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7 Ways to Make the Transition to Vegetarianism Easy and Pain-Free

Don’t stress about the protein, babes

Being vegetarian is no longer just for your weird cousin who doesn’t wear shoes and still has their hair-wrap in from Afrika Burn 2014. More and more people are making the transition to a meat-free diet to be more health-conscious because they aren’t into the cruel treatment of animals, and because they’re more aware of the environmental impact of the meat industry now (it’s bad, guys). Here are a few easy and totally doable steps you can take to make the transition to vegetarianism pain-free.

7 Ways to Make the Transition to Vegetarianism Easy and Pain-Free

Many meat-eaters like the idea of becoming vegetarian, but think it will be way too hard. But most vegetarians will tell you it was actually pretty easy. And guess what? They don’t actually spend all their time thinking about what they can eat that isn’t a hamburger/not dying from a lack of protein. At first, becoming a vegetarian will be a bit of a hassle as you readjust your shopping lists, cooking habits and your order from your regular takeaway spot. But once you’re a few months, if not weeks, into your new lifestyle, it’s going to feel effortless. And the smug feeling of being someone who cares about animals and the environment will keep you strong.

1 Start small

Some people can switch from braai queen to broccoli fiend overnight without any major cravings or struggles. Props to you if you are able to cut meat out immediately! But the rest of you guys can feel free to take it slowly. Start with meat-free Mondays and see how surprisingly easy that is to do first. Increase your meatless days (‘Fry’s Vegetarian Patties Fridays’ isn’t quite as catchy but it works, and the Fry’s meat-free range is soon going to become your NBF). Another way to make baby steps in the right direction is to eliminate different types of meat one by one. Start with red meat, then a month later get rid of chicken, then a month later say goodbye to fish. Transitioning gradually will lessen your meat cravings and, for most, the desire to eat meat goes away really quickly. Just stay away from the smell of bacon cooking.

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2 Ease yourself in with meat replacements

In the early stages of your new cruelty-free lifestyle, you might be at a loss for recipe ideas. But there are loads of vegetarian replacements for everything from burgers to chicken nuggets. Start by simply replacing your favourite meat dishes with something like soya spag bol or Quorn burgers. This, however, is not a long-term diet as soy contains a lot of oestrogen-like compounds and can mess with your hormones if you eat too much of it. While you chew on your fake meat in the first week or so, start researching and collecting vegetarian recipes – Pinterest is going to be your favourite website for a while.

3 Up your recipe game

After you’ve eased yourself in, it’s time to stop thinking about meals as lacking meat and start thinking about new dishes entirely. Being vegetarian is not about replacing meat – it’s a whole new way of cooking. Luckily a million moms on Pinterest have done all the hard work for you, and you don’t need to spend hours researching good flavour combinations or meals that contain all the nutrients you need. Just search ‘vegetarian eating plan’ and you’ll find a ton of aesthetically pleasing food charts to follow.

4 Don’t stress about the protein

As soon as you tell someone you’re a vegetarian they are immediately *very* concerned about your protein intake. Guess what? Meat eaters are actually getting way more protein than needed and, contrary to popular belief, meat isn’t the only thing that contains protein. Spinach? Has protein in it. Sweet potatoes? Full of the stuff. Whole-wheat pasta? Yes, queen. Quinoa? Also protein-rich. You’re going to be just fine.

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5 Prep your snacks

Meal planning is one thing, but you need to be prepared for those in-between hunger pangs. Meat eaters have it easy and can just grab a packet of biltong, a chicken samoosa or a pack of those delicious chicken pancakes from Woolies. It’s tempting to go for a packet of chips in a moment of hunger-induced panic, but vegetarians need to be wary of replacing meat with junk food. Good snacks are anything dipped in hummus (from Ryevita to carrot sticks), nuts, falafel balls, dried vegetable crisps and, if you’re really giving this healthy thing a go, some actual fruit.

6 Know your staples

Make sure you always have tins of beans and chickpeas, lentils and pasta in your cupboard; vegetable stock, all the spices and curry pastes in your spice drawer; and some vegetarian mince or something similar in your freezer. Fresh vegetables are obviously ideal but for the days you can’t be bothered to go to the shops, a vegetarian spaghetti bolognaise is an easy go-to.

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7 Eat out

A non-vegetarian will very rarely go for a meat-free meal when at a restaurant. Use this as an opportunity to try new foods, especially foreign cuisine. Ethiopian and Indian restaurants have incredible vegetarian options that you have probably always overlooked. Eating new vegetarian dishes will also give you inspiration for what you want to try to cook next.

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