By now you’re fully vested in life as a vegetarian, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still challenges. Maintaining your choice is a major accomplishment, and you should be proud of how far you’ve come—don’t beat yourself up if it’s not always easy. Here are some of the vegetarian pros and cons I’ve encountered with tips for overcoming the stumbling blocks.
Veggie Doesn’t Automatically Equal Healthy
One of the bigger challenges for me has been in accepting that a vegetarian recipe isn’t automatically healthy. My main reason for becoming a vegetarian was to eat a cleaner, healthier diet, but just because a dish is meatless doesn’t mean it’s better for you. So it’s still important to read labels to check the levels of fat, sodium, and sugar, especially for dishes that include sauces and marinades.
I love pasta, and many dishes I used to make with meat are easy to adjust—but excess carbs aren’t great if you’re trying to lose weight. For something different, I’ve been experimenting with zoodles. Using a spiralizer, I can easily make noodles out of zucchini (and other vegetables) to replace some or all of the pasta for a quick weeknight dinner.
It can be a lot harder to eat on the go as a vegetarian. Depending on where you live, the options for restaurants and takeout might be limited. Los Angeles affords me access to a lot of vegetarian meals and vegan options, but it still means skipping my usual places in favor of trying something new. If your choices are limited at the restaurants you frequent, it’s time to start looking outside of your typical routines. Instead of the steakhouse that’s the date night favorite, check out the new Indian restaurant. Skip the burger drive-thru and opt for a quick salad bar at your local grocery store.
Packing in Protein
The biggest challenge I’ve faced so far is finding protein alternatives—there are only so many days in a row that I can eat beans before my body starts to protest—so I’ve had to spend some time researching recipes and ingredients. I still struggle with this area, but I’ve added a few go-to ingredients like quinoa and chia to my pantry. I’ve also started looking at protein in a different way; rather than focusing on protein as a main dish, find ways to incorporate it throughout your day. Add a sprinkle of chia to your yogurt, or make your salad with spinach.
Vegetarians with Benefits
There are a lot of pros to becoming a vegetarian, no matter what your reasons are for starting. As the Harvard Women’s Health Watch reports, a healthy vegetarian diet has been associated with longer life and can reduce risk of chronic illnesses and heart disease. There are plenty of benefits for the environment too. New research indicates that if more people followed a vegetarian lifestyle, we could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
Old Faves, New Recipes
One not-so-obvious benefit to switching to a plant-based diet is that it pushes you to think creatively about food. In order to make a life-long commitment to this, I knew I had to find ways to make cooking fun and exciting, as well as discover replacements for indulgences. With football season approaching, foods like wings will definitely be missed, so instead I learned how to make buffalo cauliflower. To enjoy this indulgent treat without the meat, you need:
- 1 head cauliflower
- ¾ cup flour
- ¾ cup water
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- 1 cup buffalo hot sauce
- 2 tbsp. honey
Cut the cauliflower into small pieces. Mix the flour, water, and seasonings to make a batter. Dip the cauliflower in the batter, and shake off any excess. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for 25 minutes on 450 degrees Fahrenheit. As they bake, mix the hot sauce and honey. Toss the baked cauliflower in the sauce, and bake for five more minutes.
Never Give Up
The best thing you can do when you feel yourself faltering is ask yourself why you’re making this choice. I have weaknesses, but making a mistake doesn’t erase all of the progress I’ve made. I just remember why I’m making this choice and continue moving forward. You can weigh the vegetarian pros and cons all you want, but in the end, it’s the “why” that keeps you motivated.
Image source: Sher Warkentin
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Why It’s Good
You can weigh the pros and cons of eliminating meat from your diet, but ultimately the reason for choosing this lifestyle change is what will inspire you to continue. Staying motivated about your decision helps you overcome any challenges that arise, both when it comes to your family's diet and life in general.