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Answer this: I'm going vegetarian. What are some yummy and easy ways for me to get started?

Hannah Kim

When
August 7, 2013

I've recently decided to become vegetarian! I want this to be a long-term thing so I'm starting slow but I hope to eventually be vegan as well. I'm hoping to tap in to the GOOD community brain trust to crowdsource some answers! Also, do you know any awesome recipes? When I'm in a hurry I don't know what to make and sometimes just eat salad, which gets boring really fast. I need exciting and creative new ways to cook my vegetables.

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  • Nik Helbig

    Great that you're going healthy... I'm not vegetarian, but eating a lot of vegetables is something I believe we should do. I actually wrote an article recently about "how to eat more vegetables" on my blog www.foreveryoungforeverfit.com. Maybe there would be some inspiration in it.
    As for why I am not vegetarian... I don't eat refined carbs or starchy foods, not even whole wheat or cereal -- because they make me fat straight away. Hence eating a little portions of meat products makes life less stressful.
    Well, good luck with your new lifestyle!

  • Chelsea Frazee

    I'm glad you are taking another step towards health! I've been a vegetarian for two and half years. In the past six months I have given up dairy. As it turns out, I am mildly allergic to it. The only thing that keeps me from being a vegan is eggs. I eat eggs about twice a week as a protein source.

    A lot of people think that they can't be a vegetarian because they will miss meat to much. I have found, though, that if you are giving your body all of the nutrients that it needs it won't crave meat. One way to accomplish this is variety. I make sure I get a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, legumes, etc. every week. For example, it's easy to be a creature of habit and eat the same thing for breakfast every morning. Mix it up. Have oatmeal one day, quinoa cooked in almond milk the next day, and eggs another day.

    Another way to make sure you are getting plenty of nutrients is add extras to everything. I like to add pepitas, chia, and berries to my oatmeal (check out http://www.katheats.com/favorite-foods/overnightoats). Scramble your eggs with vegetables. Add a variety of vegetables, beans, and nuts to your salads. Keep a lot of spices around and add those to smoothies or sauteed vegetables. A lot of spices have excellent health benefits. Cinnamon prevents diabetes. Turmeric is a huge cancer fighter because of it's anti-inflammatory properties.

    As a vegetarian, I encourage you to get creative with your cooking. I try to make a couple of new recipes every week and I try to buy at least four fruits and vegetables that I don't normally eat every week. You can even think of some of your favorite foods and make them. I had a roommate that introduced me to lentil tacos, lentils cooked in taco seasoning. Very delicious. Very nutritious. I have made my own breakfast "sausage" patties with mashed beans, a few veggies, and some seasoning. Not every thinks this way or may agree, but I encourage you to avoid soy products (tofu, fake meat products in the frozen food section). Soy is really hard for your body to process and some research suggests that it is linked to allergies. Some of those products can be helpful while you are making the transition, but I wouldn't encourage you to stick with them long term.

    If you are eating a well-balanced vegetarian diet, the only supplement you should need to take is B12. Make sure you choose a supplement that dissolves under your tongue as this is the best place for your body to absorb it. Also, make sure that you are aware of signs of a B12 deficiency. I actually intend on getting some blood taken to check my B12 levels soon. Some people are more prone to it and might have to take more than one tablet each day.

    As for other supplements, you shouldn't need to take a multivitamin. There has been a lot of research lately about how effective multivatimins are because your body may not absorb the vitamins from the supplement. There is also evidence that older women who take multivitamins have a higher mortality rate. Another big thing for women is calcium. I currently don't take a calcium supplement even though my doctor suggests I take two each day. There are some studies that show that calcium supplements can increase your risk of a heart attack. Doctors tend to be torn on this issue as some believe it does increase your chances of a heart attack, some believe that this risk is only in men, and others believe that it has to effect on your cardiovascular system.

    Alright, with all of this said, I am going to end with two things. First, a lot of what I mentioned above is my own research. It's definitely a good idea to follow up with a lot of it. It's also a good idea to become familiar with different food and what nutrients they have to offer. For example, it's good to know that once you decide to give up dairy, good sources of calcium include dark, leafy greens and fortified alternative milks. Second, you should always listen to your body. If it is craving meat, and I'm talking about a craving that doesn't pass, you should eat some meet. Your body is probably trying to tell you it's missing something. My guess would be iron. In my two and half years, I have eaten chicken three or four times. I had some cravings that lasted more than one day, and to be honest, I hadn't been doing so well with making sure I was getting everything that I needed. If every now and then you need some meat, go for it. It's not going to totally derail you or have a huge effect on your overall health.

