A dear friend recently asked me, “I’m thinking of going vegetarian. How do you suggest I start?” I must admit I was quite flattered. Although I am a novice at the vegan lifestyle with just ten months under my belt, I had been vegetarian for over nine years, so I feel confident I know a thing or two about it. I am certainly no doctor, so you should always consult your own practitioner before making any big changes to your diet (gotta throw that disclaimer in there!) However I would be delighted to share my research and own experiences!
#1: My first recommendation would be to START SLOW. Just having the interest in eating less meat is half the battle. No one says you have to go “cold turkey” overnight. Maybe opt for a bean burrito rather than chicken chimichangas. Substitute a minestrone soup for beef stew. Skip the meatballs and Italian sausage on your pasta and try something like pasta primavera (food network.com has a delicious version at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/pasta-primavera-recipe/index.html.) Just find a few recipes that appeal to you, and try them out. There are numerous sites out there with ample recipes, including:
http://allrecipes.com/Recipes/Everyday-Cooking/Vegetarian offers “top 20 vegetarian dinners”.
http://vegetarian.betterrecipes.com claims to be “a great resource for committed vegetarians as well as those of us who are looking to eliminate meat.”
http://vegweb.com is a site that boasts “the world’s largest vegetarian recipe community.”
I started my own Vegan Voyage with two free apps for my iPod. One is the “21-Day Vegan Kickstart” that offers 3 weeks of menus. The second one is called “Vegan YumYum”. Both offer tasty plant-based dishes.
My favorite veggie blogs on my email list are:
http://www.veganbytes.com (aka Vegan-Nutritionista), firstname.lastname@example.org and http://chakra4vegetarianrestaurant.com/phoenix-vegetarian-lifestyle
All three are chock full of great health information and inspiration!
My “go-to” cookbook is one my sister, Belinda, gave me years ago, titled 1,000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles. Everything from appetizers to desserts is crammed in this 598 page book. A newer book I also refer to often is Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love, by Sarah Matheny. The author and one of her daughters are vegan, while the husband and second daughter are vegetarian, so the recipes aim to please both, making it friendlier to a wider audience. The author’s witty dialogue makes this cookbook an entertaining read alone. Both books are available through Amazon.
My favorite magazine is Vegetarian Times. The VT website, http://www.vegetariantimes.com, is great as well. The magazine is delivered nine times a year, and loaded not only with vegetarian dishes, but a healthy dose vegan options as well. You can save a few bucks on a subscription through Amazon ($12 for a year, or $20 for two years) as opposed to ordering directly through the parent site.
I have recently discovered Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com) as another awesome resource for meat-less recipes. Pinterest is an online pinboard that you can share and organize things you love. You can explore everything from Architecture to Gardening to Wedding Idea pins, or type in whatever else you are searching for. Personally, I mostly look up crafts for kids, travel ideas, and, of course, vegan dishes! You have to be “invited”, which is very simple by logging on through Facebook or Twitter, or just by submitting your email address. You are typically “accepted” within 24-48 hours. Then you can start pinning away! You make your own “boards” (like “crafts”, “recipes”, “travel”, etc.) where you then “pin” the posts that interest you most. That way you can easily refer back to your own profile to retrieve the ideas that caught your eye. It is a lot of fun, but I must warn you – it can be addicting!
I am relieved to see that restaurants are finally offering more meatless dishes, or at least happy to make changes or substitutions by request. T.G.I.Friday’s, for instance, offers a delicious new Sedona Black Bean Burger. You can order it sans the pepper jack and cheddar cheeses for a vegan version. A few weekends ago we grabbed a quick bite at a place called The Pita Pit in Indianapolis, IN. Basically a made-to-order sandwich shop, they offered an array of meats, cheeses and fresh produce. I devoured my Garden pita on wheat, with hummus and avocado extras. They had a Spicy Black Bean pita that I am eager to try, now that I know that they are a chain restaurant! Seasons 52 is wonderful for finer dining (for patrons looking for an extensive wine list). I especially loved that they have Vegetarian, Vegan and Gluten-Free menus on hand. (See my earlier Seasons 52 Review post).
So here is a starting point. The food you eat should be a lifestyle, not a diet. Again, start slow, and don’t judge yourself too harshly if you stray from your personal goals. Remember no one is perfect, and there is always the next meal. Do a little research from the plethora of resources out there, and select a few recipes that make your mouth water! Over time, you might be surprised when there are more veg-based meals on your menu than meat!
Coming up next: Four more suggestions for persons looking to eat Vegetarian!
Yours in Health,