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How to "Go Vegetarian"? What does it mean to be a Vegetarian?

By March 8, 2009 - 6:54am
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I am in my 40s, and would love to hear some advice on how to become vegetarian. Any tips or tricks that helped you? I don't want to be 100% vegetarian, but am considering incorporating many of the vegetarian-lifestyle aspects into my daily eating regimen. The only caveat is that I don't enjoy fish, but love fruits, veggies and legumes. I love eating lean meat, and am not sure if I will "never" eat this again, but would like to make it more of a monthly occurrence instead of weekly. And, perhaps, this means I could not call myself an official "vegetarian"...?

What does it mean to be "vegetarian"? It seems like there is almost a sub-culture of vegetarians...that is is not just about not eating animal products. Perhaps it depends on the reasons (ie, "against" eating animal products vs. eating for health).

Thanks! I look forward to your advice and suggestions.

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EmpowHER Guest

I call myself a vegetarian and really think that people getting caught up in all the definitions is kind of a waste of time. I stopped eating red meat 39 years ago. I still eat dairy and occasionally eggs. I refer to myself as a vegetarian because it makes it easier for people to understand at restaurants, etc. So what? Anyway, you asked for help: I would start doing a day or two a week to get started and see how you feel. Try some new recipes and gradually cut down on the days you eat red meat. Do not get caught up with what you will call yourself. You will be healthier eating less red meat, you may find some great new recipes and you will feel better. Good luck!
Author Diana Fletcher

September 30, 2014 - 9:35am
EmpowHER Guest

Pesco and Pallo is not a Vegetarian!!! Vegetarian's eat no living creature! I wish people would stop wanting to be labelled a vegetarian when they still eat chicken or fish. It insults all of us vegetarians who have committment to this!

May 12, 2010 - 7:03am
HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)

I tend to agree Anon!

I eat limited organic dairy (no eggs) and no other meat products at all. I don't wear animals either.

Pesco and pollo 'vegetarians' are not vegetarian. Perhaps it sounds cool to refer to themselves as that? It's a bit like saying a woman isn't pregnant in her first trimester, but is in her second and third. Pregnant is pregnant, veg is veg!

It doesn't bother me that they refer to themselves as vegetarians (I've heard it too much at this stage!) but saying so does not make it so!

Thanks for your post!

May 12, 2010 - 11:41am

There are different types of vegetarianism, from vegan to pescetarian (new term added to Webster's Dictionary). It's easier for me to cite a source that to write it all out myself:

Total Vegetarians eat only plant food. They do not eat any animal foods, including fish, eggs, dairy products, and honey.
Vegans not only omit all animal products from their diets, but they also eliminate them from the rest of their life. Vegans use nothing from animals, such as leather, wool, and silk.
Lacto-Vegetarians will include dairy products into their diet of plant food.
Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarians eat both eggs and dairy products.
Pesco-Vegetarians (pescetarians) include fish into their diets.
Pollo-Vegetarians eat poultry, such as chicken, turkey, and duck.

Source: Types of Vegetarians

While it's fairly easy to become a casual, or occasional, vegetarian, it does take some discipline to follow a vegetarian regimen for any length of time.

Most people adopt vegetarianism by choice. I did not. Although I already cannot digest animal protein very well and am lactose intolerant, I had to become vegetarian for medical reasons, and had to follow the regimen for a few years, when diagnosed with lupus. The goal was to discover any triggers for colon issues because I'm predisposed as my grandfather, who had lupus, later developed colon cancer, and I've had GI problems since childhood.

Unfortunately, if you're married to a die-hard carnivore, as I am, it's rather difficult to maintain a vegetarian regimen and your sanity at the same time, LOL! I have a problem with soy products, but can have soy beans, as edamame, without any trouble.

One thing, though, that used to drive me nuts, is the notion that you can just pick out the meat from a dish that contains it. That may be fine for the occasional, casual "vegetarian" meal. However, for those of us who have trouble with animal fat and protein, that is not an option and dishes must be prepared completely meat and animal fat free.

I do have to admit I love bacon, though; but, I'll "pay" for my indulgence, later, LOL!

March 9, 2009 - 4:54pm

Freetobeme, I think there are about as many definitions of vegetarians out there today as there are people!

Some people don't eat meat, poultry or fish at all. Their definition of vegetarian would be simply that they do not want to eat anything that was once a living creature. This is probably the most accepted definition of vegetarian. Some also do not eat products made by animals, such as milk or eggs.

Someone who doesn't eat meat but who does eat fish (not your problem, is it? LOL) is actually called a pesca vegetarian. But I don't think I've ever heard anyone call themselves that, even if they are. And vegans eat only plant-based foods.

Alison gave you some awesome suggestions. I would second them, and tell you to just do one thing at a time, and let it develop naturally. Explore some of the soy-based products as meat substitutes. Change a recipe here or there. And when you're eating out, focus on the meatless entrees -- there are more and more of them these days, even at old standbys like Italian and Mexican restaurants. (Veggie fajitas, for instance, are wonderful!)

You might also like to check out or get a subscription to a vegetarian magazine, just for the recipes and inspiration. Vegetarian Times, for instance, has a database of more than 10,000 recipes you could browse (they say it's the world's largest collection of vegetarian recipes!), and they even have a place where you can click called "Vegetarian Starter Kit" that is a free 16-page pdf you can print out that includes tips, recipes and basic information about the food groups, nutrients and so on.

here's the website:


and here's the "starter kit:"


have fun!

March 9, 2009 - 9:15am

A switch to a vegetarian diet might be easier than you think! Here are 3 easy steps:

1 What vegetarian meals do you currently enjoy?
Examples might include pasta primavera, veggie soup, Chinese stir fry, bean burrito, lentil soup, spinach and strawberry salad...the list could go on. Many different types of cuisines that you already enjoy, some that may be considered "exotic", may have many vegetarian options, including my favorites: Carribean, Mexican and Vietnamese cuisines. You may be closer to the vegetarian lifestyle than you think!

2 What recipes do you currently make, that are easy to adapt to vegetarian?
Examples might be chili that tastes great without added turkey or beef, beef stew that be substituted with barley, or turkey sandwich could turn into an avocado veggie sandwich with a tofu or hummus spread.

3 Find alternatives that you enjoy. There are so many products on the market that taste like meat or other animal products. For instance, a meal like hamburgers where meat is the main focus, my favorite is spicy black bean burgers found in the freezer aisle. There are hundreds of vegetarian cookbooks that you can try as well. Instead of cow's milk, have you tried soymilk or rice milk? You can read about a discussion on EmpowHer regarding the choice between Soy, rice or cow milk?.

Since you are interested in incorporating the vegetarian lifestyle into your current lifestyle, maybe not necessarily "becoming" a vegetarian, you can start slow and adapt a few of your favorite recipes using the suggestions above.

Good luck!

- Becoming Vegetarian, Brown University
- Becoming Vegetarian: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Vegetarian Diet
by Versanto Melina

- The Vegetarian Diet, written by EmpowHer's Susan C
- Vegetarian Diet, EmpowHer's Medical Encyclopedia

March 8, 2009 - 7:17am
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