I’m rounding off my National Vegetarian Week mini-series with an advice post. (Click the links to read Part 1 and Part 2.) It was reading blogs and speaking to other cruelty-free bloggers that made me feel like I could transition from a flexitarian diet to a pescatarian one, and then a pescatarian diet to a vegetarian one, so I’d really love to add my voice to the conversation and share what I’ve learned since I stopped eating meat and fish.
I’ve only been vegetarian since the start of 2017 so I’m still figuring things out, and the tips here are a summary of everything I’ve learned so far. Whatever stage you’re at, the good news is that it’s impossible to be perfect when it comes to ethical living; knowing this takes the pressure off enormously. There’s a lot to be said for doing what you can.
7 Tips for New and Potential Vegetarians
1. Take it slow
Going vegetarian can be a huge lifestyle change for some, especially if you grew up as part of a family whose meals were based around meat/veg/potatoes and similar dishes. So don’t feel like you have to cut all meat and fish out at once. My first step was to stop eating meat and then give up fish later, but that might not work for someone else — you could start by giving up red meat, for instance. There’s no one correct way to make the transition, so do what’s best for you.
2. Do your research
It’s definitely possible to get all the nutrients you need from a vegetarian diet and it’s worth reading up on how you can do this. Spend some time by the vegetarian and free-from shelves in the supermarket, look up ingredients and restaurant menus, and make use of all the resources for vegetarians that are out there. I became vegetarian out of compassion for animals, but when I looked into it I learnt about the positive impact a vegetarian diet can have on the planet and on your health, too. There’s so much more to a vegetarian lifestyle than it first appears.
3. Speak to other veggies
Chatting to fellow vegetarians (and also to vegans) online has been a huge support, be it for information, recommendations, or meal prep ideas.
4. Scour the internet for recipes
You’re bound to find something that suits your taste buds, your budget, and your lifestyle — the internet is an absolute godsend. You can find pretty much anything with a quick Google search; I’m quite partial to Mexican food and pasta dishes. The results might not always be what you hoped for but it’s fun finding out, and several of my now-staple dinners are internet recipes I’ve adapted after experimenting in the kitchen.
5. Look out for meat substitutes
You don’t have to eat meat substitutes like Quorn. However, they can be really useful when you’re just getting used to a vegetarian lifestyle and you need substitute ingredients for classic dishes like spaghetti bolognese and fajitas. Not all substitutes are equal — my favourite are Linda McCartney’s sausages, which are excellent in a sandwich with lots of ketchup when you’re hungover.
6. Remember why you’re doing this
People are going to question your decision. I’ve found the best way to deal with it is to answer any questions as calmly as you can (even if you’re 100% done with their comments about bacon). My family’s biggest concern was nutrition, so I ordered some leaflets about health from the Vegetarian Society and they soon put their minds at ease. Remember: it’s your body and it’s your life.
7. Don’t be too hard on yourself
Chances are you’re going to mess up. I’ve accidentally eaten non-vegetarian cheese several times now, and I once almost ate a piece of bacon that was hiding in a potato salad. Mistakes happen! The important thing is that you’re trying.
What advice would you give to new and potential vegetarians? Is there anything you’d add to this list? Let me know in the comments!