People choose to go vegetarian for a variety of reasons. For some people, becoming a vegetarian is a way to be healthier or to avoid hormones used in animal foods. For others, this lifestyle has more to do with religion, animal rights, or environmental concerns.
If you are thinking of following a vegetarian diet, you’ll want to decide what type of vegetarian you’ll be. Once you’ve settled on a type, you’ll also want to come up with a plan of how to become a vegetarian and to ensure that you’re able to get all the nutrients your body needs.
Types of Vegetarian Diet
There are several different kinds of vegetarian diets:
If you stick to a vegetarian diet, that means you don’t eat meat, poultry, or fish. Moreover, this category of eaters can be divided further based on what animal products you choose to include your diet:
- lacto-ovo vegetarians eat both eggs and dairy products
- lacto vegetarians eat dairy products but not eggs
- ovo vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy products
If you follow a vegan diet, you don’t eat meat, poultry, or fish. You also don’t consume dairy products, eggs, or other animal products such as gelatin or honey.
Partial vegetarians don’t eat meat but they do eat some animal foods.
- pescatarians eat fish but not meat
- pollo-vegetarians eat poultry but avoid other meat and fish
Some people follow what’s known as a semi vegetarian or flexitarian diet. People who follow this diet eat mostly plant-based foods but may occasionally consume meat, dairy, eggs, poultry, and fish in small amounts.
Eight Things to Know Before Becoming a ‘Veggievore’
Here are a few things you should know before turning to the dark, green and leafy side.
1. Protein Power
If you’re worried about protein and iron, don’t be. You will be able to get all the vitamins and minerals you need from a vegetarian diet, you just have to know what to eat.
A few non-meaty protein and iron sources are nuts, pulses, tofu and leafy greens. Almonds, pistachios and cashews contain healthy fats too, and are perfect for snacking. Another good source of protein is dairy and so is quinoa which can be ideal for a filling salad.
Above all, embrace the egg! It’s the easiest source of protein out there. Dried fruits, particularly raisins, apricots and dates are good iron sources.
Vitamin C helps iron absorption so opt for foods that combine both, or have a glass of fruit juice with your meal to maximise benefits. You can also take iron and B12 (amongst other vitamins) supplements.
2. Prepare to be Grilled on the Veggie Trivia
People love a good debate. As soon as you utter the word ‘vegetarian’, be prepared for a barrage of questions and exclamations of disbelief. When you first start telling your friends and family of your decision, you may get a rather off-putting response.
Some people might even tell you that you’ve made a mistake. Give people a little time to adjust to the news and hang in there!
3. Try Finding Veggie Substitutes
Quorn fillets for chicken fillets, lentils for mince meat, beans for burger mince – once you start experimenting with your veggie cooking you’ll get used to using new ingredients and trying new substitutes for everyday meat dishes.
They are ideal for getting extra nutrients into your meals and for feeding a mixed crowd of veggies and meat-eaters.
4. Get the Right Tools
Don’t go out and buy an extravagant new range of kitchen equipment. But having a few extra storage jars for pulses, grains and other veggie staples. A decent blender for veggie soups and dips will surely come in handy too!
Chopping boards and sharp knives are essential to any kitchen but if you’re chopping serious veg, you will need the right tools for the job.
5. Check Product Packagings
Meat or fish can often be hidden ingredients in foods you wouldn’t necessarily expect. Yogurts, mousses, jellies, sauces,and cheeses can have gelatin or other animal fats in them to add different flavours and change the consistency.
Always make sure to check the packaging of any product you’re not sure about.
6. Branch Out
Explore veggie and vegan cafes and restaurants in your local area that perhaps you’ve never considered before. Try different cuisines for vegetarian options. Who knows? You might come across a new favourite!
7. Happy Holidays
Heading home for the holidays can be a stressful time without adding new food restrictions into the mix. Telling your family that you’re going vegetarian and need special foods is unlikely to be met with glee. Try to make things easier by contributing your own meatless holiday dish to the holiday buffet table.
