15 Things I Learned in My First Year as a Vegetarian

  • By: Sandra
  • Date: March 18, 2022
  • Time to read: 10 min.

1 — I am at peace with my vegetarian diet.

I wasn’t sure if I could permanently go without meat but I can.
Happily & easily.
I thought I would crave bacon and polish sausages but thankfully this isn’t the case. In fact, when I see bacon I’m just disgusted by how unhealthy and cruel it is to eat it. As for the polish sausages, I love Tofurky meatless beer brats and polish dogs topped with sauerkraut, roasted peppers & onions. Those are great substitutes for summertime cookouts.

2 — If I crave meat, what I really mean is I crave the sauces and marinades used to coat the meat.

All your favorite marinades, sauces and flavor combinations can easily be used to coat vegetables, whole grains, tofu and mock meats. My favorite thing in the world is sauce. Seriously. I hated condiments and sauces my entire childhood, so now I am a HUGE fan in adulthood. I still hate ketchup, mustard & mayonnaise though.
I am in love with plum sauce. (You can tell my husband, but he already knows. 😉 ) Try Fat Free Vegan Kitchen’s Wild Plum Sauce and Miang Kum Rolls recipes.
I am also in love with chipotle sauce. This recipe by Connoisseurus Veg looks divine: Black Bean Sweet Potato Burrito Bowl with Raspberry Chipotle Sauce. Heaven. At. Last… Yum.

3 — Vegetarian food consists of more than just salad and plain veggies.

While my raw garden fresh veggies are delicious, vegetarian meals can consist of so much more. My tastebuds have discovered many new flavor combinations, vegetables and ethnic foods than EVER before. My newest favorites are Eggplant Parmesan and essentially all vegetarian Indian & Thai cuisine. You haven’t lived unless you’ve tasted spices from India. OMG. Best thing in the world.
Need some Indian recipes? Try this Cauliflower Chickpea Tikka Masala recipe by Connoissseurus Veg, Vegetable Dhansak with Pilau Rice & Homemade Chapattis by The Green Genie and EVERYTHING on the Vegan Richa website.

4 — New vegetarians have to relearn how to grocery shop. 

The grocery store is a battlefield for the first several months of shopping vegetarian. Vegan especially. There are entire sections I just skip over now… Like the multiple-super-long meat aisles, most of the frozen section, milk and egg sections, and the soup aisle. It’s actually convenient in the long run because your grocery shopping trip is shortened a bit. Or at least that’s how I feel when my children aren’t screaming their head off and pulling things off the shelves.
If I’m looking for quick, already prepared meals, I head to the healthy living frozen section for mock meats and the tofu section in produce for a few more varieties of veggie and grain mock meats.
Otherwise, if I want processed food, I read ingredient & nutrition labels to make sure the manufacturer didn’t include meat, mainly dehydrated chicken (and a billion preservatives). Almost every soup contains chicken in some form. Oh and I have temporarily given up on avoiding gelatin. It seems to be in EVERYTHING. Read Why Vegetarians Should Avoid Gelatin.

5 — New vegetarians often need to relearn how to cook.

I wish my parents raised me vegetarian. I would not have had such a struggle in the beginning deciding what to cook my family at each meal. After an entire year though, I am significantly better… Though, my husband quit cooking this past year because he says it’s too hard to cook now. Clever excuse huh? Actually, he was the one that dealt with the raw meat, while I prepared the rest of the meal. That’s never been my thing.
*Correction: My hubby cooks breakfast still… He told me I lied after reading my post, so I will just insert that here and leave it as is! Hehe.
I desperately want to take some classes on making restaurant-quality sauces… Mexican sauces, Thai sauces, Indian sauces and everything else I haven’t discovered yet. I guess a sauce class would be an herb class right? I don’t know but next time I run into spare time and money, I’m doing it! For now, I’m starting off by buying this AMAZING Indian cookbook, Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen. This lady cooks phenomenally. I will be sharing my journey through her cookbook in the near future. I cannot wait!

