A few years ago, becoming a vegetarian was the last thought on my mind. I was a big meat eater and medium rare fillet, steak smothered in Coleman’s English mustard, was my favourite meal.
When I started to live a Lean Life I was inspired to undergo an eight-week liver cleanse and everything connected to food changed. I won’t lie and tell you that fillet steak no longer tastes as great as it once did; nor do I have an overriding urge to protect the animals. Instead, I just don’t feel like eating meat anymore.
In August, I decided to see if I could go through the month without eating meat or fish? I completed the task and you can read about it right here. I learned a lot about my body and how it interacts with food and I advise everyone to at least try the monthly goal.
If you do take up the challenge, then here are my five tips to make the process as smooth as possible.
#1: Quality Recipe Books
Our eating habits have been cultivated from the moment we were weaned off the breast, and for some of us that’s a very long time. When we take on a difficult challenge our mind will sometimes try to put a spanner in the works. One way that it does this is to tell you repeatedly that a vegetarian diet is time consuming, and a sure fire way of quitting early is to not have a cooking plan.
This is why eating processed food always seems a much simpler choice, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Just like every challenge we take on when we live a Lean Life, we start with a plan, and this means you need to purchase a few quality recipe books.
I ostensibly used the recipes in two books. The first was the Liver Cleanse Diet by Dr Sandra Cabot and the second was Crazy Sexy Kitchen by Kris Carr. Both of these books have hundreds of wonderfully quick and easy vegetarian meals to choose from, and Carr even has a wonderful selection of deserts.
#2: Quality Produce
Before I started eating a balanced healthy diet I never really paid much attention to fruit and vegetables. I ate them, but I didn’t really think about them that much. Take the freshness for example. I don’t think I would have noticed had my vegetables not been fresh, as they would have been an after thought to a main dish largely consisting of meat and other processed foods.
If you are going to become a vegetarian then it’s imperative that you have the best produce. Not only is it time that we raised our standards, but the taste buds will come alive and will not settle for anything less than the best.
So where do you find the best produce?
This will depend on where you live and you will need to experiment. I have found both good, and bad, produce in the supermarket, and the outdoor market, and I am sure it will be the same where you do your shopping. The one tip I do have is to find out what days your local stockists buy most of their perishables, as this will be the time their produce is freshest.
All of the recipes that I followed in Crazy Sexy Kitchen and the Liver Cleanse Diet were for 4-6 people and I made sure I cooked for that many people despite living on my lonesome for the month.
An important point to consider when taking this challenge is the role that habit will play. It’s back to that voice again…the one that tells you that eating a vegetarian diet is stupid. To improve your chances of success it’s important to make things easier, and what better way to do this than to cook your food in batches.
This week I have made a batch of Mexican style beans and fresh guacamole for my breakfast, split pea and kale soup for lunch and lentil & chard ragout for dinner. That will last me the whole week and I only had to cook once.
Once I learned to cook my food, and divide it into batches, everything else was a doddle. When you live a Lean Life you want to keep variation to a minimum. Living a Lean Life means a standardised life and this improves your ability to introduce, and sustain, positive habits. We want our life to flow, and therefore variation is the enemy.
As I already knew in advance what I was eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner I saved a lot of energy. This made my transition to a vegetarian diet very straightforward when I was close to the kitchen. You may think that standardisation is a little wooden, and that variety is the spice of life. I understand that point of view, but for me it is more important that I work hard and play hard. Food is a substance that I must eat in order to provide my body with the required energy and nutrients. Thinking this way helps me eradicate things like sugar, fried foods, caffeine and anything else that is bad for me.
#5: Be Prepared
You always need to be prepared when on a vegetarian diet. The world is not designed for vegetarians. It’s designed to keep people hooked on the wrong types of foods. So always have a supply of food especially when you are not at home. I’m talking about bags of nuts and pieces of fruit like apples and bananas. Your aim is not to carry ready-made meals with you, but instead reduce the likelihood that your hunger will lead to relapse.
Do you have any tips that can help someone who has chosen to take a vegetarian challenge? If so share them with the Needy Helper.
Photo courtesy of Moyan Brenn (CC & Flickr.com)