Every day, people are making the decision to cut their ties with enormous amounts of cruelty simply by making kinder choices every time they sit down to eat. Many of us were raised eating meat and other animal products, so the idea of going vegetarian can be daunting. But the truth is that you only need to arm yourself with the right knowledge—making the switch to a plant-based diet is as easy as these four E's:
"Veg up" the meals that you already eat. It's easier than you think: Instead of meat sauce, put tomato sauce on pasta; if basic marinara or tomato sauces aren't your thing, experiment with adding chopped vegetables, like eggplant and mushrooms, to your sauce. Use tofu, beans, legumes, texturized vegetable protein, gluten, or ready-made mock meats in recipes that normally call for animal flesh. It may take a while to get used to preparing something different, but soon it will become second nature. Plus, these alternatives are tasty and nutritious, so it's definitely worth the effort. Go here for more tips on using alternatives to animal products in recipes.
There are so many fruits and vegetables out there that deserve to be elevated to entrée status instead of being considered as just side dishes or the occasional dessert. At PETA, we're constantly hearing from people whose vegetarian diet was what turned them from takeout addicts into gourmet cooks. Let your imagination run wild—and send us the recipe!
Eat your way around the world and back! Try falafel: spiced fava beans or chickpeas made into balls or patties and wrapped in pita bread. Many Asian cuisines abound with tofu dishes, vegetable curries, and plenty of other meat-free items that satisfy even the pickiest of palates. Indian restaurants in particular are guaranteed to have several vegan items on the menu. And if you're ever stuck someplace that's behind the times, don't hesitate to ask for a vegetarian item—most chefs and cooks will be glad to ditch the oyster sauce or even whip up an entirely new dish just for you. Big tip: It may seem weird at first, but try ordering a pizza without cheese. You'll be surprised by how the flavors of every individual topping come out in all their gastronomic glory.
Get into the habit of checking labels. That instant mushroom soup might have some chicken fat mixed in, and most brands of Worcestershire sauce list anchovies as an ingredient. Choose jellies made with agar-agar, carrageenan, or guar gum—these plant-based jelling agents work just as well, and they're often cheaper than gelatin, which is made from the boiled bones, skins, and tendons of animals. It's also very important to read as much about vegetarianism as you can. The Food Revolution by John Robbins, whose Diet for a New America earned him a Pulitzer Prize nomination, is the perfect place to start. Can't be bothered to read an entire book? Check out Web sites like GoVeg.com.