6 — However, you can turn any meal into a vegetarian one. 

I am always on a mission to learn new recipes and cook in different styles. But you really don’t have to relearn how to cook entirely. There is a vegetarian version of pretty much everything… Lasagna, spaghetti, goulash, chili, soups, pot pies, stir fry, tacos, burritos, fajitas, barbecue sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs… Heck, you can even make a fancy pot roast dinner using Field Roast’s Celebration Roast. It’s made with seasoned grain meat. Field Roast is my top favorite vegan brand.
Substitute tofu, seitan, tempeh, beans or meat alternatives into your favorite recipes.
Try this Korean Barbecue Jackfruit Sandwich with Tahini Slaw recipe by Oh My Veggies for a delicious BBQ sandwich alternative or my Creamy Lentil Pot Pie recipe.

7 — Vegetarians are not always healthy eaters.

Cake, pie, donuts, white bread, pasta, candy, chips, fried food, pop… All vegetarian. It’s easy to skip out on nutrient rich calories in both omnivorous and vegetarian diets.
Definitely not healthy. If you haven’t eliminated refined sugars from your diet (like you should) you should try this Vegan Chocolate Layer Cake For One – No Bake by Vegan Richa or these delicious vegan Reeses Peanut Butter Cups by Vegan Jasper. 😉
Hey, if you eat a shit ton of vegetables, you can eat the occasional dessert too, guilt-free!

9 — Tofu tastes as good as the marinade.

Do you have a delicious marinade? Use it on tofu and follow my steps to a make a “meatier” textured meat substitute. Read: How to Prepare Tofu to Make It Taste Good. You shouldn’t have to force yourself to like tofu. Make scrumdidilyumptious sauce and eat well.
Check out 6 Fantastic Marinades for Tofu That Will Make Your Taste Buds Dance by One Green Planet.

10 — The more I research vegetarianism, the more I realize the importance of veganism.

When we get our 50+ acre rolling hills and forested land, my sister Valerie and I are rescuing these fluffy Haighlander pups… And Jersey Giants… Okay, so we will take some of each breed. 🙂 You can’t tell me you want to eat this adorable cow… There’s nothing cuter.

Vegetarians tend to think that eating dairy and eggs is okay because you don’t have to kill the animal to enjoy their products. But did you know the dairy and egg industry are just as bad?
Billions of chickens jammed pack in tiny cages without adequate living conditions, proper food and health care… Just thinking about the idea of putting all MY chickens into a factory farm makes me sick to my stomach. These creatures are full of personality and life. They deserve to feel the grass under their dinosaur-like bird legs. They deserve to peck around for bugs and grass and to feel the sunshine on their feathers. They are living beings. If you don’t want to be scrammed into a cage, only to be slaughtered after menopause, stop buying eggs. Because they don’t want to live like that either.
The dairy industry is just a sad story… Calves are forced away from their mothers – who reportedly walk around, searching and crying out for them, of course, if they are able to roam around. Male calves butchered for veal or sold to beef farmers. Dairy cows slaughtered after they can no longer produce milk.
As far as veganism is concerned, I hear the argument. I hear it loud and clear, which is why I am shifting my diet to an even larger plant-based diet. There is SO MUCH more to say on the dairy industry. SO SO SO MUCH MORE, but that’s for a different day.
Watch Food Inc. and Cowspiracy for a good start into that subject.

11 — I’ve incorporated veganism into my diet as well.

With the last statements being said, I’m still not 100% vegan. I no longer buy milk, eggs and sour cream from the store. Instead, I drink Blue Diamond Almond Milk – Original, which is the best substitute out there; I’ve tried them all. We have 11 free-range chickens, 2 currently lay eggs so we do not buy eggs from the store. Though, I actually haven’t eaten eggs out of disgust since our chicken passed away from a health complication but I will probably eat them again in the future. I just skip the sour cream altogether. You can buy vegan sour cream brands like Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Organic Sour Cream if you really love sour cream. I haven’t tried any vegan sour cream yet, but someday I will.
As far as cheese goes, I have dramatically limited my cheese consumption. My favorite food has always been chips and cheese. Healthy right? But I don’t eat it even 1/10th as much as I used to… I don’t intend on cutting out cheese entirely, but I do intend on buying it from a trusted, local source. For now, I don’t buy it.

