One year ago I decided to embark on a “Meatless May” and I never turned back. To celebrate the one year anniversary of my going vegetarian, I decided that there was no better way to do this then to share what I have learned through my own experience. I’ve learned a lot and don’t plan on ever jumping back on the non-veg bandwagon.
1. REPLACE MEAT WITH VEGGIES, NOT CARBS.
In my early months, I often found myself replacing the off-limits meat with french fries, more bread, or other substitutions that were “allowed” but not actually doing my body any good. Simply put: going vegetarian means more vegetables.
2. KNOW THE LOCAL VEG SCENE.
To keep yourself from going stir-crazy, or rather stir-fry crazy, make sure to acquaint yourself with local vegetarian-oriented supermarkets and restaurants.
For Boston veggies, check out these completely vegetarian places: My Thai Vegan Cafe in Chinatown, Grezzo in the North End, and Peace o’Pie and Grasshopper in Allston. Plus try these extremely veg-friendly spots: Border Cafe in Harvard Square, Brown Sugar by Boston University, and Wagamama in Copley.
3. BRANCH OUT.
From the world’s formerly most picky eater, it’s even shocking to myself to think of all of the new foods I’ve tried this year. American cuisine is truly one of the most meat-centric diets. Once you look to other nationalities, you’ll find a ton of more diverse and meatless options. With my newfound adventurousness, I can now include tofu, hummus, tempeh, and falafel among my favorite foods.
4. REVAMP THE OLD.
You don’t have to give up old favorites. Remember that ixnaying meat from your table doesn’t make it a foreign place. When you want Italian, go for eggplant parmesan (my favorite), vegetable lasagna, or even veggie pizza. For Mexican, replace the chicken in your burrito with beans or go for veggie tacos and fajitas. It’s a lot easier than it seems to redo common meals.
5. READ THOSE LABELS.
You may not have to read labels with a fine-tooth comb like those following a vegan diet, but there are still many foods that you would be surprised to learn aren’t vegetarian. Foods with gelatin like Jell-o, marshmallows, and some candies use animal parts. Many types of soup, stuffing, and rice are made with chicken or beef stock. Even some cheeses are made with animal organs!
6. DON’T FORGET THE PROTEIN.
Get ready to make some new friends: soy, beans, and quinoa. Protein is the biggest issue for many newbie vegetarians (myself included). The best way of going about the whole protein situation is by incorporating a major source into all of your meals. For breakfast, try Greek yogurt. For lunch and dinner, add quinoa to stir fries and beans and tofu to salads. For snacks, go with almonds or organic peanut butter.
Please share any other tips you’ve gained with your own vegetarianism. I’m still learning!
Try Meatless May, I dare you. And don’t be surprised if it turns into a new lifestyle.