How to Enjoy Being a Vegetarian

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Just because you like strawberries and salads doesn’t mean you will thrive as a vegetarian.

No Need To Feel Deprived

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Success as a vegetarian boils down to two primary things: Proper nutrition and a variety of appealing flavors. You know you have succeeded when you lose track of how long you have been a vegetarian along with the desire for meat and still feel healthy.

The vegetarian lifestyle is not for everyone. It takes about a month to get used to the absence of meat. For several months I was on a quest for the most meaty plant-based protein. Then I settled into the flavors of fresh herbs and vegetables.

Be a Happy Healthy Vegetarian

Throughout seven years, I had lost the desire for red, white and pink meat, but honestly, my health was suffer­ing. Rarely, salmon, shrimp, or halibut was consumed. Little thought went into nutrition when responding to carbohydrate cravings. I was fatigued with uncontrollable weight gain.

I eased back to plated barnyard domestic animals by eating chicken. Over another seven years, I was consuming steaks, shrimp, and pork. But I prefer being a vegetarian. So I became a real vegetarian (not pescatarian) over 12 years ago.

Not All Vegetarians Are The Same

Vegetarian is not an all-encompassing word for grass-grazing fanatics. Some can’t stand the site of leather or animal-derived products. Others ease into vegetable diets. A person may begin by excluding red meat while introducing more vegetables into their diet. Some like the idea of Meatless Mondays or Fish Fridays. Vegetarianism may be sought due to various food allergies or dietary conditions. A person can experience gastrointestinal disturbances after eating hamburgers. The problem may not be the beef but the bun if one has celiac disease. Here is a list of the popular types of vegetarians and vegans—from casual to devoted.

  • Flexitarian—someone who enjoys both vegetarian dishes and meat
    Think veggie cheeseburger topped with bacon and side of fried shrimp.
  • Pescatarian or Aquatarian—a person who abstains from all meat except fish
    Think tossed salad topped with salmon steak alongside sweet potato fries.
  • Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian—someone who avoids meat but eats eggs and cheese
    Think egg salad on a bed of field greens with warm parmesan-garlic bread.
  • Vegan—a strict vegetarian that avoids meat, fish, eggs and dairy products
    Think pasta primavera, tofu and roasted almonds.
  • Raw Vegan—unprocessed vegan foods that have not been heated above 115°F
    Think tossed salad topped with raw edamame, virgin olive oil and rice vinegar.
  • Macrobiotic—vegan foods with emphasis on sea and Asian vegetables
    Think seaweed salad with daikon and sprouts.
  • Fruititarians—fruits, nuts, seeds, without animal products, vegetables, grains
    Think fruit cocktail with walnuts.

Get Enough Protein

As a 6-foot-4-inch male, I require at least 90 grams of protein per day according to WHO—or more than 200 grams according to CDC. So each meal should have a minimum of 30 grams of protein. This presents a problem at typical restaurants.

A chicken salad or pasta meal might have 25 grams of protein. Removing the meat virtually wipes out all the protein—assuming there is a gram in the remaining grated cheese. It is better to ask for a vegetarian protein substitution. The problem is that substitutes like a tablespoon of quinoa, a boiled egg, or half an avocado only add a few grams in exchange for the twenty-something lost.

Vegetarian or vegan restaurants like Veggie Grill have much more nutritional balance. Entrees can contain between 25 and 41 grams of plant-based protein. But eating there three times per day is costly.

To keep from breaking the bank and take control of nutrition, successful vegetarians (and vegans) learn to cook nutritious meals themselves. Take a weekend or month-long class at a nearby culinary school. Then memorize how much protein is in common plant-based protein sources.

Popular Plant-Based Proteins
#FoodProtein
Seitan25 grams per 3.5 ounces
Navy Beans20 grams per 8 ounces
Tofu12 grams per 3 ounces
Peanut Butter8 grams per 2 Tbstablespoons
Quinoa8 grams per 8 ounces
Edamame7 grams per 8 ounces
Cheddar Cheese7 grams per 1 ounce
Egg6 grams per large egg
Mixed Nuts4 grams per 1 ounce
Avocado3 grams per 5 ounces

Eat Well

Why is protein so important to vegetarians? Without it, satiation is difficult. This increases consumption of carbohy­drates, which leads to weight gain.

Start the day with a smoothie that contains at least 30 grams of protein. Sip this with an omelette or frittata to curb unhealthy cravings for a few hours. Don’t shy away from vitamin and mineral supplements, drinking plenty of water throughout the day. In addition to protein, you need omega-3 (flaxseed oil), B12 and collagen, commonly acquired from animal products. Snack on nuts and drink protein-fortified almond or cashew milk instead of fruit juice and sodas.

