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