It's a big descion, a life style change really. Wondering if anyone could lend any advice on the transition. Is there anything in particular I should look out for? and what about in regards to daily dietary needs?
Thinking about becoming vegetarian...
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Hello bob16, welcome! I would say just start by shifting your lifestyle to less meat and more grains, vegetables and fruits. Unless you have a very clear cut reason for going completely vegetarian (so many rules...eating out and at the homes of others can be a pain, etc) then it's tough, at least the way I see it because you are drawing lines in the sand. As for the nutritional aspect, you can log what you eat on a website like www.livestrong.com if you get an account. It will break down your nutrition for you, the macronutrients are all done with a free account. I *think* you can get more refined feedback if you pay for an account...but to be honest as long as you diversify your diet you should be perfectly fine. I'd supplement just in case anyhow, hey you never know....
I learned to cook vegetarian when my daughter decided once and for all that she hated meat at 16 - never much liked it before anyway. You'll want to do lots of vegetables cooked in very interesting ways. Mixing any of the following two in the same meal will give you the "noble" proteins that you need, because vegetable protein is not complete but eating them together will produce protein to rival any steak:
- Legumes (beans, lentils, peas, chick peas),
- grains (like rice, wheat, barley and nthe flours that come from them and the breads and pastas that come from the flours)
- seeds (sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, etc)
- dairy products (except butter - like milk, cheese, yoghurt)
- nuts (walnuts, almonds, filberts)
So some traditional "poor" food like rice and beans, or pasta and ceci (chickpeas), or pasta e fagioli, or lentil soup on toasted bread rubbed with garlic, pasta with cheese, or whole wheat bread with seeds in it, etc.
I suggest not substituting meat with those awful fake meats. They really don;t taste like meat. If you really don;t want to give up meat have it rarely,k but have it real!
I'd suggest looking at asian cookbooks and/or recipes. Ever since I've been interested in cuisines from India, Thailand, Vietnam etc... I've surprised myself (I used to be a big time meat eater) cooking and eating more and more vegetarian dishes, then vegetarian meals. I've also started cooking many dishes with little meat - so not exactly vegetarian, but maybe a little bit of bacon, or a fried rice with diced shrimp or diced chicken etc...
I agree that cutting down your meat intake will ease the transition if you really decide to go with a strict vegetarian diet. With my French background I always considered a "normal meal" to have a 6oz serving of meat per person. Since I moved to the U.S. that 6oz turned into 8oz, 10oz, sometimes more. It became way too much.
Now with my asian cookbooks I can easily whip up a satisfying savory dish with as little as 2oz of meat per person! When you cut the meat in little bits and mix it with pasta or rice and veggies, it seems to stretch out a little further.
Here's an example of a dish that's 4oz beef/person and make you feel like you're eating a LOT of meat:
A couple of true vegetarian dishes that satisfy me when I don't have meat:
- Malai Kofta
Hi BoB16: Are you looking for cooking advice, or just eating? What are you eating now?
Dietary needs should not be a problem: look up stuff on complementary proteins. Rice and beans and veg and fruit and you will be fine. (You'll occasionally encounter meat-zealots who are fonts of dietary misinformation. Ignore them.)
If you're thinking about a gradual transition, Zoebisch's advice is great. A lot of Italian pasta dishes, for example, use a little ham or something as a flavoring, but aren't relying on meat for nutrition.
My top five veg or veg-capable cuisines are:
South Indian, particularly Tamilian: dosa, idli, dal of various kinds, amazing veg dishes. This will transform your understanding of what lentils can do and be. The veg options at standard North Indian restaurants (which are 95% of the "Indian" restaurants in the U.S.) are more limited, but worth checking out
East Mediterranean: Turkish, Greek: the tradition of mezze produces all kinds of excellent veg, chickpea etc. dishes.
Italian: For some reason U.S. "Italian" restaurants have dropped the "Contorni" section of an Italian menu, which is usually full of amazing veg dishes. And there is a huge sweep of pasta, polenta, and whatnot dishes doable without meat.
Chinese: while mainstream Chinese food is aggressively meat-using, there are large Buddhist veg traditions with incredible food. Chinese food is a universe unto itself.
Thai: mainstream Thai food uses a lot of fish paste, but there's a good veg Thai cuisine.
The easiest trap to fall into at first is an over-reliance on cheese and eggs for protein. Lots of fat and cholesterol there. I was veg for over 30 years. Ethnic cookbooks make up the bulk of my cookbook collection--even more so than vegetarian cookbooks. In addition to the other cuisines mentioned above, I found that I ate and continued to love an awful lot of Middle Eastern food. Simple, flavorful, delicious. You really do have to get to know beans--and to work out a way to incorporate their long cooking times into your schedule. Or, you can used canned. Mushiness and lots of salt are the potential issues there.
If we can talk politics here on the websites, I'd have plenty to say, but i didn;t think you could do that here
Anything tastes good if it's fried and put in tasty sauces, but you can live a vegetarian lifetime and never need to use tofu. And certainly never to need to use those horrible meat substitutes.
Edited by siduri - 6/12/12 at 11:25am
I know I probably won't convince you if your already set on it...but I think you should reconsider. PM me for additional information. The nutrition in meats is great and most of the issues people have with meat are the processed food type issues. Eat meat that isn't heavily processed. Eating whole real foods is what you need to be healthy.
When you can eat pastured beef, chicken, pork and wild caught fish. PM me for something you might consider reading :P. I really do think its a good idea but I don't expect everyone to do that.
Hope this helps out...try it for 30 days maybe? At the very least eat fish. Also don't worry too much about mercury as most fish have more than enough selenium which binds to mercury making it not a big deal.