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reactor5's avatar

How did you get started on a vegetarian diet?

Asked by reactor5 (571points) May 27th, 2010

I’m looking at starting a vegetarian diet for the health benefits, but I can’t find something that really tells me how to start. So, veggie flutherers, how did you get started on your very own vegetarian diet?

Oh, and bonus points if you tell me how to get enough protein. ;)

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20 Answers

simpleD's avatar

I gave up meat for Lent 20 years ago. I read Laurels Kitchen. That was enough to keep me going. It helps, I think, if you don’t approach it is a diet, but as a lifestyle.

Don’t worry about the protein. Americans, in particular eat too much! If you eat a variety of foods and get enough calories, you’ll get all the protein you need. Laurel recommends 1 serving of beans (or dairy) 4 servings of whole grain (a slice of ww bread or rice, maybe) and 5 fruits and veggies, including 1 leafy green.

I’d also recommend a multiple-vitamin, suitable for vegetarians, with extra B12.

syz's avatar

It wasn’t that big an adjustment for me. If you want to gradually adjust, have very small portions of meat and increase the numbers of days that you go without. I found that after the first few weeks, I no longer craved meat and indeed it soon became rather repugnant (although it still smells good to me).

jaytkay's avatar

Cook for Good has complete meal calendars and shopping lists.
There is a lot of variety and it’s really, really cheap. $100 to $150/month per person!
http://www.cookforgood.com/index.html
http://www.cookforgood.com/current_menu_month.html

For gourmet cooking, check out http://www.101cookbooks.com/index.html.
I was reading it for months before I realized it was a vegetarian site, I simply liked it for the beautiful recipes and photos.

Likeradar's avatar

I researched where my meat came from and what’s added to it. After that, it was incredibly easy to leave it out of my diet because I will not allow my money to line the pockets of people who torture animals for profit.
Experiment with meat substitutes. Morning Star Farms makes fake chicken nuggets that taste better than the “real” thing.
Since you’re doing it for health reasons, be sure not to replace your burgers and other meat based meals with other fattening foods. Experiment with yummy and filling salad additives (tofu, almonds, soy beans, avocado, varieties of mushrooms…).

Primobabe's avatar

I’ve lived that lifestyle for 23+ years. I’m healthy and energetic, and people usually guess my age as about 10–15 years younger than it really is.

I had an ethical motivation for going veggie, so the decision wasn’t difficult for me. When I was ready to make the change, I dove in and never looked back (no, I’ve never cheated or regressed, not even once).

For protein, just about all foods contain amino acids. If you eat a well-balanced diet, you probably won’t need to worry about getting enough protein. You don’t need to eat every amino acid at every meal; as long as you eat healthfully, you’ll get a full spectrum that combines easily. Also, if you remain concerned about your protein intake, legumes—peanuts, dried or canned beans, soy products, peas—are protein powerhouses.

Thanks to long-term and sweeping “education” campaigns by the meat and dairy industries, most Americans consume way too much protein, and usually at the expense of other nutrients.

For vitamins, you can’t obtain B12 from plant sources. You do produce B12 in your intestines, but there’s some ongoing disagreement about whether the B12 is excreted rather than absorbed (B12 is produced below the ileum, where the vitamin’s believed to be absorbed). Given the lack of a reliable conclusion, I take a B12 supplement every day…just in case.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

My family has been vegan for about half a year now. We became vegan after reading Jonathan Foer’s “Eating Animals” and that gave us the push we needed to finally make the switch (since we did have vague ideas about how bad the meat and dairy industries are for animals, the environment and our health prior to this year). We saw a nutritionist that specializes in vegetarian/vegan diets and showed her what we’ve been eating for a week and she gave us tons of tips, meal suggestions and how to get all of our nutrients and vitamins. We walked out of that meeting being 100% more knowledgeable about what our bodies need and don’t need. She calculated how many grams of protein each of us needs and @simpleD is right, most people eat too much protein without knowing how much they actually need. I need about 50–70 grams per day and I accomplish this by drinking lots of soymilk, make fruit smoothies with protein powder in it, eating high protein meals that include meat substitues like seitan and tempeh and of course I eat tofu as well as lots of veggies and grains which provide protein. It hasn’t been an issue. Obviously, protein is not the only thing you need to concern yourself with. You have to eat a well balanced diet that is as not processed as possible and keep your total intake in check. You have to obtain good supplements to make sure you get enough of the A complex vitamins (your usual Vitamins A, C, etc.) and of the B complex vitamins (B2, B12, etc.) and of the Calcium/D3/K complex (nobody gets enough Vitamin D and so this is a must) and of the Omega 3, 6, 9 group (I get that through flax/hemp seed oil, seaweed ( I eat a lot of seaweed! ),walnuts and fortified foods) and of the Iron/Fiber group (I use Floradix Iron supplement) and last but not least, consider getting a pro-biotic supplement (if you’re taking out dairy) to maintain a good intestinal environment. As for websites, you can always go to GoVeg.com. Good luck!

JLeslie's avatar

I have many vegetarians in my family and friends, and almost all of them did it in stages. Many of them still ate their favorite meats now and then, like I had a friend that still ate bacon once in a while, or my sister when she was young gave up all meat except when we went to mcdonalds, which was rare, she still ate her favorite menu item which was a fish filet I think. Some of my friends eventually gave up eggs and dairy also and went vegan.

If you are going to be lacto-ovo you don’t have to worry much about protein and vitamins, except I will say that almost every woman I know is dificient in vitamin D and B12, even us omnivores, and many need additional iron also. So I tell everyone to get those things checked.

However, I do think it is a great idea for people, all people, to eat more legumes, and “whole” foods.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@reactor5 There was an excellent article in the Syracuse newspaper a few weeks ago on all the different meat substitutes and how to use them along with a bunch of recipes. I’ll see if I can find it in their archives and get it to you. It was a very good two full pages of info. I’m not a grazer (just kidding guys. Like I gave you opening enough admitting I still read newspapers) but I do like veggy dishes. There are also excellent cookbooks available that are either all or part vegetarian.

Primobabe's avatar

There was an excellent article in the Syracuse newspaper a few weeks ago on all the different meat substitutes

To use meat substitutes or not? That’s a matter of personal choice and preference. I know many vegetarians who enjoy cooking meat recipes, but with vegetarian subsitutes (usually flavored soy or gluten products). Personally, I don’t try to imitate meat dishes; I prefer to use recipes that were created for vegan ingredients.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I couldn’t get into the archives and it’s not letting me cut and paste these links. If you go to the syracuse.com website and enter meat substitues in the search it should take you to the article. The paper is the Syracuse Post Standard. March 31 edition.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Very cool, thanks, I printed it out!

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Glad you liked it. I’m always looking for good recipes. But now I’m really hungry. :)

JLeslie's avatar

Alicia Silverstone’s book The Kind Diet is pretty good for people who want to change their diets. She says to start adding new dishes, vegetarian dishes, rather than thinking you are taking something out of your diet. I like the psychology of that. Some of her recipes are now regulars in my house.

JLeslie's avatar

Oh, and about the last few comments, generally I am not keen on meat substitutes. I don’t try to mimic old dishes I used to eat. Just me.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

No problem. We omnivores aren’t PC. How about we call them alternative sources of protein?

Smashley's avatar

I found the Moosewood cookbook to be invaluable. Not only did it get me comfortable with the new foods I would need to get my nutrition, but it also has a million useful tips for how to set up your kitchen to make tasty vegetarian food even when you aren’t using one of their recipes.

jazmina88's avatar

start buying fruits, veggies, and some rice and pasta. and spice!!

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