When people talk to me about cutting out animal products, the number one complaint I receive is, "There are no options for vegetarians/vegans! I can't eat a salad every day!" Well fear not my animal-helping friends, it's not a terrible adjustment. In fact, people frequently feel happier and healthier after adding more fruits and vegetables into their diets. Here are 10 food ideas/advice that will be super helpful in your diet change!
1. Soup, soup, soup!
Soup is a great way to get started. There are so many ways to make it, the possibilities are endless! And it's very easy to make it vegetarian-friendly and still taste amazing. Use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock and explore the different vegetables and starches you can use!
2. Fruity meals for breakfast (trust me, it's great)
Wondering how to replace the bacon and sausage of the morning time? Smoothies, açaí bowls, fruit salad, fruit and yogurt, or even just plain sliced fruit with or without a dipping sauce — all great options. Not only are they great tasting and add to your meal, but fruit also gives a great energy boost for starting your day.
3. Tacos and burrito bowls (yes, Chipotle counts)
Personally, a lot of Mexican food has turned out to have easy vegetarian and vegan options. Instead of meat, there are lots of choices for substitutes, such as black beans, refried beans, grilled veggies, or sofritas if you're at Taco Bell. If you prefer vegan, choose guac over sour cream. Still so delicious!
4. Speaking of certain cultural food groups...Asian food!
From Chinese to Thai to Japanese and more, you cannot go wrong here. Lots of options for soups, noodles, and other dishes, lots of which are easy to make at home or order online! If you like tofu, you can always replace meat with tofu and enjoy your meal!
5. What about vegetable dishes and side dishes?
Learning how to work with vegetables is an important part of being vegan or vegetarian, and it's helpful for health reasons, as well. Roasting and seasoning broccoli sounds kind of difficult when you never do it, but once you start trying, it's pretty simple. One of my favorite meals to this day is string beans, roasted potatoes, and veggie burgers, all three of which take less effort to make than one main course of chicken cutlets.
6. Eggplant is a godsend
Craving chicken cutlets? Try eggplant cutlets! Want pizza without all the dough? Make eggplant pizzas! Want Italian food? Eggplant rollatini! It sounds strange, but eggplant is extremely versatile and very underrated. Eggplant dishes are egg-cellent.
7. And cheat day snack foods
Yes, you can be vegan or vegetarian and have fatty foods. If you're craving sugar, Oreos are great for cookie lovers, strawberries and whipped cream is great for vegetarians who love fruity sweets, or there are lots of candy options (just read the nutrition labels). Salt lover? You can still enjoy your potato chips, corn chips, salted popcorn, and more!
8. Be careful about nutrition and keep a variety
When switching to vegetarian or vegan diets, it's easy to stick to a few foods you already know you love. This is why lots of people get bored as vegetarians and switch back to eating meat. It's especially bad to do so if those few foods are unhealthy — you can't just eat pasta all day. Keep rotating food options and make sure to try new (or even previously disliked) foods! Before being a vegetarian, I never gave asparagus a chance, and now it's one of my favorite vegetables. If you are going vegan, you may have to be careful about vitamin B12, as it is difficult to obtain through veggies... BUT that's what supplements are for!
9. Like eggplant, cauliflower will be your BFF
Cauliflower is admittedly boring on its own, but ironically that makes it perfect for a variety of dishes. Some recipes include buffalo-sauced cauliflower, mashed cauliflower, cauliflower breadcrumbs, sesame cauliflower, cauliflower soup, cauliflower hash browns — the list goes on and on.
10. Can't think of what to make right now? Use the Internet!
Googling recipes or finding guided recipes on YouTube are some of the best ways to decide what to eat. In addition, I highly recommend an app called Yummly. You can put in your food preferences and dietary restrictions when you download, and it will suggest recipes for you daily!