If you ever thought about becoming a vegetarian (or eating less meat/fish) but don’t know where to start, you are at the right place. I became vegetarian almost 2 years ago after I got back from my backpacking trip to Thailand & Malaysia. Even before my trip, there were many moments where I had thoughts about changing my meat consumption. But those thoughts were always pushed aside quickly. No one in my environment was vegetarian so it was easier and more “convenient” for me to stay in my comfort zone and not educate myself any further.

But once I came back from Asia it was a done deal. In Asia I saw the impact of the meat industry up close, had conversations with like minded people (vegetarians) and educated myself with a very confronting documentary. I made the choice to stop consuming animals on my flight back home and I never felt the need to eat meat or fish again.

I do understand that not everyone has this kind of eye-opening experience and might still be in that “comfort zone”, not knowing where to start. That’s why I am writing this blog post.

P.S Even though I am currently vegan and transitioned to a vegan lifestyle 6 months ago, I wanted this post to focus on the transition from eating meat/fish to being vegetarian, because this is what I experienced personally. If you are looking to transition to a vegan lifestyle the 5 tips below will still apply but I might do another blog post in the future talking more in depth about transitioning to vegan lifestyle. Let me know if you would be interested in that.

5 tips to start a vegetarian lifestyle

1. Know your “why”

The first thing you need to ask yourself, is why do you want to be a vegetarian? Is it because you don’t want to contribute to animal slaughter anymore? Because you want to improve your health? Or maybe because you want to live more sustainable and you learned about the impact the animal industry has on our planet?

You don’t have to choose between any of those, you can become vegetarian because all of them. These are just the 3 main reasons people choose to become vegetarian/vegan:
– For the animals
– For the environment
– For your own health

It is good to know your “why” to hold yourself accountable so that every time you are having a hard time you can remind yourself of why you started. It is also useful to have an answer when people ask you why you became vegetarian. A question you will absolutely get.

2. Educate yourself

Educating yourself is a big part of this transition that you simply can not skip. Start educating yourself about animal farming practices, how eating less meat/fish will improve your health & the environmental benefits.

Keep in mind that educating yourself can be very confrontational. If I speak for myself, I already vaguely knew about the horrible factory farming practices and I was terrified to learn more. So I avoided it for a long time, quickly scrolling past videos on the internet that showed animal cruelty/slaughter (which were just showing regular factory farming practices). I couldn’t bare to watch it.

But I believe that if you want to become a vegetarian and you want it to last, you should at least once be able to face what you have been paying for all those years. Forever reminding yourself that this is the harsh reality behind the burger on your plate.

I chose to watch documentaries to educate myself on these topics since they are packed with information and I am a visual learner. Here are a few of my recommendations: 

For the animals:
Eating Animals (warning: contains graphic images), this is the confronting documentary I watched in Asia that made me eliminate meat and fish from my diet. In this documentary they expose the horrible practices of animal (factory) farming with hidden camera’s. Yes, hidden camera’s, because animal farming happens behind high walls and closed doors. If you wonder why, take a guess. Everyone who would see what goes on behind those doors would be appalled and sick to their stomach.

Earthling is similar to Eating Animals as it also shows you graphic images of animal farming practices and more. I did not watch this one. Like I said, I believe anyone should at least once be able to face the factory farming practices and I did, by watching Eating Animals. I don’t feel the need to watch this documentary as well. But you might, that is why I listed it.

Okja is not a documentary, but I remembered this movie while I was writing this blogpost. It’s a movie about a girl and her “super pig” (a fictional character). It is definitely not a substitute for actually watching an informative documentary about animal farming practices, but it comes pretty close to give you an idea of how horrible factory farming actually is… and how ignorant the people. I think they did an amazing job showing you a reality through a fictional character and I would recommend it to everyone. Many people even say this movie made them go vegetarian/vegan.

Watch the trailer here! (If the video does not show you have to change your privacy preferences and toggle on Youtube, thank you!)

For the environment:
Cowspiracy is a documentary that hits the nail on the head by revealing that the animal industry is something that long has been overlooked (on purpose) as one of the main environmental dangers globally. It shows how pressing those dangers really are, but how reluctant people are to talk about it. We need people to wake up to this truth and take off the blindfold. This documentary made me choose for a vegan lifestyle after being vegetarian for 1,5 years. If you care about the environment and are thinking about changing your diet, it’s a documentary you can not miss to see.

A life on our planet by David Attenborough is a new documentary that was released just days ago. I am still in awe of this masterpiece that brought me to tears. David Attenborough, at the age of 93, takes it upon himself to remind us about how we are destroying our natural world. He makes it very clear that without the natural world, we cannot survive. A truth many seem to forget. What does this have to do with becoming vegetarian, you might ask? Well, he explains that the wildlife that we replaced with farm animals, the seas that we have overfished and the forest that we have cut down for growing crops (to feed our farm animals), all play a crucial role to our survival. We can no longer neglect this. We have to make sure wildlife can flourish again. And how can you contribute to that? Simple, change your diet.

