There's no one diet plan that's going to be a perfect fit for everyone. We all have different needs and preferences, and there can be all kinds of limits on what foods we have access to. Having said that, there's plenty of evidence suggesting plant-based diets support overall health and longevity, while decreasing your risk for a wide range of diseases.
Whether you're considering switching to a vegetarian diet for improved health, due to ethical concerns, or for any other reason, here are 7 tips to help you make the transition in a healthy way.
1. Familiarize yourself with the different types of vegetarian diets.
Do you plan to go vegan and cut out all animal products? Or will you just cut out meat? Will you move towards a lacto-vegetarian diet, where you avoid meat but still consume dairy? Will you continue to consume eggs as part of an ovo-vegetarian diet? Maybe a pesco-vegetarian (also known as pescatarian) diet is right for you, where you cut out meat but still consume fish and seafood. There's more than one way to approach a vegetarian diet, so you have plenty of options for finding an approach that works for you.
2. Start preparing plant based dishes a few times a week.
Adopting a vegetarian diet means all your meals will be meatless, so a logical starting place is to start incorporating more meatless dishes into your diet. As you do this, take note of how you feel and make observations. Do you notice a change in your energy level? An increase in your energy level would obviously be a good thing. If, on the other hand, you notice a decrease, you need to look at the make up of your meals. Are you not getting enough calories? Not enough protein? As you can see, you may need to do some research, which leads us to tip #3.
3. Do some basic research on nutrition beforehand.
You don’t need to become an expert in the field of nutrition before switching to a vegetarian diet. However, it's a good idea to perform some basic research beforehand. This will provide you with the knowledge you need to make smart, healthy choices with your new diet plan. The two areas you want to focus on are:
4. Be aware that vegetarian doesn't automatically mean healthy; food choices matter.
Even though a plant-based diet brings many health benefits, it's still possible to have a very unhealthy diet while being vegetarian. For instance, a steady diet of fast food, heavily processed foods, or junk food snacks won't lead to optimal health. Such a diet is far more likely to sap your energy and perhaps lead to weight gain. (This is why doing some research beforehand is important.)
5. Start introducing some new foods into your diet.
A vegetarian diet doesn't mean you're limited to salad, kale, and quinoa every day! By expanding your grocery list, you can add more variety to your meals and you won't get bored from eating the same foods day after day. There are all kinds of vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes to explore. You might be surprised at what becomes a new favourite.
6. Find a print or online source for vegetarian recipes.
There's no end to the different kinds of vegetarian meals you can prepare. Whether it's print or online, find a source for vegetarian recipes that looks appealing to you, and start experimenting. You'll discover new ways for preparing different foods, which will allow you to add even more variety to your diet.
7. Take your time and have fun!
Whatever changes you choose to make to your eating habits, they should never be burdensome, and they should never leave you feeling hungry or deprived. Take time to explore as you figure out what works for you, and have fun along the way!
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