    Good luck, and let us know how it goes! I obviously have a lot to say about the subject, so reach out if you ever have more questions.

    • Hannah Kim

      wow, awesome insight! Thank you for taking the time to write such a thorough response. A lot of what you say really resonates me. I'm going to take these next few weeks to educate myself more and think of innovative ways to cook my food so that I don't get bored, and also get all of the necessary nutrients.

  • Laszlo Giricz

    Hello Hannah
    I just joined and this is my first response here on this site. :)
    I am a holistic health and life coach by choice as it is my passion. Lucky me, right? ;)

    Here is a link to my free coaching videos, many about food:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/KatharosLife

    I have three book recommendations for you, that will surely help you:
    1) www.amazon.com/dp/1932100660
    2) www.amazon.com/dp/0920470386
    3) www.amazon.com/dp/1904562124

    Enjoy and have an awesome life!

    • Hannah Kim

      Awesome, I hope you like looking around the site- glad you are on GOOD.
      These books look great, especially the one on China- so fascinating. I can't wait to take a look at them.
      Wow the videos that you are doing are so cool- is this your occupation? What was your motivation to become a holistic health/life coach?

      Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Connor Ferguson

    I'm not a vegetarian, but I have to heartily recommend the book "Everyday Greens" by Annie Somerville. I have yet to make something from it that hasn't absolutely blown me away. Too often, vegetarian recipes are trying to imitate classic, meat-based dishes, or they're just a meat dish with the meat removed. Not so here.

    • Hannah Kim

      Awesome!! I saved the book on my bookmarks so I can purchase it later. I hate when vegetarian recipes are sub standard versions of the meat-based dish- it's so frustrating. I think it's perfectly possible to eat amazing meals that don't have meat in them- even without meat substitutes or some sort of compromise. Thanks for sharing! :)

  • Every Last Morsel

    We're happy to hear you've made a lifestyle choice, and you're excited about it! To echo mjbaroli, make sure you get all your nutritional needs.

    As far as resources go -- we love Pinterest for a good veggie recipe. http://pinterest.com/everylastmorsel/recipes-we-love/ A lot of our favorites are vegetarian, and so many vegetarian food bloggers have excellent boards. Spend some time saving your favorites and you'll have the whole week planned out.

    Tip: Search "Vegan [Your favorite non-vegan meal]" and you'll likely find a recipe that provides substitutions so good you won't even miss the meat!

    • Hannah Kim

      I actually JUST made a Pinterest just to follow the link you sent me, haha. I love it!
      Such a visual/creative way to approach cooking. Thank you for sharing! :)

  • Grace Goldoni

    Books by Kris Carr and Kimberly Snyder have amazing recipes and health tips. Ellen Degeneres' cookbook called Vegan Cooking for Carnivores also has delicious recipes!!

    • Hannah Kim

      I added them to my "to buy" list! Thanks so much, I'm so excited to look at these. It's so much fun to look online at blogs/pinterest boards but there's something so TANGIBLE about looking at a book

  • mjbaroli

    Yay, another convert! :P

    I've been a vegetarian for about two years now and have not found it difficult to meet my nutritional needs and have an exciting diet. Things become a little more difficult when you start trying to cut out dairy and gluten (I know you did not mention giving up gluten but it might be something you consider in the future). Canned beans (of all sorts), lentils, brown rice and Quinoa (a wheat like substance that is actually a seed) have become my best friends! Tofu and tempeh are also great protein sources, especially when you want something that is similar to the consistency of meat. These things, and other protein/carbohydrate sources are essential to your energy levels as you make the switch. That being said, you still may need to invest in a B-12 supplement and an Iron supplement as these are hard to obtain without eating meat. For exciting recipes when I am bored with plain salads and bland tofu, I explore some of my favorite vegan/vegetarian sites:

    http://ohsheglows.com/ (Vegan, also includes great dessert recipes and green smoothie recipes which are great for energy levels!)

    http://www.treehugger.com/easy-vegetarian-recipes/ (You can scroll for hours on this one)

    You can always get the creative juices flowing by looking at these sites and then using whatever you have in your kitchen to imitate something! I make stir fries practically every other day.

    Hope I helped!

    • Hannah Kim

      I love these blogs! Thanks so much for sharing.
      Definitely- though I want to start out by cutting out meat, I eventually want to become vegan. When you're cutting out more than one thing it definitely gets more challenging. This past week I made it my goal to not eat processed food and this was made especially difficult because I wasn't eating any meat.
      Do you take supplements? I'm not sure if I'm giong to need to that yet, and I'm really curious to how other people get their nutrients from places other than meat.