How to go vegetarian if you’re not convinced yet

Have you noticed the trend lately for people going vegetarian, (raw) vegan, gluten free or generally more “organic”? More and more local, organic grocers seem to appear everywhere, “clean eating” is a buzzword, people start to read the ingredient lists of the foods they buy and even the shelves of mainstream supermarkets contain things like organic buckwheat flour and super greens. Food consciousness is shifting for sure.

I myself went (99%) vegetarian start of this year, which means something. I’m from Germany originally and Germans just don’t do vegetarian. An evening meal without lots of Salami and Blood Sausage? Unthinkable! If you get caught eating greens they call you a rabbit. After moving to Australia I added a good bit of bacon to my morning meals, too. I never thought I’d be able to live off plants, could never have labeled myself vegetarian.

And then it just happened. People around me started vegetarianism and the concept kept knocking on my door. Then one day I came across some amazingly good vegetarian food (from Hare Krishna people; man they know how to cook) and thought: if I could have this all the time, I’d never miss meat. At this point I finally took “plant food” seriously, as something that could actually nourish me and didn’t mean that I’d have to gnaw on salad leaves for the rest of my days. So I decided to give it a shot. I didn’t go cold turkey but found myself in a slow and easy step by step transition. Here are the things that helped me most:

Don’t label yourself

My thoughts about vegetarianism always had undertones of guilt and judgement and made me close off to the idea.
Well here’s the workaround: don’t label yourself. Not being a vegetarian doesn’t mean you have to eat meat, right? It’s your life, you can do whatever you want. If you like structure, you could try being a Wednesday-vegetarian or a weekday-vegetarian. Or just cut out the morning bacon or whatever else you’d like to try and feel that isn’t out of reach.

Make it an experiment

Becoming a vegetarian for me meant a life-long commitment. How scary! And how unnecessary. Just try it out for a week, a month… See if it does anything for you at all. Make it a challenge how long you can do it, how many vegetarian recipes you can come up with or challenge some friends. Just have fun with it and take the expectations out of it.

Find some good vegetarian recipes and restaurants

When I decided to try and eat mostly vegetarian, I suddenly found myself with no clue what to cook. I spent a lot of time googling and found that Indian has lots of yummy vegetarian dishes and is very easy once you have the basic spices. Try manjula’s kitchen for a start. For some inspiration and variety you can also find some good vegetarian restaurants in your area. By now I figured that I can just take most “normal” recipes (esp. curries and stews) and replace the meat with cauliflower, chickpeas, lentils, mushrooms or other veggies. And tofu of course, if that is your thing.

Don’t beat yourself up

Just can’t walk past that sushi train or the Sunday roast? So what? When we change our diets we usually start categorising foods into good and bad and try to avoid the “bad” at all cost. Which often just makes us crave it. So don’t feel bad if you just need that meat fix.
You could hold on for a second and ask yourself if it’s really the meat you want or just a certain taste, maybe there’s something else around that could fix that craving? If it’s meat you want, can you get the best meat possible (organic, grass fed, free range, etc)? And if not and or you don’t want to care, then just don’t and enjoy, you won’t end up in hell for it.
I still have fish every now and again and I probably had some chicken hidden in sushi as well, but I find that I often feel heavy if I have meat so now I naturally want more of the green stuff and enjoy it more. Nope, I wouldn’t have believed you either had you told me this a few months ago.

Don’t worry about nutrition just yet

You may be worried about your protein intake or you’ve heard about vegans watching their B12. If you’re not going raw vegan over night, you’ll have enough time to figure out the details if you want to stick with it. To quickly sum it up: you’re likely to get everything you need if you eat a varied diet including dark greens, lentils, beans and nuts.

If you need some additional inspiration, go watch Food.inc or Earthlings (warning: people have been known to go vegan cold turkey after watching Earthlings. Grab some good fair-trade chocolate to get you through).

I didn’t go vegetarian for the ethical reasons, I just wanted to try and see what it could do for me. Now that I found that I feel really good with it (and that it’s cheaper than a meat based diet, even with organic greens), it’s good to know that I’m doing my bit for animals, too.