How to become a vegetarian

Greg and I aren’t full-fledged vegetarians, but we eat very little meat. Eleanor is a vegetarian by choice. She has always objected to the meat we’ve put on her plate, and we’re not forcing the issue because we don’t see this as a problem.

When I tell people that we’re almost-vegetarians, I usually get one of two reactions: horror or astonishment. People assume that we’re subsisting on tofu and hummus, which is especially inaccurate given that I don’t even like tofu much. So I thought I would talk a little about what we eat and why we eat it. Please note that I’m not a nutritional expert.

About two years ago, we decided to start phasing out meat for both ethical and health reasons. We were alarmed at some of the books we had read about the meat industry, and we both found that eating a big steak just made us want to take a long nap. That might be great for a Saturday afternoon but not for daily life.

We made the change gradually, which is what I would suggest if you want to change your diet. It’s hard to go cold turkey (ha!), especially if you don’t know how to make many vegetarian dishes. I focused on making one vegetarian meal a week, then two, then three, and so on.

If you’re used to the typical American diet of a big portion of meat with a couple sides, you might have to rethink your meals. Because I don’t like tofu or most meat substitutes, I’ve focused on finding one-dish meals. We eat soups, stir-fries, tacos and pasta. I sometimes do make a bunch of sides, especially in the summer when the produce is good, and we just eat various veggie salads with a nice loaf of bread. You’ll have to get more calories from beans, nuts, oils and cheeses.

I know a lot of people express concern about protein, but from what I’ve read, most people in the U.S. eat far more protein than they need. We eat quite a few dairy products, which are high in protein, along with eggs and the above-mentioned beans and nuts.

If you’re interested in eating less meat, here are a few recipes to get you started:
Black bean tacos with cabbage slaw
Gnocchi with peas and spinach
Three-bean chili
Red lentil soup