Becoming Vegetarian – Tips on How to Get Started

If you've decided to make the change to vegetarianism, you'll want to be successful. Once you've spoken to your doctor or health care provider about your choice, here are some tips to help you make the transition.

1. Identify your reason or reasons for going vegetarian. Write it down if you need to, and read it or otherwise remind yourself of your reasons whenever you feel like going back to eating meat. Maybe you're choosing vegetarianism for environmental reasons, or perhaps your cholesterol level is too high. Regardless, make the reasons concrete and memorable.

2. Decide what sort of vegetarian you want to be. This will help prevent having to make decisions on whether or not to eat a certain food each time. Do you want to be the sort of vegetarian who eats dairy products? Eggs? Fish? Or maybe you want to follow a vegetarian diet only sometimes. It's up to you; just make sure you define it ahead of time.

3. Make changes gradually. Maybe start with two or three vegetarian dinners a week, or set aside one whole day a week of vegetarian meals. Another approach is to cut out one type of meat or animal product each week or month. Maybe cut out beef first, then chicken, then pork. A gradual approach is especially helpful if you are trying to get reluctant family members on board.

4. Variety is important in all diets, but it's particularly important when you are making a dietary change. Boosting nutrition may be one of your motivations for becoming vegetarian, so you'll want to eat as much variety of foods as possible. This will also keep things interesting and avoid a boring rut. No one wants to eat three salads a day every day!

5. Consider B12 supplements if you are not going to consume any animal products at all. B12 is found only in meat, eggs, and dairy products. Even if you do eat dairy and eggs, you still may need a B12 supplement. You could also eat foods fortified with this vitamin, such as some breakfast cereals. Making sure your nutrient needs are met is a help toward success.

6. Get a few good vegetarian cookbooks. You can check them out at your local library or purchase them. This is especially helpful if you are new to vegetarian cooking. You might also consider subscribing to a vegetarian magazine with tips and cooking hints.

7. Be patient with yourself. If you have a “moment” and buy a fast-food burger, don't worry about it and move on. There's no need to guilt-trip yourself. Instead, think through what made you get such a craving, and how you can avoid it next time. Maybe eat a veggie burger for lunch before heading out past the drive through, or just make sure you go out on a full stomach.

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