Achieving the Switch
If you have decided that vegetarianism makes sense for you and your lifestyle, you may want to start in slowly, learning what you need to eat and trying out the various vegetarian options in your market. Veggies and fruits are one thing, but what about all those different tofu and soy products? How do they fit in?
Plan a week’s worth of menus, basing your main dishes on ones you love, but switching out, say, the beef meatballs for vegetarian ones. Or if you are a chili-head, why not create some really appealing meatless chiles, or for that meaty texture, add the taco-seasoned soy ground meat with plenty of beans and salsa for a satisfying entrée.
If cheese is your secret passion and you’re a vegan, try any of the shredded or sliced soy cheeses in your favorite recipes. These soy products not only taste and look like meats and dairy cheese, they give nonvegetarians the sense that they can edge into their new diet without feeling deprived of their favorite foods. Even if you get derailed along the way, and keep a few meats and seafood in your menus, you will still feel you’ve made the great vegetarian leap.
Answering the Nay-Sayers
Once you’ve started on the path, and friends and family see that you’ve changed how and what you eat, you may face criticism or teasing. As the Vegetarian Resource Group advises, point out to people that vegetarianism is becoming increasingly popular. Then add that eating a meat-free diet is a personal choice you’ve made for the following reason or reasons, then list them.
You might also win over others to your way of cooking, living, and eating by preparing delicious vegetarian meals, or at the very least, taking friends and family along when you eat at a vegetarian restaurant. They may be in for a real surprise, especially when they total up the bill and see how reasonable vegetarian food costs can be.
Back in the 1970s, the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York, launched a revolutionary restaurant movement by creating and serving outstanding all-vegetarian dishes, inspiring future generations of restaurateurs to follow in their vegetarian footsteps. Since then, not surprisingly, more all-veg restaurants are opening their doors to an influx of new customers—a national Restaurant Association poll from 2001 showed that 1.5 percent of entrées are vegetarian; about eight out of ten restaurants offer vegetarian entrées. Many upscale eateries with white-tablecloth manners have taken up the vegetarian challenge and offer vegetarian options. Even some fast-food outlets are getting in on the act.
While not all cities and towns offer vegetarian restaurant choices, in many communities with an Indian or Chinese population, consumers can readily find South Indian or Chinese Buddhist vegetarian restaurants; these still account for the majority of vegetarian establishments. It’s not uncommon for mainstream restaurants to acknowledge that their customer base more frequently requests vegetarian entrées. Note that at least one website offers restaurants a “restaurant starter kit” that tells them what vegetarian consumers look for and how to cook it for them.
Welcome to the world of vegetarianism meals. You’ve walked the path successfully, but now you ask yourself, Can I stick to the plan? Of course, but if you feel you need family support, ask for it. Treat yourself to vegetarian cookbooks so that your mealtimes don’t become routine and your food boring. And continue to learn about this new lifestyle, perhaps even monitoring any health or energy changes you note. That way, you’ll feel positive about the choices you’ve made and, perhaps, you may even inspire others, too.