7 Tips For Making A Successful Transition To Vegetarianism


Published: June 11, 2014

Transition to Vegetarianism

You have decided to become a vegetarian. Perhaps a fully pledged Vegan that avoids all animal flesh and products. Or maybe you would rather be a Flexitarian, because the thought of giving up chicken literally has your stomach growling.

Regardless of the vegetarian classification that you choose to follow, the transition to plant-based diets is a highly personalized process that requires well planned and purposeful actions towards making it happen.

For most people rapid “cold turkey” immersion into the lifestyle is a recipe for automatic failure. Rather, the majority of those that are successful in making the switch follow a gradual path that gives them the capability to make their choices part and parcel of their daily lifestyle.

If you are ready to give up meat and animal products, here are few tips to make your transition to a plant-based diet seamless and sustainable.

1. Start where you are

Many people fail to successfully implement the vegetarian lifestyle because they do not start where they are. Rather than slowly easing into the change, they go in full force, eliminating all traces of meat and animal products in their diet. When cravings hit, they find themselves ill-equipped to deal with them and before long, they give up.

Starting where you are allowed to gradually immerse yourself into the lifestyle and make small changes as you go. Perhaps you start by giving up meat and/or animal products at one meal and replacing them with plant-based protein foods like egusi, cow peas and groundnuts. Maybe you add more vegetables to your plate and ensure that you eat a small serving of fruit at each meal. Remember, small changes, big results.

2. Focus on what you can eat

Let’s face it, whenever we hear the word “diet” we automatically make a list of the things that we cannot eat. To be successful at the vegetarian lifestyle, you must get out of the “restrictive diet” mentality and start looking at it as a lifestyle. Instead of thinking about the beef, chicken, pork, eggs, goat, cheese etc. that you cannot eat, focus on the peas, lentils, beans, groundnuts, cashews, whole grains etc. ( and the various ways of cooking them) that you can enjoy.

Continue to savour your favourite Nigerian dishes but replace the meat with wholesome plant proteins instead. By so doing, you generate excitement about your chosen lifestyle and see the endless possibilities of what you can put on your plate.

Need some inspiration? Try this Jollof Rice with Black-Eyed Peas (Cowpeas) from Oldways, an organization that promotes “health through hertitage”.

RELATED: Picking the Right Vegetarian Diet for You

3. Add more veggies

You can not be a vegetarian if you hate vegetables! Demonstrate your commitment by not only including at least one non-starchy vegetable to your plate but also making sure that it occupies at least half of your plate.

Complement your vegetable choices with healthy whole grains like millet and brown rice or tubers such as cocoyam and cassava. Top your plate off with legumes, nuts or seeds for protein.

4. Shop Local

Seitan, Tempeh, Tofu, Hemp and Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP) are some of the most popular commercial plant protein sources at this time. While they may taste great and even have a meat-like texture, they may be difficult to secure and/or extremely expensive where you live. Adding them to your diet may be unsustainable because once money is unavailable, or the stores stop carrying them, you will find yourself without many food options and trekking back to meat and animal products.

Instead of shopping for exotic, foreign foods, shop local. Go to the marketplace and see what’s available. What have you never tried before? Challenge yourself to try at least one new item every week and ask the market ladies to share recipes for the ingredients they sell.

In addition to building your cooking repertoire, shopping local saves you money and allows you to buy seasonal foods that are picked at their peak making for fresher, wholesome, more nutritious produce.

5. Take a global adventure

Beyond Nigerian food, there is a plethora of international cuisine with vegetarian flare. Be adventurous and take your taste buds to southern Africa for an extraordinary dish of leafy green vegetables in peanut sauce. Or perhaps you may enjoy a taste of the east as you bite into a bean and corn stew.

But don’t confine yourself to the borders of Africa, globe trot to the Middle East and Asia where some of the dishes will leave you wanting more.

6. Add some spice

Whoever said vegetables were boring probably underestimated the value of good combination herbs and spices. Keep a wide selection of garlic, pepper, ginger, thyme, tarragon, and other herbs and seasonings to keep your taste buds tantalized. Experiment with a wide range of combinations and before long you will have the perfect taste for your dishes.

7. Get help

Although you may be the first one in your family or even neighbourhood to say good bye to meat, you definitely are not the first Nigerian to become vegetarian.

There is a growing number of people all over the world that are choosing the lifestyle for health, humanity, religious and other reasons. Many of these people are active on social media sites and thrilled to share their journey. Visit their pages and follow their progress. Make some of their recipes and drool over the delightful pictures of their vegetarian creation. Take what works for you, abandon what does not. Be inspired.

Becoming a vegetarian is a journey that comes with many temptations, stumbles, and setbacks but it is extremely achievable. Once you start, keep going. If you happen to eat meat or other foods not appropriate for vegetarians, don’t spend too much time beating yourself up for it. It is not the sum of one meal that determines your lifestyle, it is a combination of all that you eat that matters.

Here’s to your health!

Join the conversation. Have you tried to go vegetarian? What worked or didn’t work?

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About Cordialis Msora-Kasago

Cordialis Msora-Kasago is a Registered Dietitian (R.D) and a pioneer in the discussion of modern day healthy lifestyles in Africa. She is the founder of The African Pot Nutrition - an organization that improves the health of African people through sustainable diet and lifestyle programs. Follow her on twitter @africadietitian.

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