How to Become a Vegetarian
A quick and simple guide to help you become a vegetarian
So you want to be a veggie but you have no idea how to start??? The answer is slowly and thoughtfully, probably not what you wanted to hear.
It is actually very easy, just eat a normal healthy diet. We have all seen the charts, five vegetable etc. All you have to do is change that tiny 50g of protein from animal to plant-based, that’s two portions of legumes or soy. In fact, if you eat a normal healthy diet, minus the meat, you would be hard pushed not to get enough protein.
HOW DO I GET ENOUGH PROTEIN AS A VEGETARIAN?
Try to eat three whole grains, two legumes or soy, five veg and two fruit, three nuts/ seeds, two oils and two dairy every day.
I was taught. Eat a portion of legumes or dairy WITH a whole grain. This was way before soy products!
The theory is that legumes, dairy and whole grains all contain protein, but on their own, they are not complete. You have to eat them in the correct combinations to complete them, its an amino acid thing. More recently this has been challenged as a myth, so life has just got even easier for vegetarians, it is no longer a necessity to combine your food to get enough protein.
The advice now is, that if I eat a good combination of raw plant foods, legumes, low-fat dairy, nuts and seeds and whole grains throughout the day with my fruit and veg, I do not have to eat a cow.
- You can not just stop eating meat without replacing the protein source.
- If you eat a poor diet as a meat eater and just take out the meat your diet is still poor and now lacking a good source of protein. This is the reason some people report being tired and lacking in energy after giving up meat.
- Vegetarians are not automatically healthy, if you eat too much sugar, fat and processed food as a vegetarian you will be unhealthy.
- You do not have to eat food in certain combinations.
- You absolutely will get enough protein without meat.
- Vegetarian cooking is easy and there are hundreds of good recipes and lots of convenience out there. Beans come in tins now, no soaking required.
- Becoming a vegetarian with a healthy sustainable diet could take you up to a year. It is common to ditch the meat for ethical reasons with no plan. This knee-jerk reaction is dangerous and often fails. You must plan to become a veggie. In my opinion, this is how you should do it.
THE MONTH BEFORE YOU START, take some time to answer these questions and think about the points.
- Decide if you are going to use lots of tofu products, there is some controversy around soy, it is a personal choice. I do not like the texture of meat and find some of the prepared meals too realistic for me, but I do buy blocks of tofu. Research online and make your own mind up.
- Ask yourself, is this the right time for you to make the decision? Do I have the time and resources at the moment?
- When you become a vegetarian, you do have to change your mindset. Instead of ‘How can I replace the meat in this meal?” you should be concentrating on getting enough legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy and whole grains with your fruit and veg over the whole week. How will you manage this, a meal planner, prepping like a champ at the weekend, scrambling at the last minute? The above chart, although obsolete, is still a useful visual prompt, see if you can combine, in theory, as you prepare your normal meals. What would say a grain and dairy look like ?- egg fried brown rice/ whole porridge oats and milk. If you do this at every meal you will be changing your mindset from replacing meat to eating a healthy vegetarian diet.
- Have a read through some recipes out there and bookmark the ones that you like the look of, or are easy, do not choose things that are widely complicated or out of your taste bud comfort zone. If you like butter chicken, look up chickpea satay or butter paneer. This should be a slow enjoyable journey.
- Note how you are eating now. Are you eating at a canteen with no meat-free choices? Go and have a look at what is on offer are there any local outlet with better options. Will you need to keep a protein source in your pocket to add to a side dish? Do you make your own lunch? – if so you will need to replace the meat aspect. Will you use tofu chicken or veggie ham? Koftas rule here. You can make them out of anything and put them in wraps, buns, rolls. Do you sit down with the family to eat? if so think about how to make a meal using the same basic ingredients the rest of the family is using, or how can you make the side dish your main meal.
- When you are shopping pick up a couple of low salt tins of lentils, chickpeas or any other bean you like the look of and find recipes for them, by searching online.
- Choose a date and start, one meat-free meal at a time, I want you to remember this is not a race, it is a long-term goal. Do not set a time frame, life might get in the way of your plans.
I have said that a vegetarian needs to eat a good combination of raw plant foods, legumes, low-fat dairy and whole grains throughout the day as well as your fruit and veg.
WHAT IS A LEGUME?
Legume is a general term used to describe the seeds of plants from the legume family, which includes beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts. Pulses are the dried edible seeds of plants in the legume family.
SOYBEANS AND PEANUTS. Some legumes are inappropriately called “nuts.” The most common example is the peanut, with other examples including soy nuts and carob nuts
PULSES: These include adzuki beans, black beans, soybeans, anasazi beans, fava beans, broad beans, kidney beans and lima beans. chickpea. Any type of lentil, whether yellow, orange, green, brown or black, the nutritional profile of lentils does not change with their color
Fresh beans and peas, including green peas, snow peas, snap peas, split peas and black-eyed peas. Similar to beans, peas contain high concentrations of carbohydrates and protein but little fat
WHAT COUNTS AS A WHOLE GRAIN?
Most common forms
- whole oats
- brown rice
- whole rye
- whole grain barley
- whole wheat couscous
- whole corn
WHAT IS DAIRY?