Consult your doctor before making any dramatic change in diet. You can be successful. For over a decade, I have been a vegetarian, enjoying many of the same types of food as meat eaters: Burgers, lasagna, spaghetti and faux meat­balls, stir fry, burritos, tostadas, pizzas, faux chicken with gravy, soups, stews, sandwiches and salads. Keep tabs on protein, learn creative cooking techniques and be A Bit More Healthy vegetarian. Explore great recipes on the ClinicalPosters vegetarian Burgers and Sandwiches board.

If your personal revelation begins with, “This may shock you…” it is probably a good idea to put the rest of the state­ment on hold.

You Are Trying To Be Empathetic

How many times have you told someone, “I’ve been there myself”? Perhaps you just said it while reading this question. It can make you appear more relatable, compassionate and genuine. Not only do you share personal experiences among friends and family, this is heralded as a method of obtaining more followers on social media and blogs. But are you sharing too much information (TMI)?

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

In response to chants like: “Bare your soul” and “Put yourself out there,” many open up about their brightest aspirations and darkest secrets. Within the original context, the comments seem appro­priate. Out of context, those words and images are embarrassing or perhaps, scandalous. These opposing outcomes should calibrate the barometer of what to share. Do not publish something that has the potential to harm your reputation or jeopardize the safety of your family.

If your personal revelation could easily begin with, “This may shock you…” it is probably a good idea to put the rest of the state­ment on hold. Consider the conse­quences of what you say next. Call it personal filtering or censorship if you must. Expres­sions like “Bite my tongue” or “TMI” should help you pump the brakes. Reducing or eliminating the use of inhibition-diminishing substances is also helpful.

Listeners have a natural desire to be first to reveal new gossip. Often, this is where context and accuracy diminishes. Whether the second-hand story begins with, “You won’t believe what I heard” or “Can you keep a secret?” it is likely to take a turn for the worse. Even an authentic photo can be cropped or edited to alter original meaning. Remember, memes are forever.

Gossip harms reputations
Though not excluding men, women are more likely to chat about many things or listen to gossip that potentially harms reputations.

Mental health experts learn how to deflect questions if patients try to draw them into their personal drama. A professional response might be, “This is not about me. Let’s focus on your feelings.” Speaking to a peer, this might not convey the desirable level of empathy. It may even sound smug.

Examples shed light on the potential problem:

  1. Love of family leads you to share photos of children on social media without regard for how easy it is for visitors to locate them from imbedded geolocation data.
  2. A man tells a coworker he had a dream about her, which is construed as: ‘You are the woman of my dreams.’
  3. A long-distance romance capitulates to sharing intimate photos.
  4. A longtime friend reveals spousal abuse. To be empathetic, you respond by mentioning how you were abused as a child.
  5. You or a friend posts photos of a wild party where you are sloppy drunk.
  6. In compliance with HIPAA, doctors conceal medical history. But you tell all about your medical conditions on social media.

Can any of this be harmful? Relationships end—sometimes badly. So a close admirer may become a mortal enemy holding compromising images. Employers parse social media during background checks. Pre-existing health conditions often hinder future insurance coverage.

Are You Oversharing?

Do you really want to be the topic of the next Internet scandal? Social media is one of the biggest contributing factors to depres­sion in adolescents, leading to 13 percent of teenage deaths in the United States. So when you are in a mood for sharing, consider crying on the shoulder of qualified psychologists or someone with ecclesiastical privilege.

How To Be Empathetic

Neuroscientists have recently discovered that humans are wired to experience empathy through multiple systems of mirror neurons in our brains. When as a trusted confidant, your friend is opening up to you, remain focused on his or her problems and respect the confidence. Consider how the other person feels and offer reassurances. Often it is therapeutic to vent. Do more listening than talking. A sincere statement like “I’m sorry you are going through this” is better than making the conversation about your own experiences.

  • Pay attention, physically and mentally, to what’s happening.
  • Listen carefully, noting keywords and phrases that people use.
  • Respond encouragingly to the central message.
  • Prepare to change direction as the other person’s thoughts and feelings also change.

You do not have to overshare to be empathetic and should not do so just to gain followers on social media. Be genuine and remain focused on the objective. Limit what you, type, say and record. Don’t confuse fame with infamy.

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Kevin Williams is a health advocate and writer of hundreds of articles for multiple web­sites, including: A Bit More Healthy, KevinMD (WebMD), and Sue’s Nutrition Buzz. He is a prior 15-year con­sul­tant for Neutrogena Research and Scientific Affairs.

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