Yeah, being a vegetarian isn’t the easiest thing to do. In this meat-heavy society, it takes extra effort to find things to eat, and even more effort to find food that tastes good. Not to mention the challenges of being the odd person out when dining with friends and family. But it’s worth it. Whether you’re doing it for heath reasons, ethical reasons, or just because you don’t like eating meat, there’s a self-satisfaction and pride that comes with making the choice to become a vegetarian. So through these challenges, how do you stay a vegetarian? I’ve been a vegetarian for over 20 years, and my husband is now a vegetarian too. Here are my top 5 secrets:
1. Test out the various fake meats available in the grocery stores in your area. There are a wide variety of manufacturers to choose from nowadays (Morningstar, Gardein, Quorn, etc. Don’t forget to check out the vegetarian meat in the Asian grocery stores as well). Find a beef and a chicken substitute that you like the best. And learn to cook with it. Fake meat reacts to cooking differently than real meat. After some practice and test trials, you will learn how to incorporate meat into your dishes, and modify meat recipes to turn them vegetarian. After that, the sky’s the limit.
2. Also test out various vegetarian bouillons offered in your area. They’re not all the same. Find ones that you feel have the closest resemblance to chicken and beef broth. You’ll need both. Learn to infuse your recipes with bouillon to impart a meaty flavor to your dishes. Use of vegetarian bouillon in your dishes will help to cure you of your meat cravings. It’s the missing ingredient.
3. Take the time to find restaurants in your area that serve good vegetarian food. This takes time and research. It’s important to understand that you’re not limited to menu items that are labeled vegetarian. You can often ask the kitchen to leave out the meat when preparing a meat dish, or substitute with tofu. One of my favorite restaurant dishes is General Tso’s Tofu at the Salt Lake Chinese Restaurant. It’s not on the menu. But the chef makes it for me every time I visit. And it’s better than any of their other vegetarian offerings.
4. Don’t push others to become vegetarian like you. You need the people around you to be supportive of your life choice, just as they need you to be supportive of their life choices. Feel free to share your rationale for becoming a vegetarian if people ask, but no one likes listening to someone on a soap box. I’ve found that some people end up converting on their own just by hanging out with me. My husband, on our first date, told me that he needed meat in every meal for it to be complete. I accepted that and never pushed him to become vegetarian like me. I encouraged him to eat what he liked. Over time, he naturally tended towards vegetarianism on his own. Now he’s a full vegetarian.
5. Find and make friends with other vegetarians. Most major cities have vegetarian meetups and groups. It’ll help you grow as a vegetarian to have other people to share recipes and ideas. And as you start experimenting with more ethnic foods, they can also help you locate hard-to-find products.
That’s it, those are my top five. If you’re a vegetarian already, congratulations on your choice! You should be proud of your decision. If you’re trying to decide whether to become a vegetarian, I wish you the best of luck in your decision making.