I call these BIG mistakes because I think these are the reasons why people give up on vegetarianism. I am guilty of all of them, and although I didn’t give up, it did make the transition a lot harder than it should’ve been.
Trying to become a healthy eater from one day to the next
I touched the surface of this in my 5 challenges I faced after becoming a vegetarian post. This post will be a little more in depth.
There’s a misconception that vegetarians must be healthy eaters. This is why many people feel overwhelmed by the thought of becoming a vegetarian. Vegetarianism doesn’t mean that you must be a health nut, and it is very possible to be an unhealthy vegetarian.
I had the same misconception. I thought that becoming a vegetarian meant that I had to overhaul my diet. I thought that I had to eat mostly veggies, minimize my carb intake, minimize dairy, eat organic, (enter the latest health fad).
Immediately after deciding to go vegetarian, I went to several farmer’s markets and bought a bunch of vegetables that I had never even tasted before. Every packaged item I bought had to be low fat. Most of my time at the grocery store was spent looking at the nutrition label. Exhausting.
I lacked the culinary skills and creativity to turn what I bought into a meal, so unfortunately, most of the veggies I bought went bad. But even after I realized that I had no idea what I was doing, I kept at it because I was so determined to eat right.
Eventually, I gave up on my health craze and resumed eating carbs as I regularly would. My diet became rice or mashed potatoes with boring veggies on the side.
In no time I became extremely bored of the same food over and over again, and I resorted to a diet that’s just as boring but a bit tastier, carbs and dairy or eggs.
What is the moral of the story? Just because you’re a vegetarian it doesn’t mean that you have to cook like Tal Ronnen and be as fit as Venus Williams. With some preparation, you can go vegetarian and continue your regular diet.
Please don’t get the wrong idea. In no way am I trying to say that you shouldn’t try to eat healthier. We should all strive to eat better, but it’s impossible to do this from one day to the next. Take. Your. Time.
So how do you do this? Start by replacing the meat in your meals with vegan meat. Vegan meat like Gardein, Morningstar, Tofurky, etc… are available at most big chain grocers so you do not have to visit a specialized grocer. I’ve tried most of these and will be posting my favorites soon.
If vegan meat doesn’t work for you, then you should experiment with tofu, tempeh, and seitan. I’ve never tried cooking with these because I am okay with eating vegan meat once or twice a week. If you’d like to try them out, I suggest you take a look at this blog post from Vegucated..
Not making a meal plan
Had I made a meal plan my whole dilemma above would’ve been avoided. Unfortunately, the dilemma continued…
It took me about 3 weeks to a month to give up on my carbs and boring veggie diet. And about 2 more weeks to give up on my carbs and dairy diet. But guess what? I didn’t do a thing about it.
Working from 9 am to 6 pm, with a 1-hour commute both ways, and family obligations on the weekends, I never made the time to sit down and make a meal plan. The few times that I tried to search for recipes online I was freaked out by lengthy recipes and ingredients that I didn’t recognize.
I’d get home around 7 pm. I’d walk back and forth from the living room to the kitchen trying to figure out what’s for dinner. Sometimes it would be 9 or 10 pm and I’d have absolutely nothing to eat since my lunch break. Other times I’d eat nothing but snacks all day.
I’ve read of people who gave up on vegetarianism all together because cooking and figuring out dinner was too complicated. That is why I recommend easy everything in the beginning. Simple recipes with vegan meats as I mentioned above, and even a meal delivery service are better than eating nothing or snacking all day.
Difficult recipes are not an excuse for the fact that I never made a meal plan. Going back to eating meat was not an option for me, so I really should’ve put more effort into it. Eventually, I did find a simple cookbook that allowed me to eat how I know and allowed me to build on the recipes. It’s called The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet by Nava Atla.
If you need more structure and guidance making a meal plan, then I recommend you check out Going Veggie by Trudy Slabosz. It is a cookbook and meal plan in one.
You can read my reviews of both books and other books here.
Long story short, make a meal plan and avoid the “what’s for dinner” dilemma.
Not talking to your doctor or a nutritionist about changing your diet
Two major complaints of vegetarians are that they’re always tired or they never feel full. If that’s the case, then you’re probably not getting enough iron, vitamin B12, or protein. All these are naturally found in meat.
I was eating a lot of dairy, and I was sure that I was getting an adequate protein and vitamin B12 intake since both are naturally found in dairy products as well. Yet, I still felt tired all the time and I was positive that I had an iron deficiency.
Boy was I wrong. Indeed, I did have a deficiency, but it wasn’t iron; it was vitamin B12 somehow.
In addition, my cholesterol was borderline due to overeating eggs and dairy. I had officially become an unhealthy vegetarian. My previous diet as a meat eater was healthier. Isn’t that ironic?
I only found out about this through my annual physical, this is why it is extremely important to see your doctor. Had I self-diagnosed or taken advise from an online stranger, I probably would’ve taken iron supplements and end up with iron poisoning. Even worse, if I kept eating the way I was I could’ve ended up with high cholesterol.
If you’re always feeling tired, I strongly recommend that you see a nutritionist or your general doctor for a physical. Do not try to self-diagnose, and do not take nutritional advise from random websites. The internet is full of misinformation regarding diet and nutrition. If you get most of your information online, then please visit a reliable source like eatright.org. I am neither a dietitian or a nutritionist which is why I keep the nutrition talk to a minimum.
What mistakes did you make that new vegetarians should know about? And anyone else out there enjoying the carb and dairy diet?
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