume instead of calories, companies can mark a product 98% fat free, even though it may actually be 100% fat. Consider the example by Dr. Fuhrman. If you have a cup with one tablespoon of oil and you fill the rest of the cup with water you can now claim that the product is 98% fat free based on the volume. In reality the calories you would consume by drinking this mixture would be 100% fat (the oil). Dr. Fuhrman is a family physician and both his book and website are full of very helpful strategies for healthy living.

Alternatives to 100% Vegetarianism

Most people can benefit from having at least some meals that are meat-free. Other alternatives to going 100% vegetarian include:

  • Meat-Free Mondays. The goal of this program is to have one day a week that is meat-free. Monday provides some good alliteration, but if another day of the week works best for you, that’s fine as well. Here’s how you can learn more about Meat-Free Mondays.
  • Weekday Vegetarian. Graham Hill spoke at a TED conference about his Weekday Vegetarian program where (you guessed it) he’s vegetarian Monday-Friday. You can learn more about Weekday Vegetarians on Tree Hugger.
  • Almost Meatless. Another resource that can be helpful in a transition to more vegetarian dining, includes Joy Manning’s cookbook called Almost Meatless.

Tips on How to Become a Vegetarian

Here are some of my favorite tips for people who are ready to become whole-hog vegetarians (wow, that is one confused sentence!):

  • Have good recipes on-hand. If you have a craving for a meat-based meal, there’s more than likely a vegetarian version that tastes just as great (if not better)! The trick is finding resources where you can have good vegetarian recipes on-hand. Sources for wonderful vegetarian recipes are: 101 Cookbooks, The Witchy Kitchen, and The Post Punk Kitchen. Christina Pirello offers some incredible whole food recipes in her book, Cooking the Whole Foods Way. The Moosewood Restaurant Cookbook is another great font of vegetarian recipes!
  • Bring Food to Share. I had a friend once who asked me to try the black bean soup she made. She made it with chicken stock, but she thought because she didn’t use actual chunks of chicken meat in the soup, it was vegetarian. She wasn’t being malicious, she just didn’t understand. Because of situations like this, whenever I’m invited to a friend’s party or a family dinner, I always bring my own food. Besides, then I get to share some delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes!
  • Plan. Being a vegetarian is no longer an automatic pathway to healthiness. There’s a lot of readily available junk food that’s also vegetarian. Even Skittles recently changed their recipe to be gelatin free which means it’s now vegetarian. Oreos, potato chips, and most french fries are vegetarian. There’s no problem with having an Oreo or two, but just remember to plan your diet to include lots of healthy fruits and veggies.
  • Become an Avid Reader. As a vegetarian it’s important to read food labels. There’s a lot of sneaky ingredients that you’ll want to avoid that find their way into food products. One example is gelatin. Gelatin is made from animal parts and is in everything from Jello to Frosted Mini-Wheats to marshmallows. Click here for the Vegetarian Resource Group’s list of ingredients to avoid.
  • Be Your Own PR. Be prepared. People will ask questions. First and foremost will be this one, “Where do you get your protein?” I wrote a review on BlogCritics recently for the book, The China Study, where the author, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, discusses the link between consumption of protein and most of the deadly diseases that plague us today (cancer and heart disease to name a couple). Rather than get into a heated debate on the topic of protein, I choose to say something like, “I get my protein from beans.” That usually causes people to back slowly away anyway! Be prepared for questions and how you want to answer them. But remember, if someone attacks you because they disagree with your vegetarian diet, it’s more about them than it is about you. Just say, “Thanks for sharing” and move on.
  • Go Sub-level: As a vegetarian, you have lots of tasty meat substitute choices available, from spicy *chick* wings to BBQ *ribs* to griller *burgers*. Today’s vegetarian can enjoy everything from bacon to sausage to chick nuggets.
  • Feel free: I’ve been on too many diets in my life and usually gave them up because I felt too deprived. That’s the beautiful thing about becoming vegetarian. You’re not depriving yourself because it has become your choice to be respectful of animals, your health, and the environment. Michael Pollan suggests we avoid those pesky center aisles of the grocery store because that’s where most of the processed and junk food resides. As a vegetarian, you won’t have to *avoid* the center aisles because you’ll prefer camping out in the produce section. I take short dives into various parts of the store too – sliced bread, canned beans, peanut butter. We also enjoy tortilla chips with our bean and rice burritos. The point here is to learn to enjoy your food and the shopping that goes with it!

Vegetarian Resources

Here’s some of my favorite vegetarian resources for people who are interested in becoming vegetarians:

I hope you find this How to Become a Vegetarian guide helpful. If you have tips to share or feedback, I’d love to hear about it!

