Resolving to eat less meat in 2015?
You’re so not alone. Loads of people make the decision to revamp their diets once the new calendar begins, with “lose weight,” “improve health,” and “eat healthier” all in the top ten New Year’s resolutions for 2015, and for many, cutting back on meat will play a major role in achieving one of those goals.
Of course, if you’re a teenager, eating less meat or giving it up altogether is different for you than it is for an adult. For starters, you may not be the one who does the grocery shopping or cooks most of your meals. And you may be limited by your school’s cafeteria options. And your friends might think it’s weird. So what do you need to know if you’re a teenager who’s resolving to go veg this New Year? Read on for the five things we here at SmartGirlVeg HQ want to shout from the rooftops for every vegetarian newbie to hear.
It’s not just about what you’re taking out of your diet. Sure, removing meat from your meals is a sort of crucial step in becoming a vegetarian. But if you want to be a healthy vegetarian, you’ll also give some thought to what you’re adding in. This is extra hard when your parents are cooking dinner for everyone, and you don’t want to inconvenience them—and exactly why so many teenage VegHeads become carb-ataraians. Spaghetti with meatballs for dinner becomes, well, just spaghetti—and you wind up with a starch-heavy plate that is low in protein, iron, zinc, and other important vitamins and minerals that nourish your body and help keep you satisfied. Simply swap out those meatballs for some frozen soy meatballs or a scoop of chickpeas, and you’ll be good to go.
You don’t have to commit for life. People who make the decision to go veg as a New Year’s resolution tend to go cold turkey (cold Tofurky?)—and a couple of weeks later when they’re out for Chinese food and mindlessly munch a chicken egg roll, feel as if they’ve failed and give up. The Smart Girl’s Guide to Going Vegetarian approach is to look at vegetarianism as a continuum or a spectrum. On one end there are people who are consciously trying to eat less meat. On the other side are vegans who eschew animal products all together. And in the middle, there are lacto-ovo vegetarians who eat milk and dairy, pescetarians who eat fish, and many other distinctions. Give yourself some time to experiment with the different variations, and figure out what will work best for you (and accept that that “best fit” may change as you go through your life, and we say that’s totally OK).
Don’t preach. You’ve given up meat. You feel great. You love life. You want everyone to feel as good as you do. But think of it this way: Do you want people boasting to you about how good their hamburger tastes, and how you’re really ruining your life by not having just a bite? I didn’t think so. Set the tone and do unto others as you would have done unto you: No. Nagging. (This is coming from a girl who referred to meat as “flesh” for the better part of a decade. Now why wasn’t I more popular in high school again? Oh.).
Do share. A much friendlier way to convince your BFFs that your new way of eating is THE way to eat is by letting them experience it, and taste for themselves why you don’t feel like you’re missing out one bit. Offer a taste of your ah-mazing veggie burger; bring a batch of your awesome vegan-but-you’d-never-know-it chocolate chip cookies to a sleepover; take them to your favorite under-the-radar vegetarian joint (this falafel place near me has the word “vegetarian” in its name, yet most meat-eaters I know like it because it’s good—and hardly notice there’s anything missing).
Get involved. You may have left the shopping and cooking to the parents up until this point in your life. But now that you’ve made some decisions about how you’d like to eat, it’s your responsibility to play a bigger role in how meals get on your plate. Ask if you can tag along on the weekly grocery trip, and make suggestions for foods you’d like to have on hand. Browse websites like Meatless Monday and blogs (including this one!) for vegetarian meals you’d like to try out—bonus points if they’re ones the whole family would enjoy—and offer to make it one night, or at least to help. Doing so will help turn your flirtation with vegetarian into a learning and bonding experience for the whole fam.
Of course, you’ll have to check out The Smart Girl’s Guide to Going Vegetarian for more detailed information along with shopping lists, nutrition tips, recipes, and meal ideas.
Have you resolved to go vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, or any other –atarian this year? How’s it going? And how can we help you?!