Deciding to go vegetarian does not have to be complicated. If you have chosen to make this lifestyle change, but need some ideas on how to get started, you have come to the right place. I would always recommend beginning with an overall introductory course to vegetarianism to help get you started. You can learn about the ins and outs, the many health benefits, and get reassurance from others who have already been down this road.
One of the great things about going vegetarian is that you can ease your way into it. Not everyone is the type of person who can stand to make major changes all at once, and that’s part of the reason I have come up with this guide. It will tell you a little about what you are getting into, what to shop for, and then how to plan out your meals. There may be a few false starts, and slip ups as you make this change in your diet, and that’s perfectly fine. Think of vegetarianism as a long term goal, and not as something you intend to crash into without being prepared. Let’s look at a few pointers to get you started.
Where Do I Even Begin?
Whether you have decided to try vegetarianism due to health concerns or for ethical reasons, there is no denying the fact that it is a big change. If you look around you, most of the convenience foods we reach for throughout the day are not geared towards this type of diet. The chicken wrap in the cafeteria, the bacon on your salad and the prominence of the fast food burger all seem to be making this more difficult. The good news is that this can be done!
You have a few choices. If you are kitchen savvy, you could begin by making vegetarian versions of your favorite foods, to see how you like them. Often, you can simply swap out the meat for something different like beans, tofu, or a starchy vegetable like eggplant or potatoes. Begin using sauces like soy and marinara in place of gravy, and you may find that your old favorites can stay on the menu with only a few minor changes.
Of course, if you are already willing to get a little creative in the kitchen, why not explore the amazing variety of ethnic, vegetarian foods? Indian cooking is especially compatible with vegetarianism, and becoming familiar with a few staple meals and Indian cooking tricks can really add a lot of new and exciting variety to your meals.
If you are the type to shy away from the oven (or at least hang back until you feel a little more confident), there is a tremendous variety of both vegetarian convenience foods, and vegetarian choices at restaurants. Too busy to cook? Feel less than confident in the kitchen? Never fear! You can still experience a wide range of fresh, healthy options regardless of whether you are dining out, or eating in. Which brings us to our next point…
Your New Shopping List
Yes, it is 100% okay to try out vegetarian foods by buying the prepacked entrees. If you find this transition overwhelming, do not let the cooking aspect of it scare you off. Most grocery stores have plenty of microwaveable or oven ready options, so load up on these if it is going to make your life easier.
Otherwise, if you (or your kids) are looking to get involve with vegetarian cooking, stock up on these staples:
Fruit and vegetable juices
Non-dairy creamer (if you are looking to avoid dairy, but not your coffee)
Lentils, beans, chickpeas (dry or canned)
Whole Grains (millet, quinoa, barley, etc.)
Sweet syrups (maple, agave, etc.)
Extracts (Vanilla, orange, almond, etc.)
Spices (Salt, pepper, basil, cinnamon… all your old favorites)
Soy, almond or coconut milk
Sesame, olive or coconut oil
Eggs (if you plan to include them) or egg substitute
Peanut butter, or other nut butters
Cocoa powder, chocolate chips
What’s My Meal Plan?
- 1 C. Oatmeal with blueberries
- 1 C. Cottage cheese with strawberries
- 1 C. Yogurt with 1/4 C. Granola and fresh fruit
- 1 Home made waffle with maple syrup and fresh berries
- 1 C. of your favorite breakfast cereal with coconut, soy or almond milk as a replacement
- Scrambled egg (or egg substitute) cooked with onion, mushrooms and peppers
- 2 Slices whole wheat toast with natural fruit spread and a fresh orange
- A big, leafy green salad with vinaigrette dressing and chickpeas
- 1 C. Lentil soup with crackers, or a small whole wheat roll
- 1 c. pasta with sauteed squash and zucchini tossed in marinara sauce
- The good, old PB&J sandwich with an apple
- A fruit salad topped with 1/2 c. yogurt
- 1 c. red beans with rice and a side salad with oil and vinegar
- Vegetable soup with crunchy croutons
- Granola bar
- Fruit cup
- Sliced veggies with hummus
- Tortilla chips with guacamole
- Crackers with tofu
- Almonds mixed with dried cranberries, raisins and seeds for a healthy trail mix
- Fruit like apples, oranges, plums, pears, bananas, etc. (They are already individually wrapped for your convenience!)
- Vegetable lasagna (swap out the cheese and meat for eggplant and mushrooms)
- Baked macaroni with cheese substitute, stewed tomatoes and breadcrumbs
- Veggie burger with a side of thinly sliced, roasted potatoes
- Stuffed green peppers (replace the meat with rice and beans) with marinara sauce
- Veggie stir fry served over rice with soy sauce
- Tofu fajitas with fried peppers, onions and mushrooms, topped with tomato salsa
- Tomato bisque with a green salad, and a fresh baguette
With just a little introductory cooking instruction, you could be well on your way to this new, exciting and healthy lifestyle change. Check out Udemy’s “Online Vegan and Vegetarian Cooking School” to get you started on this new, culinary adventure.