A family member recently asked us how to get started with vegetarian eating. While we certainly do not feel compelled to tell other people what to eat, we do feel strongly about the importance of healthy eating (of any kind). In the spirit of that, we thought we'd share the snippets below more widely.
Here's some stuff to get started on:
http://www.amazon.com/Enchanted-Broccoli-Katzens-Classic-Cooking/dp/1580081266 (or any of the Moosewood cookbooks. Moosewood is a famous vegetarian restaraunt in Maine)
A couple of things to focus on:
1) Learn how to cook grains (brown and wild rice, spelt, millet, quinoa) and beans and integrate them into your cooking. Learn how to flavor your food with spices, peppers, onions, garlic, sauces and marinades (rather than salt, butter and fat).
2) Learn how to make your own pie shells (so that you can make veggie pot pies - you can put all sorts of stuff in pie shells).
3) Lean how to cook and use squash (butternut is the best to start with) in your cooking. You can buy this in the freezer section if you don't want to process fresh squash. Pureed squash is sweet and makes a great "matrix" for burritos and pot pies.
4) Ethnic foods such as Mexican and Indian lend themselves better to vegetarian eating than do the traditional american "home cooking". For example, you can make a huge batch of beans/rice/cheese-based filling for burritos, pre-roll and freeze a bunch and then just bake them when needed. You could also just buy bean burritos but they won't be as good as home made.
5) Your likelihood of success at any kind of healthy eating is greater if you cook your own food and greatest if you also enjoy cooking your own food. Quality over quantity (in both your ingredients and your portions sizes) will go a long way to helping you to dispel the myth that quality food "costs" more.
6) Share your passion for healthy eating with others. Hang around people who share your passion for health.
7) Experiment wildly with your cooking. What have you got to lose?
8) Have fun when you cook. Eat slowly. Share meals with others.
9) Look for quality ingredients at food co-ops, Whole Foods stores or the organic/health food sections of major grocery chains. Buy organic food and ingredients as much as possible. If buying quality food seems "expensive" then don't eat out and use the savings from that to "subsidize" your new found habit of supporting sanity in agriculture. Soon you will realize that this "subsidy" is really just paying the true cost of healthful food.
10) Spread the word about how good you feel (physically, emotionally, spirtually) since you've reclaimed your palate and energized your mind and body with GOOD FOOD!
Transitioning to a plant and grain-based (yes, we eat eggs and dairy but as condiments, proportionally) diet is one of the most life-changing things we've come across. Give it a go, be patient, be open, have fun!