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Top Six Tips for Becoming Vegetarian

We’ve listed our top six tips for making your transition to a vegetarian diet easy and delicious. We have also provided some “everyday eating” ideas for each meal (and snack!) of the day. If you want more help making the transition, take our Pledge to be Vegan for 30 Days.

1. Make vegetarian versions of your favorite meals

There are vegetarian versions of almost every meal you can think of (really!). “Veg up” your favorite recipes simply by replacing the meat. Here are some ideas:

  • Replace the beef in burritos with beans and grilled veggies, or try vegetarian beef crumbles from Morningstar Farms or Boca.
  • Top baked potatoes with margarine, vegan sour cream, soy bacon bits (Bacos are vegan!), or salsa.
  • Make homemade pizza with soy cheese (or just skip the cheese and add extra garlic and spices), meatless pepperoni, and vegetable toppings.
  • Create a Mexican dip for tortilla chips with refried beans, salsa, guacamole, and diced peppers and onions.
  • Make spaghetti with marinara sauce and add roasted vegetables or veggie meatballs (try Nate’s brand or Gimme Lean sausage-style).
  • The possibilities are endless—check out our Everyday Eating page for more easy vegetarian meals.

2. Explore thousands of delicious vegetarian recipes.

We have thousands of kitchen-tested recipes to choose from! You’ll be amazed by the variety of tasty vegan options, from classic American dishes to Italian to Creole.

If you’d rather thumb through a cookbook, check out some of our favorite vegetarian cookbooks, or you can borrow a cookbook from the library. There are vegetarian cookbooks for people who don’t like to spend more than 10 minutes preparing dinner, and there are vegetarian cookbooks for gourmet chefs, so no matter how experienced a cook you are, it’s easy to make great-tasting vegetarian meals.

Also take a look at our two-week sample menus, and our vegetarian shopping guide.

3. Try some tasty faux meats and dairy alternatives.

You can find faux meat products—including veggie burgers and hot dogs, faux turkey deli slices and chicken patties, and meatless barbecue riblets—at almost every grocery store. Dairy alternatives like soy milk, vegan cream cheese, soy yogurt, and nondairy ice cream are also widely available.

As the interest in humane, healthy food has grown, the popularity of these foods has soared—sales of mock meats in the last decade have skyrocketed and now constitute a billon-dollar industry. Not only are these foods delicious and cruelty-free, they are also usually high in healthy plant protein and low in saturated fat, and they contain zero cholesterol. Some of the most popular brands include BocaGardenburgerYves, andMorningstar Farms.

4. Sample vegetarian microwaveable meals and convenience foods.

Always eating on the run? There are tons of vegan microwavable meals and convenient snacks available everywhere—here’s a tiny sample:

  • Amy’s Black Bean Enchilada With Spanish Rice
  • Fantastic Foods’ Vegetarian 3-Bean Chili
  • Yves’ Thai Lemongrass Veggie Chick’n
  • Any of the vegetarian soups by Progresso, Amy’s Organic, or Campbell’s (like lentil, tomato, split pea, and hearty vegetable)
  • Basics like fresh fruit and PB&J
  • Tofurky Jurkey (vegan jerky)
  • Silk Live! soy yogurt smoothies
  • Tofutti Cuties (soy ice cream sandwiches)
  • Oreos (yep, several flavors are vegan!)
  • Check out full lists of all our favorite convenience products and quick-and-easy vegetarian snacks.

5. Search online for the best vegetarian-friendly restaurants in your area.

Whatever your budget and wherever you live, you can enjoy great vegetarian meals. Burger King, Ruby Tuesday, and Johnny Rockets are just a few of the national chains selling tasty veggie burgers and other meatless options. Locally owned restaurants around the country are also selling an exciting array of vegetarian meals to please every palate. Browse reviews of some of the hottest vegetarian-friendly restaurants in the country and get links to the best online restaurant guides in our Dining Out page.

If you find yourself dining at a behind-the-times restaurant that doesn’t have decent vegetarian options on the menu, ask the server if the cook can prepare a vegetarian dish without eggs or dairy. Restaurants are glad to accommodate special requests, and most chefs get bored making the same menu items all the time, so they love the chance to get creative and make something new! Of course, you can always call ahead to ask about vegetarian options if you want to choose where to eat before you leave home.

