Starting to eat as a vegetarian is both easy and hard. The easy part is to stop eating meat, chicken, fish, and seafood.The hard part is learning to eat something else instead. Fortunately, we live in the golden age of plant-based diets, when eating more vegetarian is more convenient and more delicious than ever. Get started with my guide below. If you want to take it a step further, see my guide on how to eat vegan.
How to eat vegetarian
- Stop eating meat, chicken, fish, shrimp, and other seafood. Stop eating lard. Check the labels on the food you already have. Make a note to not buy those items with animal products in them again. If you can afford to, give those items to someone who will eat them. Otherwise, just slowly transition.
- Make a list of all the wonderful food that you already eat that is vegetarian, from mac and cheese to bean tacos. Make those your mainstays as you learn other new recipes to fill in the gaps.
- Think about all the other food you enjoy that is almost vegetarian. Have pizza with bell peppers and mushrooms instead of bell peppers and sausage, for example. Try bean burgers instead of beef burgers.
- Explore new sources of umami flavor. That’s the fifth taste, along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. It’s the one that makes people crave meat. Plant-based source of umami include mushrooms, soy sauce, ripe tomatoes, ketchup, olives, miso, okra, and fermented foods such as sauerkraut. Browning and caramelizing food also introduces umami flavors.
- Try new recipes and menu plans. My book Wildly Affordable Organic has four month-long seasonal menus to help you get started, from breakfast through dinner. Snacks too! There’s also a starter plan that shows you how to cook 60% of the food for a family of four in just 20 minutes a day. You’ll also find shopping lists, cooking plans, and 100 vegetarian recipes.
- Stay vegetarian when you eat out. Most restaurants now have a vegetarian section on their menu or use symbols to show which items are vegetarian. It’s easy to find vegetarian options in Mexican, Indian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern restaurants. Find the best local options using websites like Happy Cow and Yelp. If you have to go to a steak house or barbecue joint, you can often make a fine meal from the side dishes and salad bar.
- Be easy on yourself. It’s a process. Take it one meal at a time. As you become comfortable with your change, let your friends and family know so they can support you. Be easy on others too. It can be tempting to try to convert the world, but it’s more effective to seduce them with butternut lasagna than to lecture about factory farming at dinner.