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Ten Tips for Greening Your Plate with More Meat-free Meals

veggiesIn my last post I touched on a few reasons why vegetarianism is one option to consider in your efforts to pursue a more sustainable lifestyle, and “eat better.” Mark’s original EcoWorldy post on vegetarianism, which inspired my post asked, “Do you have any suggestions on managing the conversion to vegetarianism now that half the food on my plate is off limits?” Whether you’re interested in transitioning to vegetarianism, veganism, or just looking for some ways to supplement your omnivorous diet with some meat-free meals, here are my top 10 suggestions for easing the transition:

1.Don’t think of things as being “off limits.” Some things haven’t changed since childhood. When we tell ourselves we can’t have it, it often makes us want it more. Remember that each meal you consume is a choice, and you will feel empowered to pursue the best choice possible.

2. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
I often hear people say “I could never be vegan because I couldn’t give up cheese.” Or bacon, or ice cream, or some other food. OK, so then give up everything but that. The Veggie Police will not come and arrest you if you indulge in a sustainably raised piece of fish every now and then.

3. Go veggie when you’re dining out. One commenter on my last post said she knows where her food comes form when she cooks at home, but not necessarily when she’s in a restaurant. Try eating vegetarian for your next meal away from home.

4. Go veggie when you’re cooking at home.
On the other hand, depending where you live, it may be difficult to find vegetarian dishes at some dining establishments. Or you may find yourself in a social situation with few options. So go veggie at home, where you control the menu, and omni when you’re out.

5. Do it with a buddy. I had always thought veganism would be too difficult, until I met my vegan husband. But having someone who knew the best places in town to eat, helped me learn nutritional information, and happily tried my new recipes certainly helped my transition.

6. Join a group. Many cities and towns have vegetarian societies or groups that have meetups. Do a Google search for one in your area. I also recently learned of Vegifide — a vegetarian social networking site where you’ll find no shortage of advice and support.

7. Stick with what’s comfortable. If words like tempeh or quinoa scare you, then go for the things you already like that are vegetarian, like pasta dishes, black bean burritos, or hummus. I was once a tofu-phobe, and now I can’t get enough of it. Your tastes also change over time.

8. If you can’t cut it out, cut down the quantity. If you really want meat with your potatoes, cook only a small portion, but pile on the side dishes. Every little change helps.

9. Sneak it in. I switched to soy milk long before I went vegan simply because it lasted so much longer in my fridge! If you’re using it for baking, in mashed potatoes, or other dishes in smaller quantities, you won’t taste the difference. Same thing goes for butter — try cooking with olive oil or margarine instead.

10. Go at your own pace. Nobody says you have to go cold turkey (or in this case, I suppose it should be cold Tofurkey). Start with one vegetarian day a week, then ease into two or three, etc. It’ll only get easier as you go. Set goals for yourself. And when you reach them, reward yourself with a veggie meal in a great restaurant! (If you’re in the SF or NY area I can make a few suggestions.)

If you have any tips or questions on incorporating more veggie options into your diet, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. You can also check out the recent discussion in the Green Options Forum on Green Health, Food, and Lifestyle.

14 comments
  1. Jay Andrew Allen

    I wasn’t ready to go veg for years. I had to reach the point where it no longer became a matter of “depriving myself,” but a matter of ethics: I couldn’t, in good conscience, make animals suffer any longer for my enjoyment.

    I’m glad that meat reduction seems like more of an option these days, for those not ready to make the leap. It may just be my unscientific impression, but since the environmental awareness around meat has grown, it seems like there’s less of an “all or nothing” approach to the subject.

    And hey – be nice to quinoa! :)

  2. Sharon Troy

    Jay, I think a lot of people may worry about “depriving themselves” as well. But I can say, from experience that I found I ended up exploring so many new foods I had never tried before — like quinoa! It’s one of my favorite foods, but a lot of people I know have never even heard of it.

  3. Kendra Holliday

    #2 is the BEST tip – I know lots of “salmontarians,” “corned beeftarians,” etc – they are veg except their one thing.

    And I love Vegifide! So many great folks on that site.

    (On a separate note, my man is a “kendratarian” – meaning he is veg because of me! I’m SO grateful that his respect for me spares the animals!)

  4. Megan

    Going veg opened up a lot of doors for me food-wise as well – I got way more interested in cooking when I went veg than I ever was before. So it definitely helps to look at making the transition in a positive light.

    Kendra, my man went veg because of me, too. It took him about 6 months after I made the switch. Thanks to my adventurous veg cooking he went vegetarian and never looked back. It definitely makes life, and mealtime, easier when your partner is dedicated to the same lifestyle and diet as you are.

  5. Sharon Troy

    Credit to Kendra for introducing me to Vegifide! If any Eat.Drink.Better readers are interested in checking it out, my username is WonderYort. Feel free to add me; I’d love to hear from you.

    http://vegifide.com

  6. Nancy Kolger

    I am a 68yr old widow living on SS. I am a type 2 diabetic, over weight by 100lbs, have no energy, high blood pressure, heart problems, diviterlitis, just to name a few. I would love to go vegan but did not know with my diabetic condition and all the other problems if I could do it! I know vegans are more healthy looking and energetic and not fat!!!! Help!

  7. Beth Bader

    Nancy, your best bet would be to consult a registered dietician who has experience with your needs. He or she could be a great source of advice. Your doctor can usually recommend a dietician for you. Best of luck in improving your health.

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