Going vegetarian and vegan is one of the best ways we as individuals can help the planet and reduce climate change, and it’s a good way to becoming healthier ourselves. It may not be a diet that everyone can do but for those of us who can do it, it is simpler than you think. I have been a vegetarian for two years now, and I’ve been reducing my dairy consumption in recent months as well. For years I thought I would never actually be able to keep a vegetarian diet, despite wanting to, but over the years I have learned a few tips and tricks to make it easier.
Do it gradually
There is no rule saying if you’re going to give up meat or dairy that you have to do it overnight. Going cold turkey may be easy for some people but for others it may be more difficult. You can take it in stages; you could begin by giving up meat in your breakfast for a week and then a week later giving up meat in your lunches and so on until you’ve weaned it out of your diet completely. Alternatively you could try a weekday/weekend alternation, you could eat vegan/vegetarian during the week and then at the weekends eat meat/dairy until you get to a point that you can give it up all week around.
Look for inspiration
There are so many amazing chefs out there who cater for vegan and vegetarian diets and offer amazing recipe ideas or even their own food products. The Happy Pear, based in County Wicklow, have a YouTube channel full of amazing vegan recipes that I love to get inspiration from. They also sell a range of vegan meals and snacks in SuperValu and Centras across the country that have made eating and snacking vegan so much easier for me. Bosh! also do really nice and simple vegan recipes. There is a recipe for any occasion and any skill set if you look hard enough.
Recruit a friend
Without even talking about it, me and one of my friends decided to go vegetarian at the very same time and while it wasn’t a joint decision, having a friend do it with me made it so much easier. It made the whole experience a little bit more exciting and even now, two years later, it’s still great to have a vegetarian friend with me going out to eat. It’s great to have someone to share advice, nice dishes and good restaurants with but also someone to help motivate you on days where you just really want a chicken fillet roll.
One of my favourite things about giving up meat is the new amazing dishes I’ve discovered and invented. Not eating meat has forced me to look passed chicken curry and spaghetti bolognese and introduced me to my new favourites, chickpeas and lentils. I’ve played around with meat containing recipes I used to love and found incredible ways to still enjoy them meat (and often dairy) free! Of course not everyone will have the time to play around in the kitchen but if you do get some free time, it can be really fun to try new recipes!
Here are some vegan and vegetarian recipes on SpunOut.ie:
- Smoky vegan tomato chickpea recipe
- Vegan Thai green curry
- Vegan spaghetti bolognese
- Slow cooked vegan chilli recipe
- Vegan lentil dahl
- Vegetable curry
- Beetroot vegetable burgers
- Spicy chickpea dahl
Remember why you’re doing it
In the beginning there were times when I found myself really craving meat but I just had to remind myself why I had chosen to give up meat and it was enough to get me back on track. Whatever reason you’re doing it (health, the environment, the animals) just keep it in mind when you’re having a hard time and it actually makes it easier.
Try not to be hard on yourself
A slight contradiction to above but you don’t have to be hard on yourself about it. If you have a “cheat day” try not to be angry at yourself about it, just try again tomorrow. I remember coming home from school one day and seeing some lasagne left-over from dinner. I was too tired to cook anything else so I ate lasagna and then felt guilty for about a week. It was pointless feeling guilty about it though. Eating lasagna that one day doesn’t change the fact that I am now a vegetarian. It was one “cheat” meal and really not that big of a deal.
There are many benefits to a vegetarian or vegan diet. You are lowering your carbon emissions, you usually consuming more fibre which is good for your digestive health, you are usually consuming less saturated fats which can improve cholesterol levels and your diet should be higher in fruit and veg consumption! However there are certain things you should keep track of when going vegan or vegetarian. Make sure that you are still getting enough protein, Omega 3 and Vitamin B. There are many plant based sources of these nutrients and vitamins but you just have to be sure you are getting enough.