How to Go Vegetarian
While going meatless isn't for everyone, it can improve your health. Here are tips from nutritionists on making the transition:
- Know why you're doing it. Having firm reasons for changing your diet -- whether moral, ethical, medical, environmental or otherwise -- - can keep you on track.
- Set guidelines. Many vegetarians decide to keep eating eggs and dairy, while others opt to cut all animal products.
- Tell family and friends. They may not understand or approve, so be ready to explain your reasons.
- Don't go cold turkey. Two strategies are to eliminate one type of meat a week -- red meat first, say, followed by chicken, pork and seafood -- or to swap in one vegetarian meal each week.
- Have some recipes ready. Buy a vegetarian cookbook or use an online source such as www.goveg.com. Try one new dish a week to make the switch fun -- not a form of deprivation.
- Keep eating healthy. Vegetarianism can be very unhealthy if you load up on junk food. Stick with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, meat substitutes, soy protein and low-fat dairy. Good snacks include fruits and vegetables, almonds, hummus, low-fat granola and whole-grain crackers.
- Watch your protein intake. Vegetarians need to be careful to get enough protein (as well as calories and healthy fats). Nuts, beans and seeds are three good choices.
- Experiment with meatless products. Grocery stores stock tofu and many meat substitutes, including sausage patties, chicken nuggets, bacon and ground beef. So you can keep making favorites like lasagna, spaghetti, chili and stir-fry with those products.
- Go ethnic. Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Thai restaurants tend to have a lot of vegetarian choices. You also can ask a restaurant to prepare a dish without meat.