A couple months ago, I was walking through the front door coming home from work and my husband (the chef in our house) says, “Let’s eat vegetarian for the next month.”
I was surprised, but also giddy-excited (remember, I’m a serious nutrition nerd). When my husband and I first started dating years ago, he thought that a meal without meat was incomplete. He’s come a looong way with how he eats, and we eat vegetarian meals a couple times a week, but, nonetheless, I was shocked that he was the one inspiring this change.
He felt bored with the meals we were making, and wanted to try some new recipes. Plus, we’ve been on a super-tight budget ever since moving back to California and we knew that cutting out meat would help.
I learned a ton from eating vegetarian. And I wanted to share my experience with you.
What to expect if you decide to make the transition to vegetarian
You’ll need to focus on getting enough protein and iron.
It’s much easier to get enough protein if you include eggs and dairy. (I’m sensitive to dairy, but I eat a lot of eggs!)
Hummus is also a great, high-protein snack. Check out my recipe to make your own in just 5 minutes!
You may be gassy and bloated, but just at first.
If you’re not used to eating a lot of fiber, eating vegetarian may be a bit of a shock to your body. Increase your fiber slowly and drink plenty of water; your body will adapt.
You’ll clean out your insides and stay regular.
A vegetarian diet is high in fiber. When I teach nutrition to kids, I explain that fiber is like a toothbrush for their tummies. When you eat fiber, it goes through your gut, cleans out your intestines, and flushes it out. Just make sure you’re drinking enough water.
Once your body adapts to a high-fiber, vegetarian diet, bloating will rarely be a problem.
Bloating has always been an issue for me. I stopped eating dairy 7 years ago because it put my stomach in knots and made me feel I was 9 months pregnant. My stomach has never felt better than when we were eating vegetarian.
You’ll (surprisingly) eat a greater variety of foods.
Eating vegetarian helps you get out of a rut of eating the same basic meals (I’m talking chicken and steamed broccoli). And when you go out to eat, there are typically really tasty, unique vegetarian options.
You’ll become more open-minded about trying new foods.
I’ve never been much of a tofu fan, but we started experimenting cooking with it, and now I’m happy to use tofu in a variety of meals.
You’ll spend more time in the kitchen.
I love cooking. It’s something my husband and I enjoy doing together. But since we were making a lot of new recipes, we were spending even more time cooking that usual. I’m sure this would change as we got used to cooking vegetarian meals, but learning new recipes is still a time-consuming process.
You’ll learn to love beans.
Beans are incredibly versatile. You can add them to any soup or salad or just eat them on their own. Plus, they’re super inexpensive. Here are some of my favorite recipes: 5-Minute Hummus, Smoky Turkey Chili, Crock Pot Charro Beans.
You’ll eat a lot more.
Because plant-based foods are lower in calories than animal-based, you need to eat a larger quantity of food to get enough calories.
You’ll find that you snack more.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to eat to the point where I feel sickly full. By eating more frequently, you’ll be able to eat enough to get all the calories you need throughout your day without stuffing yourself.
You’ll save money.
Of the food you buy to eat at home, meat is one of the most expensive categories. Plant-based foods, like beans and lentils, are very inexpensive. When going out to eat, vegetarian options tend to be a little cheaper as well.
Related: Frugal grocery shopping tips
That’s what I learned from my experience with going vegetarian. And it gives you an idea of what you can expect if you give it a try.
Ultimately, we ate (semi) vegetarian for almost 2 months. There were certain times when we were with family and there was no vegetarian option available, so we ate meat. And one time we were on a long drive and craving In-N-Out, and boy was that tasty!
We started incorporating meat into our weekly meal plans mostly for convenience purposes. We’re busier now that my husband is back to school full time, so we don’t have as much time to cook. Plus, we have some favorite non-vegetarian recipes that we didn’t eat before, like chicken tortilla soup.
I don’t know if we’ll ever be fully vegetarian, but I hope we continue to include more and more vegetarian recipes in our weekly meal plans.
Follow me on Pinterest to check out my favorite vegetarian recipes!
Interested in giving vegetarian a try?
I suggest, as with all health changes, starting slow.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Start increasing your fiber intake by adding fiber-rich foods to your diet, like veggies, beans, lentils, chia seeds, and ground flax.
- Incorporate one or two vegetarian meals into your weekly meal plan to avoid becoming overwhelmed with a ton of new recipes.
- Build up your favorite go-to vegetarian recipes that are quick and easy.
- When you go out to eat, try ordering something vegetarian.