Over two year ago now, I chose to become vegetarian.
I grew up with my Dad being a vegetarian so the concept was not alien to me. Apart from having to cook two meals sometimes, I never gave it that much thought. Growing up, I did ask Dad why he chose to be a vegetarian way back when, the main reason being cost and living my himself it was an easier choice when cooking.
So how did it start for me? I feel bad saying it now but the animal welfare aspect was not my driving force behind my decision. Although after some thought and research it has become a part of my decision making processes, particularly when I gave up fish. I started as a Pescatarian (so I ate fish), mainly for medical reasons, it was advised I kept fish in my diet. After about 8 or 9 months, I decided to become Vegetarian, now cutting fish out of my diet too.
With the internet at everyones finger tips the knowledge & understanding of the wide variety of dietary choices out there are growing in exposure and research; many bloggers having made careers on promoting healthy diets, with many centring around vegetarianism & veganism.
I'm no expert on the matter by any stretch but here are my tips from a few things I've learnt along the way:
1. Do what's best for you. Don't be pressured into conforming to someone else judgement over diet. Sometimes other people can be funny or judgemental but at the end of the day it's you body, your choice
2. Don't feel you need to have a valid reason as to why you've chosen a different diet. I've found often people question you and are looking for a specific answer. Whether your decision be driven by your views on animal welfare, affordability, health or simply that you don't like the taste of meat, be confident in you decision whatever the reasons behind it.
3. Eating out can be tricky at times. I've found some restaurants have complete vegetarian menus (thank you!) and others offer what I call the 'Veggie 3' - bean burger, vegetable curry & or some Mediterranean veg based dish. My advice, look at restaurant menus before you go out to check you fancy at least a few things and don't be afraid to ask what food have been cooked it or whether the gravy is vegetarian.
4. Make sure you're still maintaining a balanced diet. Without stating the obvious, meat is the main source of protein for the majority of people & cutting this out of your diet means you have to look elsewhere. Nuts & pulses (stuff like chickpeas, seeds & lentils) are a great source of protein and can be added to meals so easily. And of course their are many well known meat substitute brands out there too.
5. Check food labels. You'd be surprised what actually contains meat or meat products such as gelatine.
I am still learning and adapting my own diet, and like I say, I'm no expert. Now, over two years after making the initial decision, I have no regrets. I never crave meat & can see myself sticking with my dietary choice for the rest of my life. I have considered many a time to transition into a fully vegan diet & have began taking small steps to this. I have swapped milk for soya or nut alternatives with ease & I've always eaten margarine made from sunflower oil, so vegan friendly! Cutting dairy out gradually was suggested as a better way of achieving my vegan goal for me but I do believe a fully vegan lifestyle is in my not so distant future.