Thinking of going vegetarian? It can be a smart move for your health and waistline but, cutting out meat isn’t the only thing you have to do. To stay healthy and not piss off your meat-eating friends, here are my 10 ways NOT to be a vegetarian.
1. Don’t say goodbye to iron
You’ve cut out big bad red meat (hurrah!) but with it, you shoved out his best friend, iron. To prevent anemia and keep your energy up, be sure to get that iron in. There are a ton of vegetarian sources of iron — some even have higher amounts than meat. These include spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, brown rice, lentils, chickpeas, and organic unsulfured Blackstrap molasses.
Comparison of iron sources
Iron (mg/100 calories)
|Collard greens, cooked||4.5|
|Sirloin steak, choice, broiled||0.9|
|Hamburger, lean, broiled||0.8|
|Chicken, breast roasted, no skin||0.6|
|Pork chop, pan fried||0.4|
The RDA for iron is 18 mg/day for women (8 for post-menopausal women and men). Vegetarians, including vegans, may need up to 1.8 times more iron.
2. Don’t load up on carbs
You can’t have burgers so you have potatoes. You can’t have ham so you have potatoes. You can’t have fish so you have potatoes. You can’t fit into your jeans so you cry and comfort yourself by eating some potatoes. See the pattern? Carb overload will make you tired (and fat) so put some variety in your diet, will ya? Stock up on good carbs like whole grain, oatmeal, green peas, squash, quinoa, barley, and sweet potatoes. Use vegetables to recreate some of your starchy favorites like cauliflower rice and zucchini spaghetti. Processed nutritional lightweights are not the vegetarian way to go.
3. Say cheese…but not too often
Cheese can be a great source of protein, but like carbs, overdoing it can pack on the pounds fast. Most cheddar, for example, is high in weight-causing saturated fat and salt. A moderate amount of healthy cheeses like feta, brie, Swiss, Gruyere and freshly grated Parmesan are the way to go. By moderate, I mean about 2x a week. The ideal way to eat cheese btw is to pair it with a healthy item:
- Add a thin slice of a semi-soft cheese like Chèvre to apple slices.
- Sandwich a slice of mozzarella between tomatoes or cucumber slices.
- Top whole-grain bruschetta with diced tomatoes and a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Top 2 whole grain crackers with olives and any variety of hard cheese.
- Top a sweet potato with low-fat cottage cheese and steamed broccoli.
- Have 6-8 baked mozzarella sticks.
- Heat up leftovers and sprinkle shredded Parmesan on top.
4. Don’t neglect your vitamins
Don’t think that because you eat well you’re automatically covered in the nutrients department. Whatever diet we follow, our bodies still need the 6 essential nutrients — fats, protein, carbs, minerals, water and vitamins — in optimal amounts. It would be nice to get them all from our diet, but it’s the rare person who does, and it’s highly doubtful if you’re not cooking your meals yourself.
5. Don’t ignore good advice
Ever since you’ve gone veggie has everyone suddenly become a nutritionist?
Fake nutritionist: “But, how will you get your pro…”
You (before they can finish): “Eggs! Tofu! Beans! Yoghurt! Nuts! …” then head back in a huff to eat more potatoes.
I get it, you don’t want everyone commenting on your diet, but if something is new for you, the best way to learn (and avoid some mistakes) is to hear out people more experienced.
6. Don’t go cold turkey
It’s probably better for your body to stop at Pescatarian-ville before boarding the vegetarian train. Why? If you make gradual maintainable changes to your diet, they’re more likely to stick. You’ll also have time to plan your diet and start your vegetarian journey more prepared.
7. Don’t be too strict
You cut out meat…then your mate mentions that “Chocolate has cow’s bones in it.” so, it has to go. Now that you think about it, eggs seem a lot like meat… so that has to go too. Continue down this road and you’ll soon be miserable — like your diet.
8. Don’t grow a ‘Veggie Brain’
Don’t freak out when you rock up to your friend’s BBQ and there is only a piece of bread with tomato ketchup to eat. If only there was a veggie sausage in your freezer you could have thrown in your bag! (Oh wait…there was.) Other annoying “veggie brain” habits to avoid…
- Telling everyone you meet you’re vegetarian.
- Making meat-eaters feel guilty about eating meat.
- Not giving your host-to-be simple choices like “veggie burger” when they EXPLICITLY ask what you want them to pick up for you for the BBQ.
9. Don’t stop exercising
While going vegetarian can be a great weight loss strategy (if you eat well), don’t take exercise off the table. It has many beauty and health benefits, including weight maintenance. In fact, it’s the number one way people who lose weight keep it off.
10. Don’t think meat-eaters have no soul
You want your friends to respect your decision, but ‘accidentally’ pull a barf face every time they chomp into their pepperoni pizza. If there was a church for veggies you’d be the preacher and the door knocker. Yes, your body is healthy but your relationship with your friends is becoming…*barf face.* Cut it out, please!
And that’s my top ten things to do and not do when you go vegetarian. Let me know what you think of these tips in the comments below and pass this article along to wanna be vegetarians you know.