6. Explore the amazing variety of meat-free ethnic foods

While you can make vegetarian versions of all your favorite classic American dishes, delight your taste buds by also choosing from the huge variety of vegetarian ethnic foods, such as these:

  • Hummus (a tangy spread made from chickpeas), falafel (a spicy mix of beans that can be made into patties and “meatballs”), and dozens of other meatless Middle Eastern foods
  • Grilled vegetable (and/or bean) fajitas, burritos, enchiladas, and tacos
  • Sushi with avocado, carrots, or cucumber in place of raw fish
  • Chinese spring rolls, tofu (sometimes called “bean curd” in Asian restaurants) and noodle dishes, and vegetable fried rice
  • Thai coconut curry and tofu pad Thai
  • Vegetable samosas (deep-fried dumplings filled with curried vegetables), pakoras (deep-fried fritters), and many other delicious Indian dishes
  • Although ethnic restaurants in your area are sure to offer these tasty vegetarian selections (and many more!), you can also make these dishes at home: Check out our recipe search engine and search by cuisine type.

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  • Belle says:

    Like so many, I’ve recently become aware of the horrors of what goes on in factory farms, and all farms, really. Though I haven’t eaten much meat for years, I am on the verge of cutting back completely and am working of finding substitutes, how to transition, etc. I want to say how gratifying it is to see the young ages of many commenters here! I do believe that one day we won’t be eating animals like we do now.

  • Chelsea says:

    This is an amazing article, but I wanted to definitel point out that some meat-free “meats” still contain animal products such as eggs, specifically the Morningstar Farms brands. I wanted to clarify that for other readers who are switching to entirely Vegan diets.

  • Sam says:

    Im thinking on going vegiterian and this article has really helped me

  • Karmen says:

    I been vegetarian since I was eight and now I’m eleven. The nutrition from my diet helps me in gymnastics training. I enjoy being vegetarian.

  • veggiegal says:

    after recently becoming a vegetarian, i feel great
    both pysically and emotionally. i love that less
    animals have to be killed because of our lifestyle.
    and pysically i feel very energized. im 15, almost 16,
    and i may be young but i will be vegetarian for life!

  • Heather says:

    I recently became a vegetarian and it’s the best choice that I have ever made. I feel good, I am losing weight- and I am guilt-free. I wish that I could have made the decision long ago but after reading the book Empty Cages by Tom Regan, I have made a lifestyle change and couldn’t be happier! I encourage everyone to read that book or do their own research about what animals go through before ending up on the plate.

  • Bob says:

    I’m 12 and I’ve been a vegetarian for the past seven years.Recently I’ve been thinking about becoming a vegan.

  • Anothersurfer says:

    I’m another guilty omnivore, I typically gather my food myself from the ocean, but am growing tired of spearing fish and cooking food live. And to top it off, I’m starting a relationship with a vegan, so going vegetarian is a must at least to eliminate meal-time issues. As a former chef as well, I am huge on taste and texture… any ideas on brands I can turn to that may not be far off from the real thing so I won’t notice the change as much??

  • cheryl says:

    @anonymous re what was referred to as possible protein and energy deficiencies if going vegan. not sure if that was a serious post or not. if it was serious, please google. there are scores of athletes who are vegan. watch the docu ‘forks over knives’ free on youtube for a couple examples. so many serious olympic and ironman triathalon athletes who are vegan. protein req is only over 2g per 100 calories. and calcium less than meat eaters because we dont eat foods that deplete calcium. good luck to you.

  • Anonymous says:

    I realize that I’m a bit young compared to others on this site. (I will be fifteen in a couple months.) I have been considering becoming vegan for a while now. I have been in cross country, so I haven’t been able to make the transition yet, due to possible protein and energy deficiencies. However, now that the season is coming to a close, I was really hoping to finally do it. Right now I am a straight up omnivore, but I am having growing issues with the exploitation of animals. I was wondering if anyone had any advice on how to make the transition as quickly and smoothly as possible?

  • Noodles says:

    Hi all, I am seriously considering becoming a vegetarian (possibly vegan in the not so distant future =]) but have already planned and started this in the past only to be put down by my loved ones and friends, any advice on how to deal/cope with these problems?

  • NewVeg says:

    @Mssskyddy
    At least half of your diet should consist of fruits & veggies.
    Also try using quinoa, and quinoa or vegetable pastas. Hope that helps.

