Transitioning from an omnivore's diet to that of a vegetarian will require you to make some major adjustments. You should be willing to try entirely new foods or experiment with familiar foods in new combinations. You may also find that the standard plate of protein, vegetables and starch doesn't work for you anymore.
Eat Complete Proteins
Proteins are composed of amino acids. While meat contains all of these building blocks assembled together, vegetarians need to eat foods in combination to get a complete amino acid pairing. Beans and rice, for example, are one of these classic partnerships that constitute a complete protein when eaten together. You can also enjoy a whole grain at breakfast and a homemade black bean burger for dinner. As long as the combination occurs within one day, your body can put the protein to work. Foods such as tofu, tempeh and quinoa are rich in complete proteins.
Avoid Processed Food
One of the things that new vegetarians often worry about is what to cook. It can be easy to rely on pre-prepared vegetarian or vegan single-serving meals to avoid cooking and expand their flavor options. However, many of these products are highly processed and may contain preservatives and fillers that you don't want. Start simple. Put a big baked potato on your plate to help you fill up and add something rich such as sour cream or a vegan substitute. Then, try topping it with salsa or a spicy bean mixture for something different. If you change everything at once, you may discover that you lose interest and give up.
Ensure You Have Sufficient Nutrients
If you don't already take a multivitamin or you can't tolerate them, look for an iron-fortified cereal or snack bar that you can work into your day. Many find that by including a bowl of cereal served with almond milk or mixed with yogurt they don't have to worry about a low iron level. Additionally, the mixture of whole grains and dairy is a filling protein combination. Vegans will be glad to know that almond milk is very high in nutrients.
To break away from meat, try preparing your meal in a bowl instead of on a plate. Start with a baked potato or a hearty serving of a whole grain. Add your favorite toppings and remember to build different textures into the dish. Sprinkle fresh salad greens, chopped broccoli or shredded carrots. By combining cool with hot and creamy with crunchy, your vegetarian meal can hold your interest right to the bottom of the dish.
Being a vegetarian or vegan doesn’t mean you can’t still have a treat every once in a while! Try our vegan baked goods today!