Here are a few of the best ways to start out:
A vegetarian in training
Visit a registered dietitian for nutritional advice. Buy or borrow several vegetarian cookbooks. Look for ones written for “Beginners”. Scan the recipes for ingredients. If you see too many foods you don’t recognize or like, try another cookbook. Check out ethnic restaurants and sample vegetarian meals.
Easy does it
You don’t have to go “Cold turkey”. Take some time to learn more about the nutritional aspects of your new diet before you go meatless. Substitute nonmeat dishes several times a week. Use meat as flavoring rather than the focus of your meal or add meat substitutes such as veggie burgers to meals that once starred the real thing. Remember, suddenly eating more high–fiber fruits, vegetables and grains can leave you feeling bloated and gassy. Your body will adapt more easily if you add fiber slowly.
Variety is the key
Select an array of foods to make sure you get all the nutrients you need. Eat these foods frequently for
Good choices are soy products such as tofu or soy meat substitutes, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Non– or low–fat milk and milk products are calcium rich. If you’re a vegan, nondairy sources for calcium include leafy, dark green vegetables, legumes, fortified soy milk and tofu (processed with calcium sulfate). Women need at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day.
Try whole grains, soy products, nuts and wheat germ.
Eat dairy products and eggs. Vegans can get B–12 from some enriched cereals, soy products, nutritional yeast or by taking a supplement.
Lean toward lean
A vegetarian diet isn’t automatically low–fat. Use oils, margarines, eggs and high–fat nuts and seeds in moderation. Replace meat with lower–fat cheeses or nonfat soy protein products. Buy low–fat and nonfat milk and dairy products.
Calories that leave you empty
A hot fudge sundae is vegetarian fare, if you’re not vegan. Sweets and high–fat snack foods qualify for your new diet, but can fill you up and sabotage your health if you eat them in place of more healthful choices.
Practice makes perfect
Because you’re changing the way you eat, you’ll also be changing the way you cook and shop. At first, you may not be able to whip up a quickie vegetarian meal the way you used to throw together a meat–and–potatoes one. But as you gain knowledge and experience–and a few recipes–your new vegetarian diet will seem like second nature to you.