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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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