Maybe you're concerned about the impact that eating meat has on our animal population, or maybe you're trying to figure out a way to become healthier. Whether it be for one of those reasons — or another not mentioned- more and more people are becoming vegetarian these days. A report from 2015 revealed that there are 375 million vegetarians worldwide, and that has surely risen by now.
With the number of vegetarians increasing, there are more people merely interested in cutting out meat. Like with any dietary change, it's important to do some research beforehand so you know exactly what you're getting into. Not only will this confirm what you can and can't eat, but you also know more about following a specific lifestyle in general.
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One of the most important things to know about vegetarianism is that there's not one cut-and-dry definition of this diet. Harvard Medical School's Harvard Health breaks down five different types of vegetarians: vegans (those that eat no animals or animal by-products); Lacto-ovo vegetarians (those that don't eat meat or fish, but do eat eggs and dairy); Lacto vegetarians (those that don't eat meat, fish, or eggs, but do eat dairy); Ovo vegetarians (those that don't eat meat, fish, or dairy, but do eat eggs); and partial vegetarians. Partial vegetarians are further broken down into two categories: pescatarians (those that eat no meat, but do eat fish), and pollo-vegetarians (those that only eat poultry).
If seeing the different types of vegetarian diets makes you nervous or confused, don't let that be the case. Simply pick one that you believe you can best stick to. For example, if you don't think you can't give up fish, start by becoming a pescatarian. If eggs are your weakness, then go to an ovo-vegetarian diet. The key is choosing a vegetarian diet that you know you won't drop. This will make your transition to vegetarianism less painful because you're not forcing yourself to give up on foods you love. Plus, it will be less of a physical shock to your body because this transition is gradual instead of sudden.
Regardless of which vegetarian diet you choose, one thing you'll want to do no matter what is read up on it as much as possible. You need to know what foods to eat to replace any vitamins or minerals lost out on by not consuming meat. There are plenty of online resources that give vegetarian-friendly alternatives that will replenish crucial vitamins and nutrients that are common in meat products. You'll also want to research other food products that you might not have realized aren't vegetarian-friendly so you can avoid them as well.
If you're unsure of how to cook vegetarian meals, one place to start is to think about your favorite recipes or meals that may include meat or fish. Swap such ingredients out for meatless versions so you don't lose out on protein, iron, and other vitamins found in its meat counterparts. If you want to get creative, you can Google vegetarian recipes that use creative twists on meatless items (i.e. lentils for pasta "meat" sauce), or search through Pinterest. If you're trying to lose or gain weight — or you find yourself extremely lost in the kitchen— more Googling can lead to vegetarian-friendly meal plans.
The most important thing to do when transitioning to a vegetarian diet of any kind is to consult your doctor so that you do this in a safe manner. A medical professional of any kind will tell you which vitamins or minerals you might have difficulty getting enough of, depending on which type of vegetarianism you begin practicing. They'll encourage more consumption of certain foods, or advise you to take vitamins to make up for what you're losing out on by omitting meat from your diet. Your doctor will also ensure that it's okay for your to begin a vegetarian diet. Becoming a vegetarian is not the easiest thing to do, but it is a rewarding experience that many enjoy; and so can you.