  • NewVeg says:

    @Mssskyddy
    At least half of your diet should consist of fruits & veggies.
    Also try using quinoa, and quinoa or vegetable pastas. Hope that helps.

  • C21 says:

    Hi, my mum’s been a Vegan since…well before my memory exists, and I’ve been a vegetarian for the past 4 years, since i was 17 and my brother is a vegetarian as well. I’ve got to say that a lot of these products are kind of needless, such as the mock-beef, and most of the processed foods. I live in the UK and we have soya butter for those who dislike margerine, and for people who are allergic to soy products, i would suggest getting Oat Milk.

    The stuff in stores is expensive, so buy powdered oats from body building websites http://www.myprotein.com/uk/products/instant_oats (that’s the one i use, it’s super cheap and healthy) and mix it up with water, and you get an oat milk which is high in oats (store bought stuff is 10% oats at best) and tastes great.

    Also, aubergine, avocado and pumpkin are great replacements for mock-meats they’re thick and filling. Instead of buying store-made soups chop up a bunch of root vegetables put them in a pot of water and simmer for an hour, maybe add some lentils, lemon grass or whatever spices you want and you’ve got a great filling soup which if you make enough will last for days.

    One of my favourite things to do when i have the chance to cook breakfast is to make a lentil only quasi-soup, with a little tabasco and soya butter to thicken, whip it up with a whisk, put it on a thick slice bread like sourdough or campagne and then cook cherry tomatoes and spinach in a pan with a bit of water instead of oil and hey presto its a weekend breakfast. Otherwise museli/weetabix with oat milk/soya milk and fruit is a good easy breakfast for the weekdays.

    It costs so much money to buy meat, and the soya replacements found in-store aren’t particularly cheap (though I would recommend Booja booja chocolates as a treat and sometimes you need to buy egg replacement powder for desserts). Really it comes down to how much energy you’re willing to invest. Cooking in this way is cheap and easy, it just depends on if you’re willing.

    Please try not to rely on the mock-meats, it is so EASY to live without but they have their places as a good transitional product for full fledged meat eaters to vegetarian/vegan. Also farm cattle produce a third of all methane in the worlds atmosphere. That’s a little stat that helps stave off meat desires. Cos not only is it true, but it’s gross in a way that people can relate to moreso than death.

  • Brittany says:

    I’ve been a lacto-vegetarian for about 3 months now and I absolutely love it. It’s so fun to challenge yourself every single meal. I’m not totally vegan yet…though dairy has always given be a bad reaction…I just can’t give up cheese. The many different non-dairy milks are the best…but I still can’t get used to fake cheese. Maybe one day!
    In the past few weeks I’ve discovered vegetarian sausages, burgers and different veg variations of my once favorite foods…and words can’t express how happy I am! At cook outs I always come prepared and even get people to fall in love with this food. I’m all for eating organically and now pumping my body full of chemicals…but I think those things in moderation are ok…especially when you get that sausage and peppers craving!
    To the person who was having trouble with their family accepting them as a vegetarian…all I can say is know your facts and stay strong! My friends and family were skeptical at first, now they’re really supportive of my choices :)

    p.s.-it’s not a DIET…it’s a lifestyle :)

  • sherriB says:

    I’ve been going vegetarian for 7 months now and I really enjoy it, but of course,I love the fact that I’m able to show my compassion for animals by eating less meat but, unfortunately I hit a few “road blocks” along the way, especially with family members that don’t really want you to go vegetarian, and stay with meat. Any advice on how to keep the peace with family members so we can all respect other people’s eating habits, especially when we go out to eat at restaurants?

  • ChristinaG says:

    I have to say I was surprised that vegan “meats” taste great! And your not left with that stuffed bloated feeling after eating. My weakness was always sausage so I tried the morning star brand and it was totally satisfying. Sautee up some peppers and onion and you have a great sandwich. Its so much fun discovering new foods.

  • mssskyddy says:

    I’ve wanted to become a vegan for more than 20 years, and have read books like Fast Food Nation and Diet for a New Planet. But it wasn’t until I started looking around the PETA site and encountered the first couple of seconds of the video narrated by Sir Paul McCartney about the horrors that go on inside a slaughterhouse that I finally had what I needed to call up the discipline to go vegan. I am on Day 7, and have had some ups and downs, but the biggest concern I have is that I seem to be overloading on carbs. How many fruits and veggie servings should I aim for each day?