If you’re going on holiday somewhere new, it’s always worth checking if there are local vegetarian delicacies, restaurants or key phrases that might come in handy.
8. Eating Out
Going out with friends doesn’t have to change just because you’re a vegetarian now. You just need to do a bit of research. Restaurants usually have vegetarian alternatives. Some places may have more options than others so skim through the menu online beforehand.
What are the Health Benefits of Becoming a Vegetarian?
Reduces Blood Pressure
Research has shown that vegetarians, particularly vegans have lower blood pressures.
Plant foods are lower in fat, sodium, and cholesterol, which can have a positive effect on your blood pressure. Fruits and vegetables also have substantial concentrations of potassium, which helps to reduce blood pressure.
Promotes Bone Health
Osteoporosis (a condition that affects bones) rates are lower in countries where most people follow a vegetarian diet. Animal products can force calcium out of the body, creating bone loss and osteoporosis.
One research study found that people who followed a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet for 20 years or more had only 18 percent less bone mineral by the time they reached age 80. Omnivores (meat eaters) in this study had 35 percent less bone mineral at the same age.
Reduces Cancer Risk
The benefit is not significant but vegetarians do have a slight with lowering cancer risk. A study found that vegetarians are 45% less likely to develop cancer of the blood (such as leukaemias and lymphomas) and 12% less likely to develop cancer overall.
Improves Heart Health
Vegetarians may be up to one-third less likely to die or be hospitalised for heart disease. If you want to maximise on the heart-protective benefits of the diet, be sure to include the following in your diet:
- vegetables and fruits
- high-fiber whole grains
- low-glycemic foods
Consume soluble fiber and choose foods that’ll help maintain stable blood sugar levels. This will help reduce your cholesterol and overall risk of heart attack.
Prevents Type 2 Diabetes
Sticking to a healthy vegetarian diet may help prevent and treat type 2 diabetes and the associated complications. It links back to the previous point of consuming low-glycemic foods that keep your blood sugar levels steady.
A study found out that vegetarians had half the risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with nonvegetarians.
Decreases Asthma Symptoms
An old Swedish study suggested that a vegetarian diet, specifically vegan, may decrease symptoms of asthma. 22 out of 24 participants who consumed a vegan diet had a reduced dependency on medications after a year.
How to Become a Vegetarian? (it’s not that hard)
Instead of Eliminating Foods You Love, Find Their Plant-based Substitutions
Don’t focus on what you’re giving up but rather what you’re about to gain. Often, you can replace the main protein with a vegetarian alternative like tofu or tempeh.
Make a list of your favourite foods that you’re not ready to give up and research vegetarian alternatives for them.
Add Fruits and Vegetables to Your Favourite Meals
Remember that vegetarianism is not simply a diet but a lifestyle. In order to keep up with it you have to train yourself to try new things and find vegetables and fruits you want to eat. Try to implement the latter into meals outside a salad.
For example, instead of chicken as a pizza topping, try peppers, mushrooms and onions (or even pineapple but that’s a whole debate in itself).
Try Vegetarian Take Out
Upon switching to plant-based options, you might feel lost in a world saturated by fast food. Luckily, we have a lot of plant-based options. The easiest way to know what you can and can’t eat out is by simply doing your research.
Look up your favourite restaurants online and browse their menus to work out which establishments are more or less veg-friendly.
Give Tofu a Shot
Alright let’s address the elephant in the room (or on the page) here. You should not be switching soy for meat at every meal, however, once or twice a week offers herbivores a significant source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
The key to incorporating tofu in your diet is experimentation. So gather up your favourite spices, read a few recipes, and it will soon enough become a staple for your meal plan.
