For ecological or ethical reasons, are you looking to eliminate animal products from your diet, therefore making the change from a carnivorous to a vegetarian diet? You are….but you are a little lost, and you don’t really know how to go about it. You have looked around and read a little but a lot of the information seems conflicting. Don’t panic, your favourite nutritionists have taken stock. Let us explain how to go about it.
WHAT THERE IS TO KNOW
A vegetarian diet (without meat or fish) or vegan diet (without any animal products: meat, fish, egg, and milk, yoghurt and cheese) does not really rhyme with deficiencies and health problems. But it’s important to know which nutrients have been lost from the foods you have given up and how to replace them, so you do not miss out on anything. Be careful though, vegetarian diets are not always recommended and they are definitely not recommended for children.
TAKE YOUR TIME !
To change your lifestyle takes time! New habits are not acquired overnight. It takes time to learn new tricks and know exactly what to do, what to buy, what to cook and what to eat. Don’t rush into it. You will see that over time things will become simpler. OK, so where should I start?
START WITH ONE MEAL
As there are normally three meals in a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner), start off with one meal at a time, the one which feels easiest for you. When you are used to this meal being vegetarian, choose a second meal and when that’s OK, choose a third. And that’s it!
Another solution is to select one day a week and when that day is mastered, move on to a second, then a third, and so on…
These days, manufacturers are surfing the vegetarian phenomenon, offering multiple substitutes for meat products that are a great help to get you started. Vegetarian steaks, tofu, vegetarian sausages, false cheeses etc. are all suitable products that allow you to replace a portion of meat or a dairy product.
MOVE ON TO NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS
Proteins sourced from vegetables are not 100% equivalent to those of animals. They are called ‘incomplete’ proteins because they either lack one, or more of the essential amino acids (elements of proteins that are normally introduced into our diet because our bodies are incapable of manufacturing them). Therefore, it is essential to combine certain vegetables to compensate for this lack of amino acids. That’s fine, but which ones…? It’s quite simple.
To make up for the equivalent protein found in a piece of meat or fish, simply combine cereals (rice, oats, wheat, sorghum, millet, etc.) with legumes (split peas, dried beans, lentils). …). Add in some oilseeds at breakfast time and for savoury, throw in some flaxseed, squash etc. in your lunch and dinner dishes and voilà! You shouldn’t be missing anything now.
VITAMIN B12 SUPPLEMENTS
Vitamin B12 can only be provided by animal products. Therefore, if you switch to a vegetarian diet, your intake will be vastly diminished, or even nonexistent. So, you have no choice but to introduce vitamin B12 into your diet with oral supplementation. Go and see your doctor so he can help you decide which product to consume. Do not forget, vitamin B12 is essential for proper brain functioning, blood formation and DNA synthesis. A deficiency in this vitamin can lead to anaemia, tingling in the extremities of the limbs, or lack of sensation, extreme fatigue, and many other disorders.
The key to a successful transition is patience, customisation, and trying to make it fun. The experience must remain pleasant, there is no reason for it to be a sacrifice or a nightmare to live with. We must look at this transition as a discovery in perpetual progress.
Last thing, get rid of the guilt factor! If you can’t do without your cheese, then replace everything else except cheese! You have already reduced your consumption of animal products and are getting closer to your ideas. So be proud of yourself.