  • suddenseer says:

    Vaeganism is a healthy eating lifestyle that has amazing benefits. It saves water, and grain and earth’s resources. I am not into worshiping animals, but am in total agreement of the diet. That should still make the animal worshipers happy because every day I eat as a vegan, fewer animals die as a result of what I eat. I still have a leather coat, shoes, and belt.

  • Courtney Cates says:

    I am slowly phasing out animal foods.I am having a hard time cutting cheese out.I have tried a couple of non-cheeses such as Follow Your Heart and really didn’t care for it.I am going to give Daiya a try and I also just today bought a Tofurky Vegan Pizza,which I am going to have tomorrow night for dinner instead.

  • Steph says:

    T–I recently read the book “Skinny Bitch” and it said that the “follow your heart” cheeses were really good. It also gave other brand names of foods they liked the best. I haven’t made it to the store to pick up that cheese yet, but hope it helps!

  • tylar says:

    I am eleven and the rest of my family eats meat. I belive you are never to young to become vegitarian. <3

  • Adina says:

    For those who don’t love all that many vegetables. Me neither. your two new best friends are maple syrup and high heat.

    The trick is to grill, broil, or fry it until the outside carmelizes. Toss veggies lightly in oil, bake at 425 on the highest rack until browned. OR (my current favorite) mix a little soy sauce and MAPLE SYRUP and saute or bake the veggies in this.

  • annie miller says:

    Hello, I am not pro-peta, or opposed to eating animal products for ethical reasons, but believe it is healthier to eat only plant products. I believe many diseases are avoided by our diet, and want to eat vegetarian or better yet, vegan. No dairy

  • Marg Durrance says:

    vegetarian is easy but so far can’t do vegan. bought soy milk & gagged at the taste, also margarine. never have been able to stand it & it isn’t good for you.

  • Sushi-Pants says:

    So I am considering becoming a vegetarian, but the kind that still eats fish and chicken. Hopefully after trying this out, I will be able to give up my love for chicken too. I am not as much of a veggie lover as I wish I was, and I hate beans with all my soul. I also am concerned that becoming a vegetarian will unbalance my diet, and not give me all the nutrients that I need. I need some meat alternatives that still provide the same or similar nutrients. Help?

  • Oana says:

    I am all for eating well but all those dairy and meat alternatives are FULL of chemicals, I can’t even understand half of the ingredients listed there and I don’t think anyone who doesn’t have a degree in chemistry can either. I do not believe in mass production farms and it saddens me to know that many people do not have respect for the animals they eat but at the same time I do not believe in pumping my body with genetically engineered ingredients that could remove rust off my car. Thanks but no thanks.

  • D says:

    T, yes, there are! I am new to vegan and doing research on this. The Follow Your Heart brand does a good job w/vegan cheese. I also just ordered a book on cooking with nutritional yeast. I’m hearing that you can get great cheese oriented dishes by cooking with it, even slice-able. Don’t give up and good luck!

  • T says:

    Hi,
    I would love to become vegan. Cutting out meat is easy for me…but I’m a cheese LOVER!! I tried a rice cheese, but it was nasty both in taste and texture. Does a really yummy non dairy cheese exist?
    thanks
    T

  • Ashley-P says:

    Hi Kazbe, Thanks for your comment. We do advocate healthy initiatives and try to select a variety of items suitable for everyone. There are several healthy options in this list, from pasta with roasted veggies to fresh veggie sushi. We do our best to accommodate the wide variety of tastes and needs of our readers. Feel free to share some healthy ideas for your fellow readers. Thanks!

  • Kazbe says:

    There is so much rubbishy and high fat food suggested here – no wonder so many of the vegies I know are overweight. If you are going to suggest ways to go vegetarian, at least make it healthy! And spare a thought for those of us who are allergic to soy – as many people are.

  • OLIVIA MENDEZ says:

    Everything great. I became vegetarian, convinced of the harm I was making to animals, before realizing Mexico has non of all the products you mention above. I try to be creative… but it is not so easy in Latinamerica as you say. I just wanted to let you know, alike to myself there are some people in my country trying to become vegans, but I do not think there is any solution for the time being for us but to continue being vegetarians and inventing or repeating our meals day after day. Unless more and more people become vegetarian (not vegan, because they would die of starvation)and the need of products becomes evident in our countries.

    Regards!

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