12 — There will never be an end to the repetitive questions I’m asked.

What do you eat? FoodView my Meatless Monday posts. 
How can you not eat bacon? Easy. I think of dead pigs and picture myself having a heart attack.
Where do you get your protein? Beans. Nuts. Seeds. Vegetables. Food… Read 65 Meatless Protein Sources Your Body Craves
Where do you get your iron? Lentils. Whole wheat pasta. Whole grains. Beans. Seeds. Kale. Brussel Sprouts. Sun Dried Tomatoes & more… Read 31 Iron Rich Foods for Vegetarians. 
Why don’t you eat meat? Because I feel that humans want to live just as much as other sentient living beings. We shouldn’t destroy life just because we have the capability of doing it. AND it’s not necessary for our survival. 

Questions are good.

Because maybe you want to eat cruelty-free too. Or maybe you are just genuinely curious with no intention of cutting out meat from your diet. Questions are how we learn and pass on information. This is great! Ask away.

13 — There will never be an end to the repetitive & snarky comments.

Animals are gonna die anyways. People die too, shall I eat them as well?
That sounds expensive. Not really. If I skip mock meats, my dinners are like 1/8th the price of yours. (Totally made up that number but vegetables, beans, grains and seasonings are fairly inexpensive.)
You’re malnourishing your children. False. I’ve never cooked a healthier, well balanced diet.  
Your children need meat and dairy products to grow. False again, my friend. There are many, many plant-based foods packed with essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals and we eat a wide variety of them. My vegan cousin’s pediatrician was very surprised and happy to see a mother raising a vegan baby. (Thanks lil cuz’ for sharing that with me.)
Your children will be mocked. Just because everybody is doing something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. And regardless, our local school district (located in a rural midwestern <hunting territory> setting) has changed to a new meal plan which includes vegetarian meal options in their hot lunches. 
But it tastes SO GOOD. I ate meat for 25 years of my life. I think I’ve contributed enough to the massive amounts of animal abuse and slaughter to permanently ruin my appetite for meat forever. 
Humans were born to eat meat. Okay. I see your point. Not really. 
God put animals on Earth for humans to eat. Thank you for sharing your opinion. Are you going to eat my cat too? I’ll hand over my dog when he starts getting on my nerves again. 

Attacks are bad.

I blog about and promote a vegetarian lifestyle but I will never tell you not to eat meat in a personal conversation, whether online or in person. Sometimes, I release built-up emotions regarding the subject on social media pages by posting the reality of factory farms and animal slaughter. I try to keep that at a minimum though. If you are not interested in learning about vegetarianism, you don’t have to read my spiels! Click elsewhere.  Unfollow me. I’m okay with that.

14 — It feels bad when I choose not to eat the meal that you worked so hard to cook for me.

I don’t expect anyone to cook vegetarian meals for me. In fact, if it’s bothersome or a problem in even the tiniest way, I don’t want you doing it. I don’t like to be in the spotlight. I am not trying to cause anyone problems. I will eat what I can and make do.
So why not just eat it anyways? Well… To put it simply, I’m completely disgusted by all meat. Yes, that includes chicken broth. Also, if I eat meat at your place, you will have to buy enough meat for me too, which means supporting animal slaughter for another person. 

15 — People view me as extreme.

Quality health & nutrition, animal welfare and environmental sustainability are not important? I’m not rounding up meat lovers and exterminating them.
…Maybe it’s all just liberal shit.
No, I’m good with being extreme because it is the only way people will pause a moment and think outside of their long engrained traditions.