Transition of Diet: From Meat to Vegetarian
Transition of Diet: It’s a life-style choice.
Becoming a vegetarian isn’t simply a choice of diet – it’s a lifestyle change that affects more than just the food you eat. When you choose to go meatless it signifies you are a ready to make healthy living a permanent part of your life. This is more than a fad and requires willpower and dedication to make it work. One of the objectives of this website is to help you with this transition. Once you make the switch, you’ll be joining the millions of other people worldwide who share your choice.
As a non-vegetarian, you’ve been accustomed to eating meat your whole life. Consequently, your body is addicted to that food group. When meat is eliminated, some people may experience significant withdrawal, something similar to quitting caffeine or smoking. It’s important to know that synthetic chemicals and hormones are regularly used in food production animals. Such hormones are injected into cows to increase their milk production and length of lactation, and as many as six different hormones are used within the meat production process to promote growth in livestock. As your body rids itself of these toxins that have been built up from years of meat consumption, withdrawal will affect not only your body but your emotional state as well.
The good news is that after the withdrawal from meat is complete and you’ve successfully transitioned to a vegetarian lifestyle, you will feel significantly better within days. As you continue with your meatless diet, your body will start to heal itself. You will become healthier, more likely to fight off harmful bacteria that makes you sick, and biologically stronger than ever before. As great as all of this sounds, those that have just switched or are thinking of choosing vegetarianism undoubtedly have some nutritional concerns that need to be addressed before making the switch.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these health issues and how they can be addressed.
Common Health Concerns
Because beef, pork, and poultry have been found to be nutrient-dense and packed full of protein and other essential vitamins, the question most asked by those wanting to become vegetarian is: “Will I get enough protein?” The short answer is yes. Here are some great sources of meatless proteins:
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Low-fat dairy products
Some of these may surprise you, but it’s true! The USDA recommends that 10-35% of your diet be comprised of protein, and by combining one or more plant-based proteins, you’ll be supporting your daily protein intake in the best way possible. This plant-based protein chart will help you to become familiar with the best foods for your new lifestyle.
Some other nutrients that come into question as part of a vegetarian diet are:
- Iron – It is completely possible to meet your iron intake requirements with plant-based sources. Most breads and cereals are fortified with iron during the production process, but there are several other sources of natural iron such as spinach, broccoli and other dark, leafy greens; dried fruit and prunes; seeds like pumpkin and sesame; and blackstrap molasses. Preparing your food in iron cookware will also help increase your iron intake.
- Calcium – This is very essential for a healthy immune system and stronger bones, and most vegetarians can meet their USDA recommended daily amounts of 1000mg with low-fat and fat-free dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt. You can also choose to include calcium-fortified breads and cereal to your diet. There are several plant-based sources of calcium as well, such as dark green, leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, mustard, and turnip or collard greens; dried fruit like figs; sunflower seeds, broccoli and bok choy.
- Vitamin D – Your body needs adequate calcium in order to absorb vitamin D, so both are equally important in a vegetarian diet. There are very few natural food sources that include vitamin D, but incorporating food such as vitamin-D fortified milk, cereals, eggs, mushrooms, tofu and ricotta cheese into your daily diet will ensure you won’t become deficient in this important nutrient. It is also recommended that you get healthy doses of sunlight to encourage your body’s own vitamin D production. Adding a vitamin D supplement to your diet is another option.
Making these foods a natural part of your everyday diet will help you transition to becoming a vegetarian in less time than you think.
Steps of Transition
Much like quitting smoking or reducing caffeine consumption can heighten cravings and intensify need, it is better to start eliminating meat in small steps to avoid total withdrawal. The steps to get there are relatively simple and focus on making positive diet choices one at a time until you find yourself fully immersed in the vegetarian lifestyle.
Here are some suggestions:
- Consciously reduce meat consumption. Try participating in Meatless Mondays and make one day a week meat-free. Gradually add one more day each week, as you feel comfortable, until the meat days disappear altogether!
