Whether it be to resolve health issues or to be kinder to animals, people take a stab at going vegetarian for different reasons. But those who jump right into a vegetarian lifestyle, without knowing how to compensate for the sudden loss of protein, often relapse right back to their carnivorous ways.
Don’t give up all hope just yet, though. Desiree Nielsen, a registered dietitian and the host of The Urban Vegetarian, sat down with us and kindly explained all the struggles of taking on the meat-free diet and how to overcome them.
Expect your blood sugars to be out of whack.
“You will crave protein until you learn to work it into your diet, because without protein, your blood sugars go on this roller coaster,” said Nielsen. “A lot of people say they want more starch and have more sugar cravings because [of it]. So work to make sure you get more protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner to help stabilize your blood sugar”
Eating plant-based foods=fewer calories.
As soon as you stop eating meat and start eating more greens, you’ll get hungrier. Because plant-based foods have less calories than meat.
“You’ll need to find those [fat-packed] foods, like avocados, nut butters and coconuts to build up the fats that you used to get,” Nielsen noted.
You won’t be able to quit meat right away.
“I usually recommend that people don’t go all or nothing–that they work on it meal by meal,” Nielsen told us. “It’s really easy to have a vegetarian breakfast. And when that’s easy and people don’t think about it any more, work on lunch until that becomes easy too.”
If you ease into vegetarianism gradually, it won’t come as such a great shock on your system, and will be easier to maintain. According to Nielsen, it can actually take three to six months to become a vegetarian in a healthy way.
Replicate meaty flavours.
“If people are transitioning, do the smoky flavours and do the coconut bacon to get the flavours you’re used to. A lot of the times, it’s the taste of meat that you miss. So play with spices, play with oils, to make sure your food is flavourful,” Nielsen suggested. “The more flavourful food is, the more satisfying it is.”
“If you say, ‘I’m going to go vegetarian, here’s my iceberg salad, you’re going to go back to meat in a week,” she added.
So if you’re interested in becoming a vegetarian, don’t place unrealistic restrictions on yourself; do it in baby steps.