Swap Cow’s Milk for Non-dairy Alternatives
Many vegetarians go dairy-free in addition to being plant-based. Instead of splashing a cup of cow’s milk into your cereal bowl every morning, try swapping it with a non-dairy option like almond, oat or rice milk instead.
But I Don’t Want to Become a Vegetarian…
And that’s okay. Vegetarianism is a choice that you get to make for yourself so if you think it’s not for you, that’s totally fine too! In fact, here are some reasons why people choose to follow a non-vegetarian lifestyle as opposed to a vegetarian one:
Eating Meat is a Natural Part of Life
Vegetarians often wrongly elevate the value of animal life over plant life. Research shows that plants respond electrochemically to threats and may feel fear, so vegetarians are also causing harm every time they kill and eat a plant.
Every organism on earth dies or is killed, at some point, in order for other organisms to survive. There is nothing wrong with this cycle; it is simply how nature works.
Vegetarian Diets Can Cause Animal Death Too
According to a 2003 study by Steven Davis at Oregon State University, about six animals per acre, or 52-77% of the animals (such as birds, mice, and rabbits) that live in agricultural crop fields, are killed during harvest.
Our Bodies Are Designed For Meat
Although humans can survive just fine on a meat-free diet, it doesn’t mean we’re natural vegetarians. Our ancestors were eating meat up to 2.5 million years ago.
Our bodies lack most of the equipment that’s normally associated with herbivores. We don’t have four stomachs, any ability to break down cellulose, or the complex intestinal tracts most leaf-eaters have.
We Are Made From Meat
Spanish researches discovered that signs of malnutrition in a child’s skull dating from 1.5 million years ago were consistent with a meat-deficient diet. This is interesting because we were so used to eating meat back then that our brain development was hindered without it – a theory supported by other evidence that links primate brain complexity to the number of calories consumed per day.
Given that we didn’t begin cooking our food until long after our brains went supernova, the only likely candidate for our calorific diets is meat. Meaning we’re only capable of making logical choices like vegetarianism because we originally ate other animals.
Meat Can Be Sustainable
One of the reasons people give up meat is the devastating impact on the environment of shipping, say, a dead animal halfway across the globe. So anyone who is into environmentalism, dropping meat should be a no-brainer, right?
Well, not quite. The thing is, if livestock is managed properly, they can be used to do a lot of stuff that would otherwise require tonnes of fossil fuel. For instance, grazing animals can help the natural flow of nutrients in the soil and aid in land management. At the same time, it wouldn’t require chemicals or pesticides.
Moreover, a single cow slaughtered on a small farm can feed its owner for ages.
It Doesn’t Have to Harm Animals
Of course, one of the biggest arguments against eating meat is that it’s cruel. But that’s about to change because we can now grow burgers in a lab. Yes, you read that right.
We can now grow a hunk of cow in a lab without ever actually involving a living cow! However, the technology is too expensive for mass-production at the moment. The first lab-grown burger cost $300,000 to make and tasted only ‘reasonably good’.
But we’re probably only a couple of years away from a world where steak and sausages can be made without harming a single animal.
It Could Save the Planet
Rearing livestock is necessary for increasing biodiversity and creating a truly sustainable world. It’s the most eco-friendly way of maintaining outdoor places such as wind farms. And what do we ultimately do with all this necessary livestock? That’s right: we eat it.
Eating Meat Enhances the Immune and Nervous Systems
Saturated fats contain the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. The cholesterol from saturated animal fat is needed for the proper functioning of serotonin receptors in the brain.
Low cholesterol levels have been linked to depression. Saturated fats are also essential for building and maintaining cell health, and help the body absorb calcium.
Resources and Cookbooks
For more information on vegetarian diets and nutrient, visit:
For vegetarian cookbooks visit:
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That was a real eye opener to being a vegetarian ???
A lovely read. I didn’t know there were “labelled” variations of the different types of diets.
No matter how healthy it may be, the picture of the veggie kebab just isn’t appetising to me whatsoever.