So, You Want to Be a Vegetarian: 9 Things to Know

As the ball dropped at midnight, did you resolve that this will be the year you try your hand at the cut back or eliminate meat from your diet? You’ve scoured the Internet for information, read books, planned menus, and now you’re ready to take the plunge. Lots of us have been there and so let us play big sister for a minute and share nine surprising and fun things you need to know about becoming a vegetarian.

You don’t have to live on tofu – Tofu is a protein-packed tasty and versatile ingredient in your vegetarian arsenal, but it’s not the only thing on the menu. In fact, there are several yummy options for getting your protein needs met, including veggie burgers, quinoa, and a whole parade of legumes to choose from.

Even if you’re not all-in, it still counts – If you’re drawn to the vegetarian philosophy, lifestyle, or menu but aren’t sure you can give up meat entirely, we’re giving you permission to just do what you can. Any reduction in meat intake is good for your health and great for the planet, so whether you start with Meatless Mondays, double up on vegetables at lunch, or just read a cookbook, any step at all is a good one.

People will annoy you sometimes – People mean well, but are apt to say the darndest things when they discover you’re a vegetarian. You’ll hear everything from “Are you sure you’re getting enough protein?” to “My friend’s sister’s brother-in-law’s cousin’s hair fell out from lack of iron.” Unless you really enjoy the thrill of a long debate about the merits of your new lifestyle, just be polite, arm yourself in advance with pleasant responses, then change the subject.

You’ll be smart and famous – Well, maybe not famous, but at least you’ll be in good company. Alicia Silverstone, Kristen Bell, and Alanis Morisette are among the many celebs who’ve sworn off meat. A recent study also shows that vegetarians are smarter and have higher IQs than their flesh-eating counterparts, although the jury’s still out on just how valid the results are.

You might turn your pets into vegetarians, too – Once you find the meatless method is very much to your liking, you may end up deciding to take Fluffy and Fido along for the ride. Whether you choose environmentally-responsible pet food or simply look for ways to green your pets’ environment, it’s quite possible you’ll find your new lifestyle impacts your pooch in the same positive ways it’s impacting yours.

The dinner parties you throw will still be awesome – A quick whirl through your library’s cookbook aisle or a 10-minute search on the Internet yields a huge batch of recipes that are so insanely good, your guests will never miss the meat. If you need instant ideas, here are 7 finger licking good recipes for meat eaters to get you started.

Your beauty routine might get caught up in the action – Once you cut meat from your diet, you may start looking for other ways to devoid your life of animal products. From organic deodorant and dental products to bath and body scrubs, your bathroom is a great place to start.

Your food budget might go down a little – The key to enjoying a vegetarian diet is to mix it up and keep things interesting. You don’t want to live on brown rice and broccoli, so try a wide variety of foods you’ve ignored in the past (daikon, anyone?) to see what grabs you. Buying what’s already in season is key to keeping costs down. Also be sure to invest in herbs, spices, and condiments to jazz up your meals and tease your tastebuds. The good news is, the upfront cost of stocking your larder (which evens out over the first few weeks) is nothing compared to the money you can save not buying those expensive cuts of meat.

You will learn to love your kitchen gadgets – Expect your pressure, slow, and rice cookers to become your best friends. If they’ve been collecting dust in the lower recesses of your kitchen cabinet, now’s the time to haul them out and put them to work. Vegetarian soups and chilis are out of this world when simmered on low all day, and you can cook your beans in a fraction of the time with a good pressure cooker. Make your rice cooker do double duty – use it to steam vegetables and make cakes.

Image: The Bitten Word