Updated by Marly · Permalink

21 Responses to How to Become a Vegetarian

  1. Yay Marly!! Great post!! You’ve shared some fantastic information and resources, what a great way to support and inspire others!! I agree, vegetarian food is so much more about what you eat rather than what you don’t eat!! Being veggie is the best!!

    • Thanks! I like that – it’s about what you eat rather than what you don’t eat. There’s definitely no need to feel deprived.

  2. well I’ve just found your site recently and want to thank you for this thorough list of resources. As I transition from meat to vegan it’s very helpful and supportive.
    growing up I couldn’t stand the taste of meat and rarely ate it. as an adult I found that it was easier to go along than go against; those were my choices. after listening to Prez Clinton talk recently about his diet I’ve made the choice to go vegan. i’ve had enough. I need to lose weight and I just generally feel not well. after 56 years, the time for change has come. thanks so much for the guides.

    • That’s great news! I was surprised to learn about Clinton’s new diet as well. Good for him! I tell you, I can’t imagine eating any other way now. I really love it!

      Let me know if you have any questions. I’m wishing you the very best! Marly

  3. Hey Marly! This is such an awesome post. Plus, you do such a good job of conveying how rational a vegetarian diet can be and is for so many. I often think that vegetarianism makes so much sense in just so many ways-kind of a have your cake and it eat it too type of diet (smile). I mean any diet that involves lots of veggies but also allows for cheese is just kind of awesome! I must admit I’ve almost kicked my cheese addiction though. I just buy it for Cauldron Boy at this point…
    p.s. I made vegan pizzas with Daiya the other day. It’s so expensive though!

    • Have I told you this already? I can’t remember, but I LOVE Daiya cheese! It is the best. We have a local pizza joint that serves vegan pizza so we go there. I’ve been wanting to do a post on Daiya cheese and talk about it. That said, my hubby still prefers the Follow Your Heart brand of vegan cheese. So when I make pizza I just make lots of it and we have some pizza with the Daiya and some with the Follow Your Heart. Did I tell you I’m a short order cook? Not really… but I do aim to please!

  4. I ate vegetarian for about five months and didn’t feel that deprived at all, in fact I ate way more variety of foods than I did as a meat eater. Overall it wasn’t a good fit for our lifestyle, but we do eat way less meat now, and all the animal flesh we do buy comes from well cared for animals. I fully support part time vegetarianism though.

  5. Excellent post Marly! You offered valid reasons why to become a vegetarian…many of which I use when I explain my choice to friends and family. I’ve found so much joy in NOT using meat to sustain me. And I hope that more people can start to make a switch to eating less animal products. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I agree! This is such an excellent post and resource!!

  7. Hey Marly, thanks for stopping by my blog… This is such an informative post and also very very interesting. I am a meat eater and always have been. I tried to be a vegetarian but unfortnately it didnt suit me at all. Although i totally get what you have written about and understand it. But either way your post was great!

  8. great post Marly – the points you’ve listed are on my own list as well. and even though we’re not ‘complete’ vegetarians (we still eat meat occasionally) we do eat a vegetarian diet more than 80% of the time – in fact, we might only eat one meal out of the entire week that is meat based. you are correct in that when making the change from a meat-based diet to a more vegetarian diet, it’s really important to plan – at least this has been true for us. but i also believe that planning helps to refocus our thoughts about food rather than mindlessly plowing through the food on our plates. we’re getting there!

    • Hi Debra – I agree there are plenty of options besides 100% vegetarian or vegan. I think it’s important to note that if everyone reduced the amount of meat it would be so much better for health, animals, and the environment. Oh, and let me tell you about mindlessly plowing through food. I have my days!

  9. What a great post with so many resources. I am so impressed by the amount of great vegetarian recipes available these days.

  10. (((Perfect Post)))

  11. Good ideas and tips all around.
    Here, I wouldn’t have a prob becoming Vegetarian, the meat and chicken just tastes like nothing (but so do most of the veggies).
    Back ‘home’ in Hungary, different story 🙂

  12. I absolutely love this post! So much great info – I can’t wait to share it with everyone. I recently went back to being a vegetarian (long story) and I don’t want to push my ideas/beliefs onto others…. but…. come on! I’ve never felt better (and I mean that in so many different ways) in my life and that’s thanks to being a vegetarian!

    I just love love love your posts, but this one is wonderful 🙂

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  14. This is a great post, with so many resources. I especially liked the Weekday Vegetarians piece since it gives people the flexibility to eat some meat when they go out on the weekends. I took Dr. Colin Campbell’s China Study class on plant based nutrition, and made significant changes to my family’s diet. However, it is really hard to change over 100% to vegetarian for many. I also make sure that I bring a dish I can eat when I’m invited to someone’s house. People are always happy to have a healthy alternative and I know that I’ll have something to eat.

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