Going Vegetarian? 10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew
Despite the number of people making the switch to a plant-based diet, it can still feel like a big jump. When I first ditched meat, I felt like I really had to justify my reasons (a combination of health and morals, should you feel the need to ask). I worried about what I was going to eat, if people would think I was being awkward...and if my new diet would give me everything I need.
Turns out I needn't have worried. If you're thinking about going vegetarian, here are 10 things I wish everyone knew:
1. The Constant Battle of Why?
Some days it feels like you will forever be justifying your reasons for being vegetarian to the loyal meat eaters. Be ready to hear lots of ‘but we’re meant to eat meat’ and 'if we're supposed to be vegetarian why do farm animals exist?!'. Some people are genuinely concerned (here's looking at you, Mum), while others are just plain annoying. With time, you'll hone your responses - or just learn to ignore them
2. It's All About the Iron
It's perfectly possible to get all the vitamins and minerals you need from a plant-based diet. But you do need to make sure you eat plenty of iron-rich foods, like leafy green veg, dried fruit and eggs. That's because our bodies can't absorb plant-derived dietary iron as easily as they do iron derived from meat. A lack of iron can lead to lethargy and anaemia - so start enjoying those green smoothies and kale chips!
3. You Do Need Omega 3
Our bodies need Omega 3 fatty acids to stay healthy, but can't produce it ourselves. Flesh-eaters can source Omega 3 from meat and fish...we vegetarians need to work that extra bit harder to find it. Fear not though, because flax (linseed), hemp, soya and walnuts are all great, meat-free sources of Omega 3. I like to sprinkle milled linseed over my porridge and smoothies for a quick Omega 3 fix!
4. How Hard It Is To Resist Bacon
Most people switching from a meat diet to a vegetarian one will know the struggles of saying no to a bacon sandwich on a Sunday morning. The cravings will die down eventually, I promise.
Many people think meat is the only protein source out there, but they couldn't be more wrong. You already know it's possible to get all the protein you need from plant-based sources or you wouldn't have made the decision to go vegetarian, would you?! So stop worrying about it, and don't let anyone else make you feel you should be concerned, either. As long as you're eating a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of nuts, seeds, pulses and beans - you should be getting all the protein you need.
6. That Hidden Dangers Lurk Everywhere
Most people don’t realise it but there are hidden meat and fish ingredients in many of our favourite foods. Caesar salad dressing sauce (we can’t eat this one because it contains Worcester sauce, which contains anchovies), marshmallows, jelly and Parmesan cheese are just a few of the things we vegetarians have to skip.
Noodles with soy sauce might be an easy vegetarian dish, but it's not winning any awards in the health department when eaten seven nights a week. In order to eat right, since turning vegetarian I've needed to spend more time planning and cooking my meals than ever before in my life. But it's worth it! I already feel so much better from eating freshly prepared, wholesome foods. Plus, I'm sure it will all become second nature after a few more months.
It can seem that you’re making the same food for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday (see above!), but there so many more options out there if you make a little effort. If you feel like you're getting stuck in a rut, broaden your horizons. Blogs, Instagram, magazines, apps - they're all a great source of inspiration. Not forgetting this community, of course! Push yourself to try something new, even if it's only once or twice a week.
9. Staying Healthy
Don’t fall into the fried food and carb trap. Many vegetarian foods can seem appealing but come with a hefty dose of fat. Cheese sandwiches, chips and chocolate bars might be vegetarian, but healthy they are not.
10. You Don't Have to Explain Yourself
If someone asks you why you're going vegetarian, you don't have to explain yourself. If you feel like telling people your reasons for ditching meat, then that's great. But if you can't be bothered to go through the reasons again, you officially have my permission to say "Just Because!"
I won't lie - there have been times when going vegetarian has been a struggle. I did get major meat cravings (damn you, bacon) and have had a few heated debates. But for me, it's all down to caring about animal welfare and looking after my health. I'm learning to cook new things, enjoying experimenting, and know I'm fuelling my body with nutritious, plant-based meals. I feel better in myself, and have even lost a few pounds. If you're thinking about going vegetarian I hope this helps!
mouth-watering to share?