Want to Stop Eating Meat? Healthy Tips to Go Vegetarian
The health benefits of becoming a vegetarian are numerous — a lower risk of diabetes and cancer, better heart health — and making the transition is easier than you think. Here’s how
- Adopting a vegetarian diet — a plant-based diet that eliminates all meat — doesn’t have to happen overnight, says registered dietitian Toby Smithson, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- “It’s more doable to begin on a small scale.”
- Start by eating one meatless meal per week (more if that works for you)
- Then increase your vegetarian meals until meat is entirely gone from your diet.
To plan meals, try these meatless diet
Learn to Substitute
- Women need about 46 grams of protein per day.
- While meat is the highest dietary source of protein, you can still meet that quota without it, says Smithson.
- Good sources include beans, lentils, nuts, and low- or non-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese, and soy-based foods, like tofu.
- You’ll get about 8 grams of protein in 1/2 cup of beans, 4 grams in a tablespoon of peanut butter and as much as 22 grams in 1 cup of Greek yogurt.
Eat a Balanced Diet
- Plan your menu with your nutritional needs in mind.
- “Iron can be low if you’re not eating a well-balanced vegetarian diet because iron is absorbed more efficiently from animal rather than plant sources,” says registered dietitian Vandana Sheth, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- Women need 18 milligrams of iron per day, so to bump up your intake, look for iron-fortified foods, like cereal or bread.
- Eat foods high in vitamin C such as strawberries, citrus fruits and tomatoes with iron-rich foods to boost absorption.
- Or choose foods high in both iron and vitamin C, like broccoli and bok choy, says Smithson.
Tweak Your Favorite Dishes
- If you’re the sole vegetarian in your home, you don’t have to become a short-order cook.
- Instead, learn how to make over your family’s favorite dishes. “Set up taco, burrito or pizza bars so everyone can take what they want,”
- Other customizable meals include whole grain pasta and marinara sauce topped with garbanzo beans, veggie stir-fry with tofu and salads topped with lentils or beans.
Explore New Foods
- Don’t get into a food rut! “Add variety to your diet by trying foods that are new to you,” says registered dietitian Andrea Giancoli, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- “Instead of brown rice, look for ancient grains such as spelt.” Try almond or soy milk.
- Look for meatless or veggie crumbles to add to sauces and choose beans that may be less familiar to you such as cannellini, fava and black eyed peas.
Getting fresh food regularly makes it easier to incorporate vegetables into meal plans.
Scan the Menu
- You don’t have to limit yourself at restaurants. “Dining out is not as difficult as it used to be,”
- “You usually can find something to fit your needs, no matter where you go.”
- Consider ordering two appetizers as your meal, ask to substitute tofu for fish or meat in a dish or make an entree out of a few side dishes.
- Cuisines such as Thai, Japanese and Indian tend to offer many vegetarian options when eating out.
Vegetable Mac and Cheese
- The veggies cook with the pasta in this simple stovetop Mac and cheese – no oven baking necessary!
Talk to Family and Friends
- It might be awkward if you out-of-the-blue refuse to eat your mom’s famous pot roast at the next family gathering.
- So instead of springing your new aversion to meat on your host at the last minute, talk privately with her ahead of time without overwhelming your host with special requests.
- “You can offer to bring a dish you can eat,”
- “But be polite and take her feelings into consideration, just as you want others to respect your decision.”
Potato and Parmesan Cakes
- When a bowl of mashed potatoes is too pedestrian, these iVillage-approved cheesy potato cakes make an elegant side dish for a special meal.
Chickpea Burgers & Tahini Sauce
- Forget fried falafel: this light and tasty pita sandwich hits the spot without weighing you down.
White House Salad for “The Biggest Loser”
- This simple tomato salad with homemade dressing that White House chef Sam Kass whipped up for “The Biggest Loser” was a big winner on iVillage.
- Adorable English muffin pizzas piled high with crispy, crunchy veggies are easy to make and disappear quickly.
- This stunning two-layer cheesecake by chef John Besh tastes even better than it looks, and that’s saying a lot.