Tips for Being a Vegetarian

I’m often asked how I survive without eating any animal products, and I reply, “Quite well, actually!” Food has been far more enjoyable since becoming a vegetarian, but I will admit that it takes a bit of forethought and preparation. So, I thought I would share some of the lessons I’ve learned through the years:

  • Plan your menu. Each week I sit down with my favorite cookbooks (usually: A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian), select four or five meals, and write out a shopping list.
  • Mix up your menu. I pick a different category for each meal: a pasta, a salad, a soup/stew, something Mexican, Asian, Italian, Middle Eastern, etc.
  • Enjoy your leftovers. You’ll notice that I only pick four or five menu items each week. That’s because vegetarian food usually holds exceptionally well for leftovers. For bigger families, you can double up the recipes to get more leftovers, but for Tommie and me, we just make entrees that feed at least four, and we get a number of lunches and dinners out of them.
  • Eat a rainbow of colors. Rather than get all scientific about how many nutrients in this and how many vitamins in that, I simply aim to eat as many colors as possible throughout the week. Each color of vegetable or fruit as its own nutritional properties, so by eating a rainbow of colors you are getting gobs of good fuel for your body.
  • Adapt restaurant menus for your needs.┬áMany restaurants offer vegetarian and vegan options now, but even if one doesn’t, you can still find food. Simply mix and match aspects of dishes. For example, “I’ll have the Mexican chicken salad without the chicken. Could you instead add in pecans?” (Pecans were in another dish on the menu, so I knew that I could ask for them.)
  • Be careful of hidden animal products. Some foods seem vegetarian, but they may actually have hidden animal products in them, so beware. You might want to check with your waiter on the following: whether soups, stews, and beans are made with vegetable, chicken, or beef stock, whether the Asian food is made with fish or oyster sauce, if the pasta is made with eggs (for vegans), and if there is any dairy, including, butter, in the food (again, for vegans).
  • Bring snacks. It’s still not as easy to find vegetarian or vegan food on a whim as it is to find meat, so I always carry snacks like trail mix or energy bars with me to be safe.

Do you have any other tips to share? I’d love to hear them.

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3 comments

  1. Renee says:

    I’m in a tiny apartment and can’t grow anything, but I *can* sprout! Sprouting is a very yummy and healthy way to eat. I sprout all kinds of beans (soy beans didn’t work though) ~ lentils, chickpeas, green peas, adzukis, small red…the list goes on). Just 1/4 cup on a salad, or included in soup is a way to get good protein. No fancy trays needed, just quart sized glass jars that I saved from my recycle bin!

    Definitely check the full menu in restaurants like you said. I’ve had servers marvel at what I made up, and chefs are usually very accommodating.

    I use the Sparkpeople nutrition tracker, and you’re right ~ eating a rainbow naturally works.

    At home, I find vegan easier. Eating out, it’s a challenge. I belong to an organic food co-op so I get case lots of staples like canned tomatoes and black beans for chili. A good base in the pantry means I can always dream up something new with the fresh ingredients I pick up. There’s no limit to salads and soups, and I just go from there!

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