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Three Tips for Eating a More Vegetarian Diet

Deciding how to eat a more plant-based diet can be overwhelming. You may enjoy the foods you eat and wonder how to make the change gradually.

Here are three tips to get you started.

1. Put more fruits and vegetables into your daily diet using your dinner plate.

Eating more fruits and vegetables every day can be a challenge given the busy lifestyles we lead. When preparing food or eating out, there is an easy way to help monitor the amount of fruits and vegetables you consume. Use the dinner plate visualization for lunch and dinner. Looking down on your dinner plate, ½ of the food on your plate should be fruits and vegetables; ¼ of the food should be a source of protein (such as meat, fish, beans, or tofu), and the remaining ¼ of food would be a form of starch (such as rice, potato, or noodles).

2. Substitute vegetarian foods for meat in favorite recipes.

Many of our favorite foods can easily be made vegetarian, even vegan. A common substitution is adding a variety of beans and vegetables to replace ground beef in a favorite chili recipe. Try whole grain quinoa in your diet as a substitute for meat or fish. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is an easy-to-prepare, complete protein grain that contains iron and fiber. It is available as a grain and pasta, and can be used like rice or couscous. Other high protein meat substitutes that can be used in recipes that call for meat include tempe (fermented soybean cake), seitan (wheat gluten) and tofu (soybean curd). Whenever possible, choose natural and whole foods over foods that have numerous preservatives added.

3. Use a reliable guide for ideas on eating vegetarian meals.

A free helpful resource to have on hand is the Vegetarian Starter Kit. This 16-page booklet is reader friendly and to the point, with lots of usable information. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Vegetarian Times compiled theVegetarian Starter Kit in 2007 to help people transition to more vegetarian food options. As you work toward a more vegetarian diet, remember to be patient with yourself and acknowledge all of your progress. Focus on what you are able to do at the moment. Most of all, have fun with the process of discovering vegetarian options and enjoy your food.