- Choose organic and ethically raised protein. Part of the transitioning process is ridding your body of the addictive toxins that it has become used to over time. Eating animal protein that is certified organic, grass-fed beef or free-range chicken means you’re not only making an ethical and humane choice but one that gives you a higher quality meat protein, and without all the harmful chemicals.
- Consider becoming a pescetarian. Seafood is known to be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein and vitamins, which is why some people choose to abstain from all land animals but still eat fish and other forms of seafood. Pescetarians follow a meat-free diet with this one exception, which can help you transition to going all the way to becoming a complete vegetarian.
- Make a plan and stick to it. This is the crux of becoming a vegetarian, as making a conscious lifestyle choice takes a lot of willpower and well-structured diet plans. Choosing your daily menus is a great way to stay on track. So is having other people to rely on, such as friends and family. Online support groups for those becoming vegetarian are also a great source of inspiration to help you continue your journey to wellness.
- Use our website as a resource. We are adding new articles on a weekly basis and want to help you to let go of the reliance on meat, get healthier and save animals in the process. A win-win situation!
Weight Loss and pH Balance
Studies have proven that a vegetarian lifestyle has a significant impact on weight loss, as well as overall health. Brie Turner-McGrievy, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina studied 63 vegans, vegetarians, pescetarians, and omnivores over the course of eight weeks. The findings are interesting and revealing. Based on participants sticking to foods low in fat and glycemic index, after eight weeks the vegans and vegetarians lost an average of 8.2 to 9.9 pounds compared with the meat-eaters losing only 5.1 pounds, even without restricting calories. Plus, two months after the study, the vegans, vegetarians, and pescetarians all lost more weight than omnivores. At six months, the vegans were only 30% to 40% adherent to the diet, yet continued to lose more than the other groups — they lost about 7.5% of their body weight compared to vegetarians, who dropped approximately 5.8%.
The average vegan/vegetarian diet is naturally lower in fat and higher in essential vitamins and minerals, which could explain such high weight-loss statistics.
As for our body’s pH balance, it is highly impacted by the acid and alkaline in our food. Alkaline is naturally created by our body, which strive to maintain a pH balance of 7.5. But factors such as poor diet, lack of sleep and stress can change our internal makeup to acid rather than life balancing alkaline. Meat, alcohol, soft drinks and heavy sauces are all highly acidic foods. The more acidic our diet, the worse we feel, and the more prone to diseases and infections our bodies become.
When our bodies become weighed down with more acidity, certain signs and symptoms start to appear:
- Decreased energy – Most people with low alkaline experience a feeling of sluggishness, as though they are just dragging through the day. To combat this feeling, energy drinks have been making their rounds as an office worker’s best friend but a diet rich in alkaline foods can combat these feelings and leave you feeling energetic and revitalized all the time.
- Rapid aging – Studies have proven that a diet rich in potassium, commonly found in fruits and vegetables, helps keep muscle mass from decreasing and prevents our skin from sagging. When the aging process is sped up because of low alkaline levels, our skin is the first to react.
- Digestion – A healthy stomach needs to have a consistent pH balance to ensure food moves the way it should once it enters our system. An alkaline balanced body will be resistant to mould and bacteria and fight off most diseases whereas acid can eat away at the lining of your stomach causing ulcers, indigestion and other serious health problems.
Choose high alkaline foods such as green vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and plant-based oils, and restrict your consumption of acidic foods in order to maintain a healthy pH balance. There are many online resources,that provide detailed charts/tables listing different foods into alkaline and acidic categories.
To help start your transition to vegetarianism, the Global Vegetarian website covers all basics of a vegetarian lifestyle – before and after the transition to a meatless diet. The Vegetarian Society boasts forums, newsletters and an active online community for support and encouragement. Another great source of information comes from the North American Vegetarian Society, which is a comprehensive site that provides a multitude of information.
We encourage you to set up an Instagram account and start following those living a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Also, make sure to follow us on Instagram @global_vegetarian for delicious and clean recipes, tips and information regarding vegetarianism and how it relates to your health.