Most common forms
If you are feeling overwhelmed stop. It looks harder on paper.
In an attempt to get my three whole grains, two legumes or soy, five veg and two fruit, three nuts and seed, two oils and two dairy, this is what I ate yesterday.
Whole porridge oats with milk/ fruit, boiled egg/hummus and wholemeal pita and raw veggie sticks/black bean burger on wholemeal bun with salad/ munchy seeds
- 3 grains = porridge/wholemeal pita/wholemeal bun
- 2 legumes = hummus/ black bean burger
- 2 dairy = milk/ egg
- 2 oils = olive oil in hummus/ avocado oil dressing
- 3 nuts or seeds = munchy seed mix.
Looks like I fell short on the fruit and veg, I also drink alcohol, eat too much cheese and baking too! I am normal. The rest of the week looked roughly like this.
munchy seeds on toast /fruit, bliss balls/ corn on the cob, guacamole and salsa/ pumpkin seed and mung bean cakes with roast veggies, feta and rye crackers
Muesli and Greek yogurt/ seedyslaw with snow peas/cheese on toast/egg fried rice and stir fry veggies and tofu sesame/ roasted almonds
Beans on toast/ quinoa and feta salad/ fruit/ muesli bar/lentil bolognese on brown rice and green beans. Pistachios and dried apricots
Fortified cereal (B12), Munchy seeds/fruit/ Asian noodle salad, soybeans and sesame seeds/lentil and walnut cakes on shredded veggies.
Granola/ spiced couscous cakes with salad in a wholemeal wrap/ fruit/ veggie lasagna/munchy seeds/ ice cream.
Eggs on wholemeal toast/ fruit/pearl barley and carrot salad/ halloumi burger and kumara fries – take out.
I am just trying to give you an idea of what an old veggie eats, not holding this up as the ultimate diet; Check out the NZ Veggie guys for that.
WHEN YOU ARE READY
My advice would be, start slowly. Each week choose two meals to be meat free and trial two different recipes. Do this for two months, by then you need to have found.
A couple of good burger recipes. Or find a ready-made one that you like. I Eat them in wraps on the go, to replace the meat protein on the plate of a meat and two veg meal and of course in wholemeal buns with plenty of green salad. This is nice
Embrace lentils and find a lentil bolognese that you like Portion and freeze. Eat on rice, on toast, over pasta or potato, make lasagna. Some info on lentils
A tofu meal. stirfry or curry. Here’s something I wrote earlier
A kofta (or cake) one of the most versatile things to learn. They can be made from most whole grains and I make them with everything. Eat them with salad, on pasta or rice, in buns in wraps, hot, cold with or without a dressing. Try these
A dhal, lentil or mung bean there are many many versions or curry dish. Here’s a yummy authentic dhal
A bean stew, you can add veggies, dumplings, out on a potato top, spice it up. Like this, easy and tasty
A good frittata Jamie again! I use feta
Good fillings for filo. Filo parcels
The idea is to have a few good recipes that you can change. Where you can, make double, portion and freeze. Salads are am an amazing vehicle that can carry all that you need. Stick them in a wholemeal wrap, to eat at lunch.
By the third month aim to have three meat-free days. Try a new grain. Pearl barley and buckwheat cook like rice. Learn how to make bliss balls with different seeds and nuts, chia, flax, linseed, find your favorites. Each time you shop, pick up a small packet of spice that you have not tried. A Tsp of ground turmeric can transform your boring rice!
As you become more confident move on at your own pace. You might stay here for a while. Just keep adding more meals and trying new recipes. Do not stress if you fancy bacon, it’s your choice whether you eat it or not! You must continue to try different grains, get used to eating nuts and seeds as snacks, learn how to make your own muesli bars if you have time. Eat a fortified cereal that contains B12 or take a supplement if you do not want to eat eggs and milk. I eat dairy. If you do not want to read this
Finally, learn how to cut cooking corners to keep you on track when you are busy.
A tin of lentils and a jar of bolognese sauce on wholemeal pasta.
A tin of chickpeas, mashed with olive oil and lemon on wholemeal toast.
A tin of mixed beans emptied into good fresh vegetable soup.
You will also need a couple of dressings that you love that you can keep in the fridge. These will instantly transform a salad or a plate of veggies. Then you can add your can of something, maybe a boiled egg or low-fat cheese for a quick meal. Herby tomato, satay, or a swirl of cumin and lemon juice in creme fraiche. This is my favorite from one of the Revive Cafe Books.
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp honey or date puree
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp crushed chili I use sweet chili sauce here if pushed for time.
1 cup oil
¼ cup tepid water
2 tsp cumin seeds (optional)
1. Select a blender, food processor or stick blender
2. Blend all ingredients (except oil, water and seeds)
3 While blending, slowly add oil and then add water at end until desired consistency is reached
4. Mix in cumin seeds
So you see, becoming a vegetarian is adjusting your thinking. You can not continue to think and eat as a carnivore and leave out the meat, you must become a vegetarian by embracing a new and exciting variety of foods. You must take your time and learn what you like to eat and acknowledge that health comes before ethics sometimes, it might not be a good time to cut all meat out of your diet. Also, you might only reach three meat-free days, it is your own journey. Enjoy. I love being a vegetarian, welcome to the green side.