Food & Cooking Health & Nutrition

A Complete Guide to Becoming a Vegetarian

Three weeks ago, I decided – quite literally overnight – to completely shun meat from my diet. And not just red meat, mind you, but poultry and fish as well. My fiance initially laughed my becoming a vegetarian idea off, and given that I did try that once before and gave up pretty quickly, I didn’t expect much of it either.

Yet here I am, three weeks later, meat-free and feeling better than ever. None of my friends know of this, because I didn’t do it so I can have a cool label. And the reason I did it is precisely what keeps me going. It’s, you might have guessed it – ethics.

So if you’re also flirting with this idea, here’s an honest overview of what you can expect, and how to approach it the best way possible.

How I Started My Vegetarian Journey

The first thing you need to do is have a strong reason for doing it. My very first attempt (years ago) failed largely due to the lack of any real agenda. I just gave it a shot, figured it’s not working and let it go. This time around, though, it started when I saw a half-dead fish, cramped in a tiny tank, surrounded by five more fish. And all that so someone can get a fresh catfish for dinner! The sadness I felt in that moment overwhelmed me to the point that I immediately decided I’m not going to be a part of it anymore.

And from then on, here’s how it went.

Day 1-4: Occasional light-headedness and a lot of craving.

I’m not gonna lie, the first time my fiance cooked sausages while I ate cheese and olives wasn’t easy. The smell made my mouth water, but I got through it. Today, I have virtually zero cravings for meat. An occasional smell will tempt me, but that’s a rare situation.

The lightheadedness, I knew, was something to worry about. I quickly figured that I didn’t really stock up on dark chocolate, nuts, and other iron-rich foods, and once I took it more seriously, it never ocurred again.

Day 4-Present Day

And that was it. From then on, I took a much better care of my body, ensuring I get all the necessary protein, iron, vitamin B, and omega 3 fatty acids. And not once have I regretted it or felt like I am missing out. Because once you throw meat out of the equation, you’ll realize how many foods you’ve been neglecting.

And since I know what’s caused me trouble in the beginning, I want to share the questions you’re probably asking yourself and answer them – honestly and from my own personal experience.

How Can I Get All The Necessary Nutrients?

Isn’t there stuff you can only find in meat? Isn’t the only way to get omega 3 fatty acids from fish?

I thought so, too, but as it turns out – if you keep eating eggs and dairy products, you’ll be covered for a lot of the nutrients, most of all protein, vitamin B, and calcium. Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in nuts, and a very specific type (the one we usually get from fish) in seaweed and certain algae. And while your meat-eating friends will likely tell you you’ll be anaemic due to a lack of iron, you won’t. Yes, meat does contain heme-iron which is the easiest to absorb. But stock yourself on foods such as legumes, leafy greens, dark chocolate, oats, and mushrooms, make sure you’re drinking an orange juice while at it, to absorb the iron better, and you’ll be good to go!

Just make sure you get different kinds of food every day to ensure you receive all of these essential nutrients.

Are Vegetarians Healthier?

Science says, as long as you eat properly, you’re more likely to live longer as a vegetarian. Vegetarians are also less likely to get serious diseases such as cancer or diabetes.

Will It Be A Huge Change?

I always get this question from the few people who know of my new dietary regime. We are so used to meat being such a big part of our diets that we can hardly imagine what a person who doesn’t eat it – eats. To demonstrate it will be a lesser change than you think, and a more enjoyable one, here is a short list of the most common meals I have:

  • Oatmeal with bananas and dark chocolate
  • All sorts of legumes
  • Spinach + zucchini patties
  • Hummus and olive sandwiches
  • Pasta with delicious cheese and tomatos
  • Noodles with all sorts of vegetables and mushrooms
  • Hard boiled eggs + cheese + sweet corn
  • Mashed potatos + spinach

And so on and so forth. There are so many vegetarian versions of everyday meals – veggie burgers, veggie lasagna, vegetarian pizza… All you have to do is type it into google search and you’ll get some tasty recipes.

If you’re a fan of Chinese cuisine, this amazing vegetarian cookbook will make the transition so much easier on you!

Will I Lose Weight More Easily?

Despite all sources pointing to YES, I actually gained two kilos. The reason? I was so certain my new diet filled with pasta, cheese, and eggs will automatically make me skinnier, I started neglecting exercise. However, once I got back into it, I realized I have so much more energy and despite the two kilos, I’m feeling lighter, which made it easier for me to exercise more and, hopefully, burn that cheese away!

Becoming a Vegetarian – Benefits I’ve Experienced

I sound like the poster girl for PETA, but honestly, I’ve been feeling so much better these last three weeks. Other than feeling happy for not contributing to anyone’s suffering (I know milk and eggs are still an issue, but I’ll eventually get there… I hope), my digestive system loves me. Not ones have I felt bloated or heavy. No matter how much I eat and how full I get, in 10 minutes I can already start jumping around. I am so full of energy thanks to all the diverse food I’m eating.

I feel healthier, happier, and I am so, so happy I did this. If this is the post that prompts you to try it, too, let me know how it went. And if you have any questions, do drop a comment and I’ll get to it as soon as I can!

Jelena
Jelena

A 27-year-old married mom-to-be, trying to have it all. I have a full-time job I enjoy, a home I’m in love with, and plenty of hobbies I try my best to have the time for. A psychologist by vocation, with the goal of helping young women live their best lives.

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