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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 September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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