It’s been nearly twenty years since I took the leap into a plant-based life. I was a teenager, and had found myself fully immersed in this book on Asian health principles, one of which was adopting a plant-based diet. I maintain that change was one of the most important positive steps I’ve taken in my life, and feel a certain level of excitement when others take interest in “going veggie”.
Below are five things every aspiring vegetarian needs to know:
1.Changes Will Occur
A whole foods vegetarian diet brings an increase of micronutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, and a decrease of hormones and saturated fats. Factor in the absence of artificial flavors, colors, and synthetic preservatives, and your body is likely to react favorably. There are countless simple recipes, and some of your favorite meals may already be meatless!
Within six months of ditching meat and dairy I’d lost twenty pounds, had more energy, my asthma all but disappeared, my life long battle with eczema finally ceased, and I didn’t see or need to see a doctor for seven years. I believe these things occurred because I was eating so well. Had I subsisted on Oreos and cereal, those positive effects would likely not have happened.
Another area of evolution involves reasons for going plant based. Often we become vegetarian for one reason, and this expands into many. I initially went meatless for weight and health, but those reasons later grew to include animal cruelty and environmental protection. Conversely, others may abstain from meat for animal rights and later realize they have lowered their cholestorol. Everyone’s experience is a bit different.
2.Plant-based Living Can Be Economical
A plant based diet consists mostly of grains, fruit, veggies, tofu, beans, and spices. Vegetables are more versatile and economical than many realize. I just purchased our veggies for the entire week in Smith’s frozen/ refrigerated section for under ten dollars (If I’m being totally honest and counting the six pack of avocado verde, it’s actually a grand total of $14.00). Grains may be purchased in bulk; I do this with rice, quinoa, oats, and couscous.
Bulk amounts of bananas, apples, and other varieties of fruit, frozen and fresh, are plentiful at Costco. Spices are a necessity and some are a bit pricey, but there are dollar spices. If money is that much of an issue,I recommend adding a new spice to your collection each week. When it comes to protein, you’ll need beans, nuts, tofu, and nut butters. Nuts are best purchased in bulk as well.
3. Some May Be Judgemental.
We all judge to an extent, because each of us holds differing opinions; however, the mention of vegetarianism sometimes brings out the folks who live in attack mode. I went veggie in the nineties. We were living on the east coast and I dont know about the present situation, but back then I was the only plant-based person I knew! My parents were incredibly supportive; it would’ve been crazy for them not to encourage me. While other girls I knew were drinking and smoking cigarettes, I was marinating tofu and blending essential oils. I felt happy about my lifestyle; it simply fit me.
That confidence didn’t always protect me from critical types. These folks were far and few between, but they certainly had some strong words: “I don’t agree with vegetarianism. You have an eating disorder.” Aside from the embarassment factor of being called out I was unsure where these comments were coming from. I realize that some meat eaters believe we’re judging them. I can only speak for myself when I say,” The choice to consume animals is between you, the animal, your conscience, and your arteries, just don’t feed them to me.”
I’ve never engaged hyper-critical types. If someone didn’t agree they were free to eat meat. If being at a healthy weight and healing from ailments meant I had an eating disorder, alright then. It’s no longer just the most defensive meat eaters who question us vegetarians, now it’s also a few vegans. Lecturing a stranger in Trader Joe’s on why they’re immoral for using raw honey on a skin ailment is sure to distance people from your cause. As is berating a person for becoming vegan or vegetarian for health reasons rather than animal activism. Why be animal friendly, but so harsh with people? Why put our health second to an animal’s life? If we’re not at our best, certainly we’re of little good to other beings, human or animal.
The good news is that some friends and family who used to lightheartedly poke fun at my meatless existence, have come to appreciate some vegetarian staples. One particularly carniverous cousin of mine texted me to tell me that he’d tried tofu, and didn’t realize just how good those smoothies I’d been obsessed with actually were.
4. People Will Have Questions
Some vegetarians are irritated by questions, but I welcome them. Surely, I’ve lost count of the number of inquiries as to where I get my protein, as well as the classic question,”What do you eat?” but at the same time, I Iove educating people on vegetarianism! The more you learn the more you’ll have to share, and if you’ve grown weary answering excessive questions, recommend your favorite book as a source. Which brings me to my final tip…
5. Seek Out Support
There are a seemingly infinite number of resources on vegetarianism: Websites, books, groups, and of course my new blog and YouTube channel: Simply Serene. Stay tuned for upcoming videos where I’ll be sharing my favorite books, recipes, products, and tips.