If you haven’t already seen the trailer, go check it below! (Again, if the video does not show you have to change your privacy preferences and toggle on Youtube, thank you!)

For your own health:
Forks over knives, What the Health & The Game Changers are all documentaries that dive into the health perspectives of a diet that is based on plants instead of meat, fish, dairy and eggs. Even if we are talking about becoming a vegetarian and not going fully plant based (vegan), you can still experience major health benefits. It touches on some of the most frequent questions you might have or might get from other people like: “Where do you get your proteins?” or “Do you need to take any supplements?”. I know both of these questions are answered in The Game Changers, which also focusses a lot on sport performance. So if you are into sports on any level, it’s a great documentary for you to watch. I absolutely love the trailer so I linked this one as well. It shows how “eating meat to be strong” is just good marketing without any science to back it up. The real science might shock you, but humans thrive on a plant based diet. THRIVE.

Last must-watch trailer, I promise. (I hope that by now you know that if the video does not show you have to change your privacy preferences and toggle on Youtube, thank you!)

3. Talk about it with your close family/friends

Talking with your family and friends about this choice can help you to feel supported and stay committed. If you want, you can ask them to keep you accountable. So that if you are craving something they will help you look for an alternative instead of telling you that “one time won’t make a difference, the animal is already dead”. Let them understand this means a lot to you.

Maybe you are in an environment where you don’t feel supported or they don’t understand your choice. Just remember that not everybody has to understand your choice or do the same. I do hope that they can respect it and you can show them how to do that by respecting their choice, which is the choice to continue to eat meat. Sometimes, it just takes time for the people around you to get used to your vegetarian lifestyle.

Talking about it with your friends and family can have another benefit, since you are likely to spread your knowledge and talk about why you made this choice. Like I said, don’t assume that they will make the same choices you make, but simply by involving them in your process, they might start thinking about their own meat consumption. If I speak for myself, after 2 years of being a vegetarian & vegan, only one friend became vegetarian themselves, but a lot of my friends and family (I think even the majority) cut down on meat on a weekly basis. That is already huge. So don’t forget how your choice can create a ripple effect and how powerful that is.

4. Make a meal plan

If you are worried about not knowing what to prepare/cook as a new vegetarian I advise you to make a meal plan for at least a week and stick to it. For inspiration you can look on Pinterest or Google it and you will get many recipes which you can even select on preparation time

The only thing you might want to introduce in your new meals are spices and herbs! They make such a difference in cooking (especially vegetarian and vegan). I was blown away by vegetarian/vegan dishes in restaurants, because they use a lot of spices and herbs to make that dish come alive. It made me think if this is something we forgot about using, or if it’s not that needed with meals that include meat or fish? Still searching for an answer on that one. Anyway, invest in some spices, herbs and seasonings, follow a recipe and actually use them! Don’t be like me: seeing recipes with all those colourful spices (which I didn’t have and didn’t bother to buy), so deciding to throw in some salt & pepper and then wonder why the dish was tasteless. Don’t do it!

I would say go try it and see for yourself how easy it is to cook vegetarian dishes. Of course there are also many good meat replacements, but even if you don’t opt for those, you can make delicious vegetarian meals within minutes!

5. Respect your own boundaries

Being the people pleaser I am, I was afraid people would see my choice to be a vegetarian as “inconvenient”. Or refusing to eat meat would make me look ungrateful at certain situations. My mind made up all kinds of situations, and maybe you are worried about this too.

Maybe you have a grandma that likes to make her “specialty” (meat) and you worry it might hurt her feelings if you refuse. Or what if there is no vegetarian option at the restaurant you are at, but everybody already ordered their drinks. The dilemma! Thinking about these kinds of situations, it made me think: “Shouldn’t I just change my habits just for that occasion?” I did not.

I made the choice to respect the boundaries I had (not eating meat/fish) even if that was seen as “inconvenient” sometimes. Yes, those situations are not the most fun, but there is always a solution if you look for it. So instead of thinking of yourself as being the problem, remember that you are actually part of the solution (on a bigger scale)!

What I noticed was that with respecting my own boundaries, it made others respect them as well. Whenever there was an “inconvenient situation”, I held on to my boundaries instead of neglecting them. The thing is, that by holding on to your boundaries you make things very clear for yourself and everyone around you. Chances are, that situation will never happen again. Unlike if you neglect them, and eat meat/fish for just that occasion. People will expect you to do that again, until you set the boundary.

Are you trying to eat less meat/fish? Or become a vegetarian? Let me know if I was able to help you with this post. If you have any more questions for me or you would like to add another tip, feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail. I would love to hear from you!

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