I spent 21 years as a carnivore. I decided I wanted to become a vegetarian a handful of times, but I never committed myself to it. After researching the food industry, I decided in November that I wanted to make a bigger effort to transition into vegetarianism.

I have been a vegetarian for nearly four months — so I guess I’d be considered a “newbie” in the veg-world. But I thought it would be helpful to share some of my experiences and some of the challenges I’ve faced along the way.

The hardest part(s):

  • Replacing meat with carbohydrates- I tend to gravitate to cereal, crackers, bread, pasta, etc., instead of healthier options (quinoa, oatmeal, beans, nuts). It’s easier to just grab snack-type foods rather than cook something full of nutrients.
  • Dining out can become boring- It takes a while to find restaurants that are vegetarian-friendly. I often find myself just ordering a boring garden salad and then because I am still hungry, a huge plate of dessert.
  • Telling family and friends- When I told my mom in November (a few weeks before Thanksgiving…) that I was a vegetarian, she wasn’t exactly excited. She didn’t understand why I wanted to leave meat out of my diet and thought I was going to become very unhealthy. When I go home for dinner, she usually “forgets” I am a vegetarian — which is lovely (not).  So, I usually have to whip up something last-minute. I think she’s hoping I’ll quit.

The best part(s):

  • Eating more veggies- Before November, I rarely ate any vegetables. I usually just had meat and a carb-dish (potatoes, fries, etc). Now I eat vegetables many times a day and actually am starting to enjoy them. The added nutrients are very good for my immune system!
  • Trying different foods- I thought I hated avocados. Well, now I am obsessed with them, not to mention… they are super healthy. When you limit the amounts of food you can have, you tend to get creative and try new things. Everyday I am broadening my food-scope — which can be pretty fun.Who would of thought that zucchini could be so delicious? I never thought I’d eat grilled zucchini. Now zucchini is always in my fridge.
  • Becoming more food conscious- I have started to pay more attention to what I eat and where it is from. After researching the food industry, I have tried to eat healthier foods — meaning less preservatives and more nutrients. I didn’t realize that I was eating so poorly. Being a vegetarian definitely makes you more aware of what you are eating.

I just dove right into vegetarianism, but you don’t have to. I had a really difficult time the first week. I didn’t know where to eat, what to eat, or how to get enough essential vitamins.

VeggieTable has a wonderful section on how to transition into an herbivore. One of my favorite tips is: #4 No meat at home- Stop preparing meat at home, but still eat it when you go out to restaurants or friends’ houses. This can be a nice way to gradually get into the vegetarian mode but not miss out on special occasions until you’re fully committed. (I think this is a brilliant way to begin the transitioning process.)

Just remember to take it one day at a time. I would also recommend researching different essential vitamins, and finding new ways to work them into your diet. Speaking of “diet”, try to not choose vegetarianism as a way to lose weight — vegetarianism is a lifestyle. Sure, you might lose a few pounds from cutting the fatty meat out your diet, but it’s all about being healthy!