The Complete Guide to Going Vegetarian

Happy Wednesday from your resident veg! If you didn’t already know – I’m a proud vegetarian inching my way to complete veganism. (Insert joke about how do you know if someone is a vegetarian – they’ll tell you – here.)

I started phasing out animal products for health reasons – endometriosis to be exact, but knowing what I do now I would 100% stay vegetarian even if I knew that my endometriosis was completely healed and I wouldn’t be negatively impacted in any way.

Going vegetarian wasn’t easy for me, I was “mostly” vegetarian for nearly four months before I finally committed, and even after that I cheated maybe once a month. Now I’ve only had one unintentional slip up since the new year (that I know of) and I’ve even helped a few of my friends cut meat out of their diets, too.

When I was looking for resources on how to go vegetarian I had a lot of trouble finding blogs or videos that didn’t shame me for not being vegetarian already or feel preachy. In the year since I started my research I’ve since found a few favorite vloggers and bloggers that are sweet and never preachy – but I didn’t think it’d hurt to add one more positive resource on making the switch to the interwebs.


Know why you’re going vegetarian

Because people are going to ask. A lot. You might be choosing to make the switch for health reasons, or maybe you’re an animal lover and want to stop contributing to their suffering. No matter your reason, keep it in mind when you’re craving meat or considering cheating and especially when people are demanding and explanation. (Not that you owe them one, but they’ll all want one.)

If you just want to make the switch and don’t have a solid reason, here are some great benefits of switching to consider:

Health benefits of going vegetarian

  • Meat isn’t good for you.  That’s right, the food pyramid we all learned about in elementary school was wrong. Studies have shown that you’re four times more likely to die of cancer if you eat an animal-protien rich diet in your middle age than if you avoid animal products. Meat is also high in hormones, and consuming hormones produced by any other body than your own can have terrible consequences such as endometriosis, cancers, and other illnesses.
  • Your skin will improve. A lot of people switch to vegetarianism to clear up acne and redness. Compared to methods such as birth control (which pumps your body full of hormones and messes with your natural balance) switching to vegetarianism is a far less extreme option and many people get flawless results.  *I couldn’t find an .edu or .org source on this, but do have personal experience of myself and my veg friends!*
  • You decrease the likelihood of heart disease. Vegetarian diets are naturally a lot lower in fat than that of a meat-eaters, and that lack of fat will keep your heart healthy and significantly decrease the likelihood of getting heart disease. In fact, you’re 24% less likely to die of heart disease if you’re a vegetarian.

Ethical benefits of going vegetarian

  • You’ll no longer be contributing to the abuse and slaughter of innocent animals. There is a huge disconnect where most people don’t see their hunk of meat and think of it as once being a living and breathing thing, much less a living and breathing thing that desperately wanted to live. Unfortunately, to eat meat that means an animal had to die and if you bought that meat at a grocery store it’s likely than animal was brutally murdered after a life of torture.
  • You’ll help conserve water. It takes a lot of water to produce even a single steak, and on average vegans use 600 less gallons every single day than meat eaters do to sustain their diet. Plant based protein sources are much more water friendly – so next time you’re in a drought instead of cutting a minute off your shower, try a Meatless Monday instead.
  • You’ll be helping the ozone. Fun fact: cow farts are to blame for a lot of the methane that is klling our ozone layer and humans are to blame for artificially inflating the cow population to fuel the meat and dairy industry.

How to stop eating meat

There are going to be people who say things like, “Well if you really cared about helping the animals you would quit cold turkey.” or If you slip up you must not be a ~*ReAl*~ vegetarian, anyway.”

What I say is: Everyone’s journey is different and some people find giving up meat easier than others.

For me, it took a few months and that was OK.

Should you quit all at once or little by little?

This one is totally up to you. I tried to quit all at once more than once and it just didn’t work out for me. I’d do good for a week and then I’d smell a roommate cooking turkey or a friend would ask if I wanted to get sushi and I’d slip.

Other people make the decision to quit and never touch a piece of meat again.

I do think everyone should try to go cold turkey because the worst that can happen is that you’ll slip up.

If you find that, like me, you can’t just quit then you can start phasing things out little by little. This is what it looked like for me:

  1. Adios, red meat! No more steak, burgers, or tacos for this girl.
  2. Sayanara, chicken! Ligaments and chicken skin always grossed me out, so this one wasn’t hard.
  3. Peace, piggies!really thought that cutting bacon out was going to be hard. Imagine my shock when I didn’t miss it even once.
  4. Just keep swimming, fish! Fish was the last meat I cut out, and I honestly only held onto fish to appease my dad who thought that vegtarianism was crazy.

