How to Become a Vegetarian
Most people begin eating meat from the time they’re first weaned as babies. You’ve probably spent your entire life loving your mum’s Sunday roast grabbing a bacon sandwich on a Saturday morning, and enjoying a burger on the way home from the pub. It’s almost part of being British – to love your meat and two veg.
But meat is often at the centre of the latest food scare – BSE, Bird Flu, Salmonella, E.Coli – even if we know we can’t catch these diseases from the food we eat, it often makes us question where it comes from, and how good it is for us.
Healthy DietA better understanding of what constitutes a healthy diet has led many people to reduce their intake of meat in favour of more fish and more vegetables, and lots of people have cut red meat like beef and lamb from their diets altogether.
If you’re the sort of person who can’t wait to sink their teeth into a big juicy steak when you go out to dinner, you may find the idea of becoming vegetarian quite a challenge. But if you’ve already reduced the amount of meat you eat, you may be surprised at how easy it is to cut it out completely.
Cold TurkeyIf you think you’d like to try vegetarianism, there’s no need to go ‘cold turkey’ and give it all up straight away. It’s not like quitting cigarettes! A sudden change to your diet is probably inadvisable, and may make you crave meat. The trick is to reduce it bit by bit.
As a first step, stop buying all red meat, and instead eat only chicken and fish. Try not to buy pork, but don’t deprive yourself of bacon if you find you really miss it.
Cut back on the amounts of meat you eat by not buying joints. Undoubtedly after a roast there’ll be some meat left over to make more meals from. Instead buy only as many slices as you need for a meal, or buy chops, or chicken pieces rather than the whole chicken.
Vegetarian OptionsSpend more time looking at the vegetarian options of the foods you like. If you love pizza, leave off the pepperoni and look instead at some of the all vegetable pizzas. Try switching to veggie sausages but still make your favourite bangers and mash meal. You don’t need to completely change your habits over night, but you should aim to eat several vegetarian meals a week. Experiment with pulses like beans and lentils – make a veggie curry, or chilli – and try some Soya or Quorn mince.Once you’re used to eating meals without meat, try making the change to cutting it completely. Perhaps continue to eat fish – which has a completely different taste and texture to meat. From here it is an easy step to becoming completely vegetarian.
CookbookBuy yourself a good vegetarian cookbook. It might be handy to have one that includes information about how to balance your diet and which vegetables to buy to maintain a good healthy diet of all the right vitamins and minerals. It’s quite hard to become anaemic as we don’t require a large amount of iron in our diets, but it helps to be aware of which vegetables hold which minerals to make sure you’re getting enough.
If you want to make the further step of eating a completely vegan diet, you need to be more careful, and you will definitely need a recipe book. All your protein will come from Soya, pulses, nuts and beans and it’s important to know how to cook them properly and to ensure you’re getting enough of the vital fats, acids, vitamins and minerals that keep us healthy. Check out the Vegetarian Society website for some great information, tips and recipes.
Don’t forget there are hundreds of things you can experiment with in your cooking – become adventurous. Nuts, dried fruits, grains like cous cous – all have wonderful flavours and amazing qualities. You’ll be amazed at the huge variety of tastes and textures you can experience. And even cooking dinners from scratch you can whip up something tasty in a matter of minutes. Get stuck in and enjoy it. Don’t think of yourself as deprived of meat, but as opening yourself up a whole world of new flavours and ways to think about food – and don’t beat yourself up if you occasionally lapse and have the odd bacon butty – it may take several months before you’re completely meat free.