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How to Become a Vegetarian

Three Methods:Confirming Your Reasons and Sharing the NewsEating VegetarianReducing Meat Cravings

There are many possible reasons for becoming a vegetarian. Some people do it to improve their health, while others are concerned about the treatment of animals or a desire to have less environmental impact. Contrary to what some people think, a vegetarian diet isn't boring––it's as interesting as you're willing to make it. Explore a few of the ways to become a vegetarian and eliminate meat from your diet for good!

Method 1
Confirming Your Reasons and Sharing the News

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    Consider your reasons for becoming vegetarian. Sorting out your reasons for becoming a vegetarian and having strong convictions concerning your diet will help you stick to your new lifestyle. Knowing your reasons is also important to help you explain to other people why you are a vegetarian; having a ready answer for the inevitable questions makes the journey a little easier.
    • Common reasons for becoming a vegetarian include moral or ethical concerns regarding the treatment of animals on factory farms and in slaughter houses, a desire to ensure equal food distribution, religious convictions, health needs, environmental concerns, or a combination of any of these.
    • For some vegetarians, an intense disliking of the taste and texture of meat begins early on, and is later bolstered by innate feelings of interconnection with animals and the world as a whole.[1]
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    Reveal your choice to the world. Start with those with whom you're close, such as your parents or partner. This will alert them to the need for dietary changes in the home and also gives you the first opportunity to explain your choice to people who are close to you and are hopefully likely to be supportive. Be ready for disagreement from some people. It is not considered the "norm" in many cultures to eat vegetarian only, and while few people ever ask a meat eater why he or she chooses to eat meat, very few people hold back on asking a vegetarian why he or she does not eat meat.
    • It's a good idea to have some solid research to back up your choice to be vegetarian. While it shouldn't have to be the case that you need to justify your decision, there will be times when being armed with the facts can ward off unkind or unhelpful comments about your diet. Good things to point out include how being vegetarian will improve your health and help you fit with your moral or religious views about the importance of kindness to animals, etc.
    • When informing your family of your choice, stay calm and polite, even if they find it difficult to accept.
    • Avoid arguments. Some people will treat your choice to be vegetarian as a political statement or even as a personal affront. This is both annoying and unfair and can often result in "baiting" you into an argument about how human beings are supposed to eat meat, and so on. Avoid getting into a fight by restating why it matters to you and how you feel healthier for your choice.
    • Offer to make a vegetarian meal for family and friends. A tasty meal is often the best advertisement for vegetarianism.

Method 2
Eating Vegetarian

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    Find vegetarian recipes that interest you. Both vegetarian cookbooks and online sites devoted to vegetarian recipes will provide you with lots of great inspiration. Vegetarian dining is a great way to try lots of new foods that you may not have thought about before. In some places, there are vegetarian fairs or festivals that you can attend and try all sorts of different new foods.
    • If you really like a particular dish at a vegetarian restaurant, ask for the recipe. If they're willing to share it with you, it might become a regular favorite dish at home.
    • Ask your vegetarian friends to share their favorite recipes with you.
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    Start shopping like a vegetarian. You'll find a wide variety of vegetarian food available once you start searching for it specifically in grocery stores, health food stores, and farmer's markets. When you stop putting meat in your shopping basket, a new world of possibilities opens up. Try the following foods:
    • Look for unique fruits and vegetables such as starfruit, pomegranate, grapefruit and other less well known foods.
    • Quorn is a fantastic meal choice, quick to cook and full of protein. It comes in different varieties of meat free meat dishes. It should be available in most supermarkets.
    • Look in your grain aisle for new grains like orzo, quinoa, couscous, barley, millet, alfalfa and others. They are all delicious.
    • You'll also find that most supermarkets carry interesting faux meat foods, like veggie dogs, veggie burgers, vegan faux chicken, and veggie riblets. Not every vegetarian likes these meat analogs; for some vegetarians the flavor is a little too meaty, or the texture is undesirable. But it's worth trying a few to see whether you like the taste and texture, as these additional foods open up many more possibilities.
    • Try tofu, tempeh and seitan. These can be cooked in many different ways and can be used as a substitute for meat in a lot of conventional recipes. They're usually cheaper than meat analog products too, as they don't have to be shaped into anything and they don't have other ingredients added to them.
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    Learn to read labels with care. Many additives, thickeners and the like are not vegetarian (such as gelatin). You'll need to know which ingredients in foods to avoid and to remember them when out shopping. Carrying a small card with numbers and names of additives to avoid can help when you're starting out. If in doubt, don't purchase an item until you've done the research on its ingredients.
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    Research your nutritional needs. Make sure that you're still getting enough vitamin B12, calcium, protein, and other vitamins and minerals that come primarily from meat. It may help to take vitamins and calcium tablets if you don't already, but aim to get most of your nutrition from good quality food.
    • If you're still eating dairy products and eggs, B12 deficiency will be less of a problem. Vegans may need to take a daily supplement to ensure adequate levels of B12.[2] If you notice that your sense of smell is weaker, take more vitamin B12.
    • Note that many people will ask you where you get enough protein from and where you get energy from. It can be helpful to remind such people that most edible food contains protein; there is a misunderstanding that only meat and eggs are a viable source of protein. Moreover, most plant foods contain the essential amino acids in varying amounts, so combining say, rice and beans during the same day, will help achieve the right balance.[2] Some plant foods contain all of the essential amino acids, such as soy products.[2]
    • Be aware that simply dropping meat and relying solely on eating processed food, sugary snacks and fast food is as unhealthy a diet as it is possible to have. A vegetarian who lives off such foods and never bothers to cook fresh meals with vegetables, grains and beans, etc., will not fare well in the health stakes and it is likely that such a person would be nutritionally deficient.
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    Eat seasonally. This practice keeps the prices down and the vitamins up; the fresher the vegetable or fruit, the healthier it will be.
    • Keep a recipe book of your own that follows the seasons. This will help you to make the most of the glut of pumpkins or cherries when they arrive!
    • Whether to go organic or not is something you should consider. Read about the issues behind "conventional" versus organic food. Where organic food is more expensive, it can be helpful to focus most on the top suggested foods that are best consumed organic, as these foods tend to have the most pesticide residue issues.
    • As much as possible, grow your own food. Nothing beats fresh garden-harvested vegetables for taste and nutrition. Even a kitchen windowsill garden will improve your access to fresh food like lettuce, tiny tomatoes and herbs.