Now I know there are other types of meats I didn’t officially cut out ceremoniously like the other types, but I rarely if ever ate meats like turkey or lamb so I didn’t need to cut them out anyhow.

I quit meat, what now?

If you’re used to eating a traditional western diet, your dinner plate probably was anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 full with meat, and it’s hard to figure out what to replace those staples with. When coming up with veg friendly meals, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:

  • Meat is calorically dense. Six ounces of hamburgers has a lot more calories than six ounces of veggie burger, so you’re going to need to eat larger portions than you might be used to so you’re not calorie deficient.
  • Your digestion is going to go on an adventure. There’s no ladylike way to say this, so I’ll just say it: You’re going to be gassy, and you’re going to poop more. Don’t worry, your body will even out. But with that said, you might want to consider food combining while you transition. I see no reason to follow it once you’ve adjusted, but it might make your more comfortable for your first few weeks.
  • You’re going to get hungry faster. Chances are even though you’re coming in equipped knowing you should eat larger portions your body will resist. When you’re not used to eating larger quantities it’s hard to do so, so you’ll probably have to eat more often throughout the day while you’re making the switch.

A few of my favorite dinners

  • Veggie burgers. You can buy these premade in the freezer section, but they’re also really easy to make, too. If you mash together equal parts black beans, lentils, oats, and rice with your choice of seasoning and make patties they cook up just like burgers, just a little more fragile.
  • Falafel. I’m no good at making authentic tasting falafel (though I’ve tried) but my lazy version is pretty good, too. You’ll just want to pulse together a can of drained chickpeas, two cloves of garlic, half an onion, a pinch of baking soda, and the seasonings of your choice then roll them into balls and bake them.
  • Buddha bowls. Buddha bowls are a mix of greens, grains, and veggies. I like mine with brown rice, spinach, sweet potatoes, corn, black beans, and lots of sriracha.
  • Sweet potato chilli. I always follow different recipes for this depending on what I’ve got on hand, but here is the next one I’m going to try.

What if I have a craving for meat?

People always ask me if I ever crave meat and I honestly can say that I don’t. Whenever someone mentions hot wings I think I want them, but then quickly realize I just want hot wing sauce. Preferably on popcorn. #Yum.

But in the early days I definitely had cravings and I combatted them mostly by imagining myself biting into whatever it was I was craving. Even just a week or two after quitting meat, the idea of biting into flesh disgusted me, even if I was craving the flavor.

Veg friends have given me mixed verdicts on whether this is true for them or not, so if that doesn’t work there are other options.

Think about why you’re going vegetarian. If it’s to clear your skin take a peak at your progress. You don’t want to lose that, right? Or if you’re doing it for ethical reasons think about what a poor animal has to go through to get to your plate. (If you don’t know, documentaries like Cowspiracy and Food Inc. will open your eyes and break your heart.)

People are judging me

Believe it or not, I used to be embarassed by being a vegetarian and I’d avoid bringing it up unless I absolutely had to. Now, I’m happy to talk about it, but I still have people who act like I just told them that I like to eat dirt and daisy petals and nothing else when I tell them I’m vegetarian.

A lot of people will think that because you’re a vegetarian you’re judging them for not being a vegetarian and they’ll get defensive or even hostile. These people will hurl reasons why you’re wrong for being a vegetarian or why you’re not really helping.

The best thing you can do is just disengage with these people or sarcastically agree and move on, but if they can’t drop it, here are a few of the most common arguments that I hear and how I refute them if I must argue:

  • Humans are at the top of the food chain and are supposed to eat meat. Humans weren’t actually designed to eat meat. If we were, our canines would look more like a tigers rather than the smaller version of our gorilla friends’ teeth. Humans don’t need meat to survive, so the circle of life argument shouldn’t apply to us.
  • But protein? Everyone seems to think that the only place to get protein is meat, and that’s just silly. There is protein in virtually everything you consume from apples to beans to oats, and short of starving yourself it is near impossible to be protein deficient.
  • But plants are alive, t0o. Laughing? Don’t be. People seriously say this and think it’s a valid argument. These people will never come around, so disengage and move on.
  • If animals were really being abused, the government would step in. These are the naive and innocent souls, please don’t tear them apart. (Coming from a naive and innocent soul who was torn apart.) Advise them to watch cowspiracy, or tell them about the fate of male chicks or milk cows. Gently.
  • If you love animals then why do you eat their food? No, seriously. People say this.
  • Vegetarianism is a privilege, not everyone can afford that. Plant based protiens are significantly cheaper per gram than animal based proteins.

Any questions?

Feel free to leave them in the comments in case anyone has the same question you do, too! I’ll do my best to answer as quickly as possible.