By Gabriella Pozell, Contributing Writer
For most of my life, I’ve been what some term a “flexitarian,” or a flexible vegetarian. In other words, I was vegetarian-leaning, but I still didn’t totally make up my mind on the subject of meat.
As a seven-year-old picky eater, I made the decision to quit eating red meat, so my regular source of protein was poultry and fish up until a couple years ago. Then, I gradually phased out eating poultry. I continued to eat fish up until recently when I made the decision to be more committed and become a full lacto-ovo-vegetarian.
My experiences with vegetarianism has helped me to see that having a vegetarian diet does not have to be as challenging as some might imagine it to be. For those who would like to become a full vegetarian or simply reduce the amount of meat in their diet, but don’t know where to get started, here are five key tips that have helped me.
1. Know why you want to do it.
To be successful in reaching any goal, it is important to understand why you are doing it. Knowing the reason why you want to become a vegetarian or reduce your meat intake can help motivate you. For example, you might be motivated by health reasons. Or, you might be driven by moral reasons. Or, you might be limiting your meat to be more environmentally conscious since research shows that meat production contributes to the carbon footprint.
For me, the initial reason was because I was a picky eater who was never really a big fan of meat in the first place, but eventually I came to the realization that I did not want to contribute to the slaughter of animals, so that gave me the extra motivation to make this a lifestyle and stick with it.
2. Focus on the benefits.
Instead of viewing yourself as deprived from meat, think positively and reflect on how the advantages outweigh the sacrifices. For example, there are numerous health benefits. Research conducted by The American Society for Clinical Nutrition discovered that vegetarians and those with low meat intake are more likely to have a higher life expectancy. This is because diets with more fruits and vegetables can lead to a lower risk for health problems like diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and heart disease.
In addition, there are financial advantages. Regularly buying meat can be expensive. Additionally, as you enjoy the health benefits of a diet filled with more fruits and vegetables, it is possible that you can save money on medical expenses in the long term.
3. Ease yourself into it.
Quitting meat “cold turkey” (pun intended) might work for some, but I have found that changing my diet gradually has made the whole process a lot less intimidating, and it gave me the needed assurance that I could keep it up.
One way to do this is by going meatless just on certain days in the beginning. For example, Meatless Mondays are a popular trend. Or, you can ease yourself into it by just quitting eating certain meats like red meats first.
4. Be balanced, but don’t be afraid to be adventurous.
While technically it is possible to be a vegetarian who subsists only on french fries, grilled cheese sandwiches, or pizza. Most doctors, dieticians, and vegetarians would agree that is not the recommended way go about it. Not to mention, a diet like that gets boring after a while. So, be sure to fill your diet with healthy fruits, vegetables, and grains, and try a variety of such foods. Be creative in the kitchen and be open to trying new things, so that you don’t get bored with your diet.
5. Educate yourself.
Being well-informed can make your new lifestyle more successful. You may want to consult with a doctor first to make sure that vegetarianism is right for you. You can also find suggestions and guidelines on the United States Department of Agriculture webpage. You can also do your research to find healthy vegetarian recipes.
If you have been procrastinating going vegetarian or reducing your meat intake, the summer is a great time to try it. Fruits and vegetables are in season, so that makes eating fresh produce more enjoyable and more affordable. Also, since this is a break for college students, it is a good opportunity to dedicate the time to be a successful vegetarian by doing the research and experimenting with new recipes. So, follow tips like these, and make this the summer to go vegetarian with ease.