Method 3
Reducing Meat Cravings

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    Make a gradual change. Initially, eat vegetarian as much as possible without giving up meat entirely. Learn to enjoy vegetarian food before you quit meat cold turkey . Start to eliminate different types of meat gradually, having "one last meal" with the relevant ingredient and resolving not to eat it again. Try this schedule for gradual meat reduction:
    • Eliminate chicken and fish first.
    • Cut out pork, such as bacon and ham, after a week.
    • Stop eating red meat, such as beef, after another week.
    • Cut out shell-fish, such as crab and shrimp, after another two weeks.
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    Assume you'll have a few relapses. In the early days of going vegetarian, you're bound to eat meat once or twice. Just remind yourself why you decided to go vegetarian in the first place and carry on as before. Relapses are normal, and you will get better at being vegetarian as you practice.
    • For many people, it only takes a couple of weeks of eliminating meat to stop having cravings.
    • It might be better if you eliminate all meat from your diet at once, and keep it out for a couple of weeks. Before long, your cravings will be eliminated and you won't want it anymore.
    • If you find yourself eating meat at times or "cheating", try being vegetarian 6 days a week, or whatever number of days works for you. Gradually increase the amount of days until you can finally let go of eating meat.
    • Remember, eating meat or fish in any amount means that you are not vegetarian but semi-vegetarian instead. Continuing to eat fish qualifies you as a "pescatarian" at best. You become a vegetarian when you no longer consume animal flesh.
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    Make sure you eat enough food. If you aren't getting enough food, you might start craving meat. There is protein in almost all kinds of food, so you can rest assured that you'll almost definitely get enough protein, as long as you eat 1200 calories or more a day. If you are trying to gain weight it is important to eat a wide variety of legumes, nuts, and seeds into your diet to make sure you get enough calories and healthy fats.


  • Don't let anyone discourage you from being a vegetarian! Being a vegetarian is nothing to be ashamed of. When they make rude remarks to you, remember why you wanted to become a vegetarian in the first place, and firmly but politely explain to them that you do not eat meat.
  • Stay strong! When other people ask you why you're vegetarian, remember your good reasons (saving animals from abuse, improving your health, helping the environment, etc), and explain it to them proudly.
  • Many of your favorites can be turned vegetarian, such as lasagna, chili, and spaghetti without the meat or with meat substitutes.
  • Seek out vegetarian groups. Whether in person or online, this will help you to learn, get support, and meet like-minded people. This is a good way to share recipes and get moral support for your choice. Join a vegetarian message board for support.
  • Some people go vegetarian for reasons such as disturbing experiences with dead animals, ie. Dissections, slaughter-house visits Ect. If this is your case, it may help you to remember that particular when you get "meat cravings".
  • If you're experiencing meat withdrawal, eat something else you love like chocolate. Going vegetarian helps people lose weight, so hopefully that will balance out the fact of eating comfort foods.
  • If you find yourself craving a type of meat, think about the animal it was made from. Imagine he or she is alive. You will quickly lose your meat appetite in favor of something better.
  • Many familiar foods such as peanut butter and jelly, pasta and tomato sauce, or black beans and rice are already vegetarian.
  • Try Indian vegetarian foods. India has the largest population of completely vegetarian people in the world, so they know what they're doing. The majority of Indian dishes are not spicy or strong and there are literally hundreds of vegetarian dishes which are a much better alternative to salads.
  • Many restaurants in the United States will prepare food without meat when requested but you will need to be assertive and sometimes you will need to be ready to explain options for the waiting staff to relay to the chef. If the waiting staff or chef won't help, don't eat there. In other countries with less focus on the customer's wants, there may be a "what's on the menu is what you get" attitude, which can be very difficult to maneuver around. If so, the best suggestion is to leave and find a more accommodating place to eat. In some cases, it's best to call ahead and order a special meal; giving nonplussed chefs advanced notice, even a recipe suggestion, can often allay the problem of eating at a non-vegetarian restaurant, especially if your friends or family really want to be there.
  • Keep your spirits up, it will be easier than you think. Once the meat has been flushed out of your system, you should find the sight and smell of meat and greasy fast food chains extremely repulsive.
  • Start going to more Indian, Thai, Chinese, or Japanese restaurants, as they tend to have more selections available for vegetarians.


  • Don't be bullied into eating meat by friends or family, it's your body, only you should get to decide what goes in it.
  • Be careful about vegetarianism being used as a cop-out diagnosis for feeling unwell. By all means get tested for low iron, B12, etc., but also be prepared to explore the other options that a "normal" eater would have, such as stress, overbearing people in your life, heavy workload, environmental factors, insomnia, etc. In many cases, vegetarians are ultimately healthier because of a willingness to undergo the tests and treat all the possible causes of a condition or illness in a holistic manner.

Sources and Citations

  1. Marc Wilson, Steak a Claim, p. 49, The Listener, March 23, 2013

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