Thinking about going veg? There are numerous reasons why people give up meat. A vegetarian diet doesn't even have to be permanent. You can try it for a while to lose weight or jump start healthier eating habits. It can be a tough transition for some, and you may find yourself wondering "Just what do I eat?" when you realize all your old standards no longer qualify. There are some staples you can keep in your kitchen, and in just a short month you may find yourself wondering why you ever thought you needed meat.
Plan of Attack
When preparing your shopping list, don't be overwhelmed trying to think of an entire month of meals. For the first month, focus on three different foods per week: three types of breakfast, three types of lunches and three types of dinner. You can alternate them so you're only having something about twice, possibly three times, in a seven-day period. This keeps you from getting overwhelmed by preparing a different food every single night, and you can make the most of leftovers. Incorporate one or two new foods per week until you get more comfortable cooking meatless meals.
Alternate your breakfasts daily so that you can enjoy both fast and cooked breakfasts throughout the week. For example, the first week you may have cold cereal one morning, a scrambled egg the next morning and a waffle the day after that, then repeat the pattern the rest of the week. If you want to prepare a big home-cooked family breakfast, make some meatless favorites on those days, such as home-baked cinnamon buns, French toast or a vegetable and cheese omelet with a dash of dry spicy ranch dressing mix for added flavor.
Lunch can be a rough meal for busy parents and working people because it's often the meal you have to catch on the run. Having some easy vegetarian options planned for the week that you can grab and go will prevent you from being tempted by the drive-through windows. Hummus is an excellent protein-packed choice to stock your fridge with weekly; you can spread it on a sandwich or bring a small container to use as a vegetable dip. Try buying a different flavor each week for variety -- or make your own with chickpeas, garlic, lemon, vegetable oil and cumin, and blend in some dry dressing and dip mix to give it zip. Hard boiled eggs or an egg salad sandwich will also satiate you for the entire afternoon. Another good lunch plan is to utilize leftovers. You can re-heat your pasta dish in a microwave or bring your leftover salad with you. Buy convenient single-serving containers of creamy dressing to make packing a salad easy.
If you loved your meat and worry about how hard it is going to be to give up, don't completely cut yourself off from the flavors and textures in that first vegetarian month. There are a lot of vegetarian meat substitutes to choose from in the freezer section of your grocery store, such as veggie burgers, faux chicken patties and meatless riblets. While they are processed and not the healthiest choices, working them into your meal plan once or twice a week can help give you that bit of familiarity and satisfaction so you can stay on track. Keep canned beans in the house, which can be very versatile when planning dinners. Make your usual soups, stews, pasta and rice dishes and just dump a can of beans in to replace the meat. Sprinkle on some dry dressing and seasoning mix to add flavor to the dish. As you hit the grocery store every week, bring home fresh or frozen produce that can easily be whipped up into grilled vegetable sandwiches, stir-fried and spooned over rice or roasted into casseroles and quiches.