1) Build on what you know. For example, if you love to make tacos, use a vegetable based replacement for the meat portion. Boca makes a great ground beef substitute, and Quorn makes a great chick’n. The good news is here many of your favorite dishes can be made vegetarian in this way.
2) Try new things. Plan a little extra time when you are grocery shopping, and keep your eyes open to foods that you don’t ordinarily eat. Consider new veges and fruits like coconuts, edamame, fried green tomatoes, kale, jackfruit, sweet potato fries, brussel sprouts, and persimmons to name a few. And don’t forget vege burgers, edamame, vegetable spring rolls, gnocchi, meatless stuffed grape leaves, vege pizzas, hummus and baba ganoush, olives and unusual nut butters.
3) Second time’s a charm. Don’t give up on a new food or recipe if it doesn’t delight you right off the bat. Our tastes change constantly, and chances are, your buds will warm up to a number of foods that you originally thought weren’t for you. Try different preparation methods, ingredients, spices, etc.
4) Browse your local health food store, and try samples. You can learn a lot by trying what they offer in the deli or in refrigerated section. Tempeh, seitan, soy and more can all be made into amazingly tasty meat-like dishes. Don’t be afraid to ask questions either. A helpful clerk or cook can give you all kinds of ideas about ingredients. Also, browse the bulk section for grains, cereals and nuts.
5) Be patient. This needn’t be an all or nothing proposition at first. For instance, some people like to start out just eliminating meat one day a week, or only indulging in meat one day a week. There’s not one formula for everyone. The decision to go vegetarian is a fabulous place to start, but it can be a big adjustment, so give yourself some time to make the switch.
6) Educate yourself. Read everything you can about vegetarian cooking and the lifestyle. Read vegetarian cookbooks and magazines. Talk to other vegetarians. The more you can learn, the easier the transition will be. People are happy to share their experience, and will be flattered you asked.
7) Host some potlucks. Invite vegetarian (and maybe non-vegetarian) friends over for a meat-free dinner. Everyone will be able to try new dishes out on each other, and you can swap recipes and ideas of the best ones.
8) Try new restaurants. Chinese, Thai, Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants often feature fabulous vegetarian cuisine. Enjoy going out and getting out of your comfort zone. You never know when you are going to try your next new favorite food.
9) Take a food-based multivitamin and a B12 supplement. B12 is one of the very few nutrients that becomes difficult to get enough of when you become a vegetarian. A whole food multi will ensure you are getting enough of everything else too.
10) Focus on your health. Don’t become a “Poptart Vegetarian.” That is, if you are replacing meats in your diet with processed foods, or fries and pizza every other meal, you aren’t going to be very healthy. Do your best to eat fresh, local, organic and in-season. Eating a variety of colors of fruits and veges, both raw and cooked, will ensure you are getting the nutrition you need and keep your diet interesting.