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5 Practical Tips For Starting a Vegetarian Lifestyle

5 Practical Tips For Starting a Vegetarian Lifestyle

You’ve been thinking about it for quite some time: eliminating meat and becoming a vegetarian. What influenced this change? Was it a Netflix documentary that moved you to tears? A friend or significant other who has given up meat in favor of a plant-based lifestyle? Or, maybe you simply want to try something new.

Whatever the reason, transitioning to a vegetarian diet is not as daunting as you may think. Sure, it isn’t necessarily easy. After all, if you grew up enjoying turkey at Thanksgiving or fried chicken on the 4th of July, consuming meat is ingrained in you.

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When I decided to became a vegetarian over five years ago (I am now vegan, but I had to start somewhere!), I performed a Google search extensive research to explore the benefits of vegetarianism and how to transition in a healthy, safe way. I found that there are many resources regarding the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. Still, I must admit, I made a few blunders. What I really needed were practical tips. If you’ve already read the articles and statistics about the health benefits of going “veg” and you’re looking for real, applicable tips, then this article is for you! Here are five pratical tips for starting a vegetarian lifestyle.

Start slow

Although you may be excited to dive right into the vegetarian lifestyle, it is best to start slow. Becoming a vegetarian is more than just a diet; it is truly a lifestyle change. A good idea is to start by eliminating meat from your diet one day per week. Meatless Monday is a fun, interactive (there’s a Facebook page!) resource that offers education about going meatless as well as delicious recipes. Remember, you are not in a race to become a vegetarian within a certain amount of time. Jumping into it will likely lead to feelings of discouragement and frustration. Take it slow and enjoy the process.

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Try something new

You may be tempted to simply eliminate meat from your diet, opting for fresh vegetables, salads, grains, and legumes. While these are important in a vegetarian diet, you may quickly become bored with plate after plate of beans and salad! Many people find it easier to transition to a vegetarian lifestyle by introducing meat substitutes into their diet. Popular brands such as Boca, Morningstar Farms, and Gardein are a few choices that offer meat-like products. They often have texture and flavor that is very close to your favorite meat dishes (try using veggie crumbles in your spaghetti; you really can’t tell that it is not beef!). When you become more comfortable in the kitchen, you can incorporate great protein sources like tofu, seitan, and tempeh. There are an endless number of wonderful vegetarian recipes, so get in the kitchen and start cooking!

Be mindful of your portion sizes

Although you may feel like you’re still hungry after a meatless meal, it is important to avoid overeating. This is were I went wrong when I started my vegetarian journey. Even as a meat eater, I’ve always loved salad. When I went meatless, I figured that I could have twice the salad without the calories. I didn’t factor in that twice the salad usually meant twice the cheese, dressing, croutons, etc. You get the point! I was replacing the calories and fat from the meat with calories and fat from all of the extra toppings.

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I truly believe that part of transitioning to a vegetarian lifestyle is also becoming more health conscious. I adopted a balanced vegetarian lifestyle by adding in protein- and fiber-rich plant-based foods into my diet so that I would feel just as full and satisfied as if I had consumed meat. Also, remember that you will eat again. So, unless you’re having your last supper, there is no need to stuff yourself!

Plan ahead

One of the biggest mistakes I made as a new vegetarian was not planning ahead. I would go the grocery store without giving any thought to what I was going to eat on a daily basis. Dining out was also frustrating because I didn’t know which restaurants had vegetarian options and would usually have to resort to having a variety of side dishes for my meal. The Internet is a great resource for vegetarian meal planning as well as looking up vegetarian-friendly restaurant menus. You don’t have to spend hours coming up with an elaborate weekly meal plan; however, discovering dishes and restaurants that you like and planning your meals accordingly will save you a lot of frustration, time, and even money!

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Have fun

Starting a vegetarian lifestyle does not have to be stressful or boring. Sure, starting anything new can be challenging. However, becoming a vegetarian should be a personal, pressure-free decision. You should be doing it because you want to do it. Enjoy experimenting with recipes and trying out new restaurants. Host a vegetarian dinner party and invite your friends. Consider finding a local Meetup group of “veg” foodies who enjoy gathering at various vegetarian restaurants around town. Not only will you find great food, you’ll also meet new people. Make it fun!

Featured photo credit: Wonderlane/ Flickr via flickr.com

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Malika Boyd

Social Worker

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

Have you ever noticed that some people are able to effortlessly remember even the most mundane details and quickly comprehend new things? Well, you can too!

To unlock the full potential of your brain, you need to keep it active and acute. Wasting time on your couch watching mindless television shows or scrolling through facebook is not going to help.

Besides getting out flashcards, what can you do to help remember things better and learn new things more quickly? Check out these 10 effective ways on how to improve memory:

1. Exercise and Get Your Body Moving

Exercising doesn’t just exercise the body, it also helps to exercise your brain. Obesity and the myriad of diseases that eventually set in as a result of being overweight can cause serious harm to the brain.

