Ever since I fell in love with the vegetarian lifestyle little over a year ago, I’ve been aspiring to convert to a plant-based way of life.
Throughout my journey thus far, I’ve encountered a couple of struggles along the way. I’ve also, of course, made a couple of mistakes.
To save any new vegetarians a ton of time, energy and frustration, take a look at the top three mistakes that meat-free eaters tend to make!
Three tips for aspiring vegetarians
#1: Don’t replace meat with cheese
Seriously – put down the cheese! Replacing meat with cheese may seem like a no-brainer at first, but it’s a trap – just trust me on that. When I first gave up meat, I panicked and was stressed I’d become deficient in protein, so I turned to cheese to up my intake.
Initially, I thought it was fantastic – I was eating lots of delicious, cheesy things such as cheese fries, nachos, quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches and veggie pizzas. If a meal contained vegetables and cheese, I was on it like white on rice. And then, after about three months, I realised that I was piling on weight…
You see, cheese is a processed food and it’s very high in fat. Therefore, it offers very few health benefits. And, because the human body wasn’t designed to ingest other animal’s bodily fluids, it doesn’t quite agree with it. So when you start consuming cheese regularly, you’re pretty much just rebelling against your body’s natural process. In the long-term, this can lead to myriad health problems.
I know that cheese is awesome and hard to resist, but go easy on it!
#2: Fill up on carbs
You might’ve heard the long-standing myth that your body needs massive amounts of protein to drop weight, but this actually isn’t at all true. While your body needs protein to stay in balance, what it’s actually crying out for is carbohydrates. So I say, “bring on the carbs!” (Seriously – forget what the Atkins Diet told you)
Now, when I say carbs, I’m not talking about cake, doughnuts, bread, bagels and pasta. Rather, I’m referring to fruits and veggies, beans, nuts and rice. Such carbs are natural, derived directly from the earth, and aren’t in any way processed. In the case of white flour, it’s bleached, processed and stripped of al its beneficial nutrients. So even though flour is technically vegan and vegetarian, it’s unnatural.
I get it – white flour is cheap and versatile, but there are healthy, natural alternatives that are so much better for your body that won’t up your risk of disease and weight gain. Experiment with almond flour, coconut flour, chickpea flour and rice flour. They’re loaded with nutrients and are just as tasty in your favourite dishes!
Swapping out meat for vitamin- and mineral-rich carbs will keep your cravings at bay. They’ll also promote better overall health and keep your diet healthy and balanced!
#3: Stay away from frozen foods
When you first start your plant-based journey you may be tempted to buy readymade frozen veggie burgers and the like. I get that it’s far quicker and easier to do this then prepare a fresh plant-based meal from scratch, but are you aware of how unhealthy these frozen foods actually are?
That’s right – they may taste great, but just like cheese and flour, they’re processed products, which are bad for your health. And they also kind of contradict one of the main things you should be aiming to achieve by switching over to a plant-based diet. Why, you ask? Because they lack nutrients, vitamins and all the other good stuff that food directly from the garden contains, that’s why!
The bottom line: Make your own plant-based meals!
Don’t be afraid to get creative in the kitchen – it can actually be lots of fun! Buy yourself a vegan or vegetarian cookbook and commit to making your own natural, plant-based meals. Your health (and your waistline) will thank you!
Share your top tips for succeeding as a vegetarian with me in the comments below!