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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

More by this author

Malika Boyd

Social Worker

5 Practical Tips For Starting a Vegetarian Lifestyle How to Set Goals Instead of Resolutions for the New Year 5 Reasons To Say Honestly, “I Am Unhappy.”

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Last Updated on November 20, 2018

10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

A new year beautifully symbolizes a new chapter opening in the book that is your life. But while so many people like you aspire to achieve ambitious goals, only 12% of you will ever experience the taste of victory. Sound bad? It is. 156 million people (that’s 156,000,000) will probably give up on their resolution before you can say “confetti.” Keep on reading to learn why New Year’s resolutions fail (and how to succeed).

Note: Since losing weight is the most common New Year’s resolution, I chose to focus on weight loss (but these principles can be applied to just about any goal you think of — make it work for you!).

1. You’re treating a marathon like a sprint.

Slow and steady habit change might not be sexy, but it’s a lot more effective than the “I want it ALL and I want it NOW!” mentality. Small changes stick better because they aren’t intimidating (if you do it right, you’ll barely even notice them!).

If you have a lot of bad habits today, the last thing you need to do is remodel your entire life overnight. Want to lose weight? Stop it with the crash diets and excessive exercise plans. Instead of following a super restrictive plan that bans anything fun, add one positive habit per week. For example, you could start with something easy like drinking more water during your first week. The following week, you could move on to eating 3 fruits and veggies every day. And the next week, you could aim to eat a fistful of protein at every meal.

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2. You put the cart before the horse.

“Supplementing” a crappy diet is stupid, so don’t even think about it. Focus on the actions that produce the overwhelming amount of results. If it’s not important, don’t worry about it.

3. You don’t believe in yourself.

A failure to act can cripple you before you leave the starting line. If you’ve tried (and failed) to set a New Year’s resolution (or several) in the past, I know it might be hard to believe in yourself. Doubt is a nagging voice in your head that will resist personal growth with every ounce of its being. The only way to defeat doubt is to believe in yourself. Who cares if you’ve failed a time or two? This year, you can try again (but better this time).

4. Too much thinking, not enough doing.

The best self-help book in the world can’t save you if you fail to take action. Yes, seek inspiration and knowledge, but only as much as you can realistically apply to your life. If you can put just one thing you learn from every book or article you read into practice, you’ll be on the fast track to success.

5. You’re in too much of a hurry.

If it was quick-and-easy, everybody would do it, so it’s in your best interest to exercise your patience muscles.

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6. You don’t enjoy the process.

Is it any wonder people struggle with their weight when they see eating as a chore and exercise as a dreadful bore? The best fitness plan is one that causes the least interruption to your daily life. The goal isn’t to add stress to your life, but rather to remove it.

The best of us couldn’t bring ourselves to do something we hate consistently, so make getting in shape fun, however you’ve gotta do it. That could be participating in a sport you love, exercising with a good friend or two, joining a group exercise class so you can meet new people, or giving yourself one “free day” per week where you forget about your training plan and exercise in any way you please.

7. You’re trying too hard.

Unless you want to experience some nasty cravings, don’t deprive your body of pleasure. The more you tell yourself you can’t have a food, the more you’re going to want it. As long as you’re making positive choices 80-90% of the time, don’t sweat the occasional indulgence.

8. You don’t track your progress.

Keeping a written record of your training progress will help you sustain an “I CAN do this” attitude. All you need is a notebook and a pen. For every workout, record what exercises you do, the number of repetitions performed, and how much weight you used if applicable. Your goal? Do better next time. Improving your best performance on a regular basis offers positive feedback that will encourage you to keep going.

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9. You have no social support.

It can be hard to stay motivated when you feel alone. The good news? You’re not alone: far from it. Post a status on Facebook asking your friends if anybody would like to be your gym or accountability buddy. If you know a co-worker who shares your goal, try to coordinate your lunch time and go out together so you’ll be more likely to make positive decisions. Join a support group of like-minded folks on Facebook, LinkedIn, or elsewhere on the internet. Strength in numbers is powerful, so use it to your advantage.

10. You know your what but not your why.

The biggest reason why most New Year’s resolutions fail: you know what you want but you not why you want it.

Yes: you want to get fit, lose weight, or be healthy… but why is your goal important to you? For example:

Do you want to be fit so you can be a positive example that your children can admire and look up to?

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Do you want to lose fat so you’ll feel more confident and sexy in your body than ever before?

Do you want to be healthy so you’ll have increased clarity, energy, and focus that would carry over into every single aspect of your life?

Whether you’re getting in shape because you want to live longer, be a good example, boost your energy, feel confident, have an excuse to buy hot new clothes, or increase your likelihood of getting laid (hey, I’m not here to judge) is up to you. Forget about any preconceived notions and be true to yourself.

  • The more specific you can make your goal,
  • The more vivid it will be in your imagination,
  • The more encouraged you’ll be,
  • The more likely it is you will succeed (because yes, you CAN do this!).

I hope this guide to why New Year’s resolutions fail helps you achieve your goals this year. If you found this helpful, please pass it along to some friends so they can be successful just like you. What do you hope to accomplish next year?

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