Vegetarian diet has gained mainstream status while outliving many diet du jours. More and more people are encouraged to be vegetarians or vegans, given its proven benefits in helping prevent certain heart diseases, diabetes and certain types of cancers.
How do you help a friend or loved one who wants to become a vegetarian or vegan?
Each one of us has our own pace in adapting to change, depending on our personalities, motivations and circumstances. When it comes to changing from an omnivore to herbivore, there are ways to help someone ease into it. The key is providing baby steps in the transition; letting them know what to expect; and give them tools to cope during transition.
TIPS TO TRANSITIONING TO VEGETARIAN
STEP 1: What kind of vegetarian am I?
Ask yourself the “level” or strictness. There are different types of vegetarian. Get a sense of which type you are more comfortable with:
Eats seafood. > Pescatarian
Eats egg and dairy > lacto-acto vegetarian
Eats only vegetables > vegan
STEP 2: LEARN SUBSTITUTION
Now that you know the kind of vegetarian you are, learn how to substitute meat-based and dairy-based proteins with plant-based food sources
- Substitute meat for tofu, soy products and soybeans
- Try processed faux meats like seitan, tempeh, nuts, hemp, beans and legumes
- Switch from dairy milk to soy, almond rice, tempeh
There are many vegan or vegetarian recipes from books or websites. Experiment with different recipes and make it a fun discovery as your palate is introduced to new plant-based food choices.
STEP 3: TAKE SUPPLEMENTS
You will likely miss out on vitamins and minerals as you omit certain food. So pop in nutritional supplements rich in B12, iron and calcium, to make up for any nutritional deficit. Your body will thank you for it.
STEP 4: YOUR NEW GROCERY LIST
As a neophyte, your success relies on your ability to make a sensible meal plan that accounts for the food substitutes. Your new grocery list consists of four general categories: faux meat, non-dairy milk, non-dairy cheese and egg replacements.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Also, the key to help you transition is knowing what to expect.
Removing meat from your diet may initially result to weakness, which is often mistaken for protein insufficiency. Actually, it is a result of energy getting re-routed to do the job of eliminating toxins and acid-forming proteins from the body. As the body returns to a more alkaline environment, you will feel more energized.
You may feel dizzy, nauseous, fatigued. It is believed that as the body eliminates toxins, energy is redirected from normal functions to the cleansing process itself.
You will likely experience emotional withdrawal symptoms from food that you grew up with, especially those that bring memories of comfort and home in childhood.
COPING WITH CHANGES
During your transition phase, eating “clean food” by eliminating processed food will help aid your body in coping in the transition.
Take plant-based sources rich in vitamin C or Vitamin-C enriched food as they will help your skin clear out if you are having skin changes. Get it from citrus fruits, spinach, broccoli, berries, apples, sweet potatoes, pineapple, kale and papaya.
As well, get some Vitamin A and omega-3 fats from plant-based sources, which will help the body as it goes through change.
If your food intake is insufficient in reaching your RDA, nutritional supplements help. Be easy on yourself because this is a big step. Learn about smart food substitutions, try recipes, expect changes in your body and know that these are temporary.
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