This may seem a bit shocking, but many new vegetarians actually gain weight when they stop eating meat. As a vegetarian, you must adjust to an entirely new vegetarian food pyramid. Years of eating patterns must be re-programmed.
The golden rule of vegetarianism is that you need protein to feel full. If you’re still hungry after a meal, then you probably didn’t eat enough protein. Many new vegetarians gain weight because they find themselves not getting full after a meal. In turn, they eat more and start snacking.
Vegetarian meat substitutes
As a new vegetarian, you must make an active effort to replace meat, not just remove it, from your diet. If you are unsure how to replace meat in your diet, go to the store and buy a few different meat substitutes to try at home. There is a lot more than tofu on the market, so jump in and start sampling. Meat substitutes can typically be found in the frozen food, produce, or canned food sections.
If you are unhappy with the meat substitutes you’ve chosen, try cooking them differently or try a different brand. Be patient! You will find some you like and others you don’t. While fake meat might smell, look, and taste like the real thing, it will either require significantly more or less cooking time (depending on the product).
Vegetarian protein shakes, bars and powders
To replace meat, consider adding your favorite protein shake, bar, or powder to your daily routine. While meat substitutes are easy to add to your routine, they do not typically contain enough protein to satisfy your total daily requirement. To supplement the fake meat in your diet, you will need to diversify.
Many protein supplements are best consumed for breakfast. With most people skipping breakfast anyway, a quick protein drink or bar is an easy way to get your morning boost and your protein. If you’ve tried different protein powders and bars and not been pleased, try a Slim Fast or Boost type drink. They taste like chocolate milk (or strawberry, vanilla, etc.), and they don‘t have the pastiness or heaviness of other protein products. Boost makes a “High Protein” drink that contains 15 grams of protein, which isn’t exactly a steak, but makes for a nice and easy vegetarian breakfast.
Don’t forget to vary your proteins. Most meat substitutes are made of soy. Try to therefore consume a protein product that includes whey as well. Many new vegetarians add “egg white powder” to protein smoothies they make. Remember, all the protein is in the yolk!
How to order at a restaurant the vegetarian way
Among the new habits you must develop as a vegetarian, you will need to re-learn how to order at a restaurant. Do not ask a wait person, for example, if they can recommend a vegetarian dish. Why?
Because “vegetarian” to some means no red meat, to others it means no chicken broth or lard. Instead, ask the wait person specifically for what you want. There is nothing worse than not asking for specifics and then being served something you’re not going to eat. You will soon discover the best restaurants for your new diet in your area. Many restaurants now have vegetarian sections on their menus. Take advantage of these with the same caveats as above.
Always be prepared!
As a new vegetarian, you may find yourself over at a friend’s house at meal time with nothing to eat. You don’t want your host to have to make you something special, so be prepared. Carry a jar of almonds, cashews, or peanuts in the car. They are high in protein, won’t melt (like many protein bars), and don’t have expiration dates. Having an alternative snack with you at all times will help you reduce temptations to have meat and fast food and will make eating away from home less stressful.