Monday, November 30, 2015

The Road to Becoming Vegetarian - Guide and Tips

Posted by Amanda Villaruel | |
Considering becoming a vegetarian or just curious about it? In the US alone, there are approx. 16 million people who are vegetarians or vegans.1
Ovo-lacto vegetarian meal at my mother-in-law's - tips for becoming vegetarian and pescetarian
Vegetarian meal at my mother-in-law's

First of all, what is a vegetarian diet?

In general, a vegetarian diet contains no meat, poultry and fish. Vegetarians can be divided into types, whereas a pescetarian is a type of vegetarian who eats only fish.

The most common type is the ovo-lacto vegetarians, who include eggs and diary in their diets, but not meat, poultry and fish.

Ensuring animal welfare is often the reason for why certain people don't want to eat meat (anymore). In other parts of the world, in for instance India, there are nearly 500 million vegetarians - a diet that is strongly linked to hinduism, jainism and buddhism.2

How do you want to practice vegetarianism? 

1. Vegan squash pasta 2. Vegetarian quiche and apple pie 3. Veggie food at the Vegetarian festival 4. Vegetarian pizza 5. Making veggie risotto with Quorn filets
1. Vegan squash pasta 2. Vegetarian quiche and apple pie 3. Veggie food at the Vegetarian festival
4. Vegetarian pizza 5. Making veggie risotto with Quorn "chicken" filet

Becoming vegetarian is a personal choice. What type of vegetarian you want to be is a personal choice :-)

I've been to some vegetarian events here in Oslo where the pescetarians in the audience would humourusly be "mocked" by the lecturer for not being a real vegetarian.

I've also read a lot of threads at various forums where pescetarians are criticized for not being a real vegetarian, and ovo-lacto vegetarians being criticized by vegans for being hypocrites because they still eat eggs, cheese and drink milk that all come from animals.

I don't find this criticism justified nor fair. Instead of pointing fingers, why not show some support. We're in this together, aren't we?

Whether you're pescetarian, vegan or ovo-lacto, we're working towards the same goal - a world where the meat consumption has been reduced drastically - for environmental purposes and for the protection of animal welfare :-)

Tips - the transition from non-vegetarian to vegetarian:

1. First of all: 

Ask yourself these questions: Do you want to go cold turkey and cut out all types of meat right away, or do you want to take it step wise?

Taking it gradually has helped me. While going cold turkey might be a better approach for others.
Ovo-lacto vegetarian pasta carbonara
Ovo-lacto vegetarian pasta carbonara made by my boyfriend :-)

As an example you can start cutting out the animal flesh for a week. If that goes well, try for another week. When you're feeling more confident, you can start excluding other animal products from your diet for a longer period.

I started out as a pescetarian, excluding meat, ham and poultry. Even the Italian prosciutto which I miss now and then.

After approx. two years, I expanded the vegetarian diet to exclude fish and all kinds of lunch meat. I didn't plan the transition to ovo-lacto to happen after two years - it just felt naturally ;-)

2. Planning.
  1. When you're new to vegetarianism, you need to get used to plan the meal so you get the nutrition you need, especially if you don't want to eat any animal products. From which other food products can you get protein? Iron? Vitamin B12?

    Read: Vitamin B12: Are you getting it?

    Vegetarian diet: How to get the best nutrition.

    Every health site I've been to recommends to have a balanced diet when you're a vegetarian/vegan. Well, I think that a balanced diet is important whether you're eating meat or not. There's nothing different there. 

  2. Sometimes we don't have the time to plan the dinner. A simple way of combining simplicity and vegetarianism is to replace the meat part with something meat-free. A suggestion is to write a list of your favorite meals. Let's say you love spaghetti and tacos. You can still make them, but you need to replace the mince meat ;-) Make meatless versions of what you already love!

    Nowadays there's a pretty good market for meat substitutions for both vegetarians and vegans.

    Products from Quorn including mince "meat" and "chicken" pieces, that are made from mycoprotein (protein from fungi). Products from Anamma made from soy protein. The "chicken strips" and burgers from Beyond Meat that according to them are made from non-GMO soy and pea protein. Fry's Vegetarian offers a good variety of meat substitutions made from vegetable protein, including soy.

  3. One of the most exciting things about vegetarianism is new recipes! :-)

    A recipe site I personally use and recommend is Vegetarian Times. Scandinvian readers will find healthy and quick vegetarian recipes at Veganmisjonen and Vegetarbloggen. You can find so many delicious Christmas vegetarian recipes at Jamie Oliver's website.
Border shopping in Sweden: Meat replacements and organic food products
Border shopping in Sweden: Meat replacements and organic food products

See how it goes with the new diet. If you suspect nutritional deficiencies, a visit to the doctor's is not a bad idea. If the test shows that you lack iron or any other minerals or maybe vitamins, your doctor may recommend certain food products which you should add to your vegetarian diet.

I know vegans with a varied diet who took their tests, and they were perfectly 'healthy'. I took a test earlier this year, and to my surprise I had iron deficiency. Quite harmless though, and all I did was to increase the intake of iron :-)

3. Craving for meat?

It's perfectly normal to crave for meat once in a while. It's like quitting smoking - now and then you're going to feel the urge to relapse.

But before you cave in, try to remind yourself why you're not eating meat anymore.

Why are you doing it? Animal welfare? Watching documentaries about animal welfare may help the craving (try Cowspiracy - available on Netflix). Whenever I feel the craving (especially when my mom cooks the infamous adobo with chicken), I think about the animal. What it had to go through, and is it worth eating it?

The article continues below the picture.
The road to becoming vegetarian
The road to becoming vegetarian

An unorthodox way of staying away from meat for good, is to actually try to eat meat. Don't shoot me just yet ;-)

From what I've heard from fellow vegetarians and from personal experience, "relapsing" can be good. But there's also a risk.

You may not like the taste of meat anymore, which may prevent future cravings. Or you may start including meat again in your diet. If the last part is the result, you probably weren't that motivated to vegetarianism to begin with.

The first Christmas after I had gone vegetarian I decided to eat the famous Norwegian Christmas dish "pinnekjøtt" (lamb). I loved pinnekjøtt when I was a non-vegetarian.

But somehow, the meat didn't taste the same. I had a hard time swallowing the meat pieces. It was like my taste buds had forgotten the taste of flesh. And my body rejected the meat (hard to swallow and retching).

This year will actually be my first Christmas without any meat on the plate :-)

Interesting articles about vegetarianism and the vegetarian lifestyle: 

The Guardian: The best countries in the world for vegetarians.

Time: 7 reasons vegetarians live longer.

Vegetarian Times: Why go veg?

BBC News: The rise of the part-time vegans.

NPR: Does being vegan really help animals?

Continue to read:
An environmentalist choosing between the lesser of two evils.

When your friends eat meat and you don't.


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