Furthermore, without regular exercise, plaque starts to build up in your arteries, and your blood vessels begin to lose the ability to effectively pump blood. Plaque buildup leads to heart attacks and it also reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that your blood carries to your brain. When the nutrients don’t make it there, the brain’s ability to function is compromised.

To prevent this from happening, make sure you get moving every day. Even if it’s just a brisk walk, it’ll help you maintain and increase your mental acuity. Brisk walking, swimming and dancing are all excellent activities. Take a look at these 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

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2. Eliminate Stressors and Seek Help If You’re Depressed

Anything that causes you major stress, like anger or anxiety, will in time begin to eat away the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory. Amongst the most brain-damaging stressors is depression, which is actually often misdiagnosed a a memory problem since one of its primary symptoms is the inability to concentrate.

If you can’t concentrate, then you might feel like you are constantly forgetting things. Depression increases the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream which elevates the cortisol levels in the brain. Doctors have found that increased cortisol diminishes certain areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus which is where short-term memories are stored.

Prolonged depression can thus destroy your brain’s ability to remember anything new. Seek professional help to combat your depression – your brain will thank you.

3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep and Take Naps

Getting a consistent 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night will increase your memory. During sleep, the brain firms up memories of recently acquired information.

Getting enough sleep will help you get through the full spectrum of nocturnal cycles that are essential to optimal brain and body functioning during the waking hours. Taking a nap throughout the day, especially after learning something new, can also help you to retain those memories as well as recharge your brain and keep it sharper longer.

4. Feed Your Brain

Fifty to sixty percent of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat, which is used to insulate its billions of nerve cells. The better insulated a cell is, the faster it can send messages and the quicker you will be thinking.

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This is precisely why parents are advised to feed their young children whole milk and to restrict dieting – their brains’ need fat to grow and work properly. Skimping on fats can be devastating even to the adult brain.

Thus, eating foods that contain a healthy mix of fats is vital for long-term memory. Some excellent food choices include fish (especially anchovies, mackerel and wild salmon) and dark leafy green vegetables. Here’re more brain food choices: 12 Foods that Can Improve Your Brain Power

Deep-fried foods obviously contain fat but their lack of nutritional value is not going to help your brain or your body, so think healthy foods and fats.

5. Eat Breakfast and Make Sure It Includes an Egg

According to Larry McCleary, M.D., author of  The Brain Trust Program, an egg is the ideal breakfast. Eggs contain B vitamins which help nerve cells to burn glucose, antioxidants that protect neurons against damage; and omega-3 fatty acids that keep nerve cells firing at optimal speed.

Other foods to add to your breakfast include fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Trans fats diminish the brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other and HFCS can actually shrink the brain by damaging cells.

Having a healthy breakfast in the morning has been shown to improve performance throughout the day. If you’re too busy to have a healthy breakfast, this maybe just right for you: 33 Quick And Healthy Breakfasts For Busy Mornings

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6. Write it Down

If there’s something you want to remember, writing it down can help.

It may sound like a no-brainer, but do you really know why? Writing it down creates oxygenated blood flow to areas of your brain that a responsible for your memories and literally exercises those parts of it. Here’s How Writing Things Down Can Change Your Life.

You can start a journal, write yourself emails or even start keeping a blog – all of these activities will help to improve your capacity to remember and memorize information.

7. Listen to Music

Research shows that certain types of music are very helpful in recalling memories. Information that is learned while listening to a particular song or collection can often be recalled by thinking of the song or “playing” it mentally. Songs and music can serve as cues for pulling up particular memories.

8. Visual Concepts

In order to remember things, many people need to visualize the information they are studying.

Pay attention to photographers, charts and other graphics that might appear in your textbook; or if you’re not studying a book, try to pull up a mental image of what it is you are trying to remember. It might also help to draw your own charts or figures, or utilize colors and highlighters to group related ideas in your notes.

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Here, you can learn How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results.

9. Teach Someone Else

Reading material out loud has been shown to significantly improve memory of the material. Expanding further upon this idea is the fact that psychologists and educators have found that by having students teach new concepts to others, it helps to enhance understanding and recall.

Teach new concepts and information to a friend or study partner, and you’ll find you remember the information a lot better.

10. Do Crossword Puzzles, Read or Play Cards

Studies have shown that doing crossword puzzles, read or play cards on a daily basis not only keep your brain active but also help to delay memory loss, especially in those who develop dementia.

So pick up the daily newspaper and work on that crossword puzzle, read a book or enjoy a game of solitaire.

Pick one to two of these tips first and start applying them to your everyday life. Very soon you’ll find yourself having better memories and a clearer head!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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