Quick Recipes and Easy

So You Want to be a Vegetarian

I’ve recently heard lots of people telling me how they’d like to try being a vegetarian but either they don’t know where to start or they jumped straight in with admirable enthusiasm but then quickly gave up. I’ve since chose to place together a few tips I’ve learnt myself along my own journey to becoming a vegetarian.

I reckon that one of the craziest things that you can do if you suddenly have a “I’m never going to touch meat again” moment is to do just that. There are a couple of really excellent reasons for this which if you’ve tried following this lifestyle I reckon you’ll agree.

The first is that your body is used to having meat and once you stop having it you’ll start to crave it. It’s a bit like giving up cigarettes, no matter how long it’s been you’ll still occasionally crave a juicy steak or a bacon sandwich, especially if your nose suddenly picks up the scent! Saying no to these cravings isn’t that simple.

The other problem is that it’s a huge lifestyle change – you have to learn a whole load of new recipes, get used to a much more limited choice of options when eating out and make a real nuisance of yourself reminding everyone you eat with that you’ve taken this life changing choice.

So my advice is to start slowly on your path to being a vegetarian, take baby steps and pick up the pace and enthusiasm as you get used to it – you’ll find it much simpler in the long run.

Balance and the road to better health

The key is to keep your diet balanced. There’s no use saying to yourself I’m a vegetarian and then surviving on packets of chips and chocolate. If you get it right you should being eating; grains and cereals (wholegrain bread, brown rice, wholewheat pasta, muesli), pulses, nuts and seeds (soya beans, kidney beans, split peas, lentils, almonds, cashews, sesame seeds), plenty of fruit and vegetables and finally dairy or soya products.

Becoming a vegetarian, pescatorian (eats fish but no meat), vegan or whatever off-shoot your particular choice is has a huge number of health benefits some of which you’ll notice immediately, others are more subtle and others you won’t notice simple because you’ll live longer.

Studies have shown that people following a well-balanced low-stout high-fibre vegetarian diet often have lower incidence of coronary artery disease, hypertension, obesity and some forms of cancer. A vegetarian diet also tends to be lower in total stout, and vegetarians tend to eat proportionally more polyunsaturated stout to saturated stout compared with non-vegetarians (Animal products are the major sources of dietary saturated stout).

Eating meat not only makes your body feel lethargic, it has the same effect on your brain. I’ve not only found myself with more energy but I also have a much sunnier disposition – not quite sure what caused that but I’m not complaining.

Where to start

As I said earlier, don’t try to cut out all meat products all at once. Start by first cutting down on and then cutting out each of the following; red meat (the most unhealthy meat), then chicken and finally fish. It might take you quite a time to work through all these stages so don’t place yourself under any pressure or give yourself deadlines.

I was lucky enough to go in with my girlfriend, now wife, who had already given up red meat, and as a consequence I only had a steak and so on if we went out to dinner, this helped me to automatically cut down. That was a couple of years ago now – I still eat a lot of fish but after a choice to cut it out all together I haven’t touched any meat for over a year.

Don’t panic if you find yourself having meat cravings and you’re at the stage when you’re trying to completely cut it out. There are some really excellent meat substitutes out there, if you’re having a craving for a burger for example try a going to Steers and getting one of their Veggie Burgers. It may not be that healthy but it should fix that craving.

Not eating meat at home is often the toughest part of your new lifestyle, especially if you live in a household full of carnivores. It’s also hard to suddenly change your cooking habits. You might suddenly find that the supply of quick and simple recipes that you keep stored away in your brain is suddenly empty of acceptable options. Again there’s no need to panic as there are loads of really fantastic recipes out there to satisfy your appetite. If you search the internet you’ll find an endless list of recipes that you can use and they’re often far simpler than meat dishes anyway! There are also loads of fantastic vegetarian cook books full of tasty recipes, why not go and treat yourself to one.

Words of warning

As you get more into the vegetarian lifestyle you’ll start to become more aware of how widely meat products and derivatives are used. If you’re taking a moral stance on not eating meat you’ll start questioning the place of your favourite leather shoes, handbag, purse or wallet. There are other more subtle inclusions of meat by products, gelatine for example (found in my favourite – profiteroles). If you research too much it is really quite scary what you need to avoid. My advice to you is to try to initially stay blissfully ignorant and then as you find the vegetarian lifestyle simpler make your choices accordingly.

Excellent luck if you’ve chose to make this choice and join the growing ranks of vegetarians around the world. It won’t be simple at first but the longer you stick with it the more you’ll find yourself turning your nose up at the smell of that bacon breakfast.

Ceri Balston is the editor of lifestyle portal Harmonious Living ( harmoniousliving.co.za www.harmoniousliving.co.za).

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