Making the transition to a vegetarian or vegan diet may seem overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. You can jump right in the deep end if you want, but it might be easier (and less scary) to take baby steps. I’ve been a vegetarian for more than 25 years and here are my suggestions for a smooth transition.
Start having Meatless Mondays. Serve your family a tasty vegetarian meal for dinner once a week. As you, and your family, become more comfortable with meatless meals, start having other meatless days.
Start having Meatless Mornings. Have a meat-free breakfast. Make that egg- and dairy-free if you are transitioning to a vegan diet. Later, you can start having meatless lunches, too.
Start trying some meat-free substitutes for your favorite dishes. If you love chili, prepare it with soy crumbles instead of ground beef. If you normally use chicken stock in your homemade soup, use vegetable stock instead. If you are transitioning to a vegan diet, try vegan soy slices instead of cheese or a tofu scramble in place of scrambled eggs.
Designate one day a week as “Try a New Vegetarian/Vegan Recipe” day. Explore beyond vegetarian versions of your old favorites.
Visit a local vegetarian or vegan restaurant. Enjoy some really good vegetarian cuisine and get a feel for some of the possibilities.
Find some vegetarian friends. Maybe you can all get together for a monthly potluck. You can trade recipes and share stories.
What About Your Family?
If you have children, you can choose to continue serving them meat or you can choose to transition them to a vegetarian or vegan diet with you. Children of all ages can get plenty of protein and other nutrients on a vegetarian or vegan diet. If you live with other adults, of course they will make their own choices about whether or not to continue eating meat or to make the transition with you.
Serve your family meatless meals some days, even if they are not planning to adopt a vegetarian diet. A lot of families that eat meat still have Meatless Mondays.
Allow adult family members to prepare their own meat if you don’t like cooking it or just don’t want to prepare two meals every day. That’s what I do in my house. Teenage children can also prepare their own food if they don’t like what you’re serving.
You can also prepare meals that will work for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. For instance, have Build Your Own Taco night and put out seasoned ground beef, seasoned soy crumbles, shredded cheese, veggies and refried beans and let everyone assembled their own tacos. Or stir fry veggies in one pan, chicken in another and tofu in a third. Family members can all take some veggies and then choose whether to take chicken, tofu or some of each.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. http://www.peta.org/living/parenting/healthy-vegetarian-kids.aspx. Healthy Vegetarian Kids.