I've been a vegetarian for 9 years and recently became a whole food, plant-based vegetarian. I used to eat eggs and dairy on occasion. Recently, I learned that eggs triggered my migraines. It's so funny to me how all these years I'd get headaches and feel nauseated and blame it on the weather or PMS, when all this time it was the food I was eating! I stopped eating dairy after watching this talk by Dr. Neal Barnard on Youtube. People give up animal products for different reasons and whatever reason you choose, you should make sure it is right for you. Now, I sleep better and just overall feel better...and so can you.
People tell me all of the time how they want to go vegetarian, or they tried and it didn't work for them. I think it can work for anyone with the right attitude. It wasn't until I changed my mindset that vegetarianism became easy. Some of my meat eating friends would remark on my incredible "willpower" for passing up a juicy hamburger. It has nothing to to with willpower. I just don't want to eat meat. After 9 years, I don't miss it nor can I see myself eating it again.
It might be hard at first, especially when the people around you don't understand what you're doing and they can give you a hard time. Or, my favorite is when they faux concern tell you to "make sure you get enough protein". The reality is, as long as you are eating a variety of plant-based foods, protein won't be an issue. You'll also be getting tons of fiber, which most meat eaters don't get enough of.
There are many health benefits to giving up animal products altogether and embracing a plant-based lifestyle. With animal products comes the increased risk of cancers, heart disease, diabetes and other types of disease. It changes your micro biome, we need our good gut bacteria to aid in digestion. Some people might tell you to just limit your intake of animal products. This will help to reduce risk of disease for sure, however, giving it up altogether gives you the best chances of living a happy healthy life. I've had a few people tell me they had a loved one who ate healthy and still died of disease. To be clear, there is no guarantee you won't get sick, but does that mean you stop wearing your seatbelt just because you know someone who got hurt in a car accident? Eating a plant-based diet is like your insurance policy to the best body and gives you the best chances of reducing or even curing diseases.
So, if you're ready to eat healthy...Here are my tips for going veg:
1. Ease into it. If you're used to eating processed food all of the time, then suddenly switching to all plants will confuse your body. That's not a bad thing because you want to eat lots of veggies, but you might feel miserable for a week while your body adjusts. During that period of misery, you might become discouraged and give up. That's why I suggest to people to start adding more fruits and vegetables to their meals, soon enough, you'll be eating less meat and next thing, you won't even miss it.
2. Eat the rainbow! The more colorful your veggies, the more vitamins & minerals you'll be getting. I am not an expert on the nutrition of food. But I know that most leafy greens are full of calcium, folic acid, iron and more. Bright berries have antioxidants, legumes are packed with protein and iron. The more varied your meals, the more likely you're hitting the major vitamins. To be clear, all plants have protein.
3. Eat from the earth, not from a box! As much as you can, cook from scratch. I will make large amounts of everything and freeze half. This way, I already have "prepared" foods that I made and know are healthier than anything from a box. Processed foods tend to have tons of sodium, preservatives and other ingredients that really have no business being in there. They don't serve to nourish your body but keep your food looking good on a shelf and lasting as long as it can. My rule of thumb, it mold won't touch it, neither shall I.
4. Find your tribe. Having likeminded people in your life will help make your transition easier. Support systems are so important and help keep you motivated, especially when your family continues to eat an unhealthy lifestyle. I got many side-eyes from my loved ones when I announced that I was going vegetarian. A lot of them still eat meat, but they love all the vegetarian meals I introduce them to and ask me for the recipes. Social media is a great place to start, Meetups are a fun way to get out to meet people.
5. Learn as much as you can. I am always watching food documentaries, lectures and reading studies. The more you know about eating healthy, the more you'll feel empowered. I now look at food differently. Before, I only ate to survive, but now I eat to thrive. I ask myself, "will this nourish my body" vs, "does this taste good?" Don't get me wrong, I never want to eat bland food, but just taste alone won't compel me to eat something unhealthy that I know will cause me problems later on.
I have found that eating healthy is contagious. The people around you will notice how you're skin is glowing, you have more pep in your step and just how you're looking good overall. You'll notice how you're feeling better and have more energy. Food shouldn't make you feel sluggish, but should give you the fuel you need.
Keep a positive attitude. Rather than thinking of the foods you're giving up, remember everything that you are gaining...a healthy mind & body. If you're looking for great recipes, check out my Pinterest boards.
Are you going vegetarian? What are some of your tips?