I have been a vegetarian (technically ovo-lacto, but realistically as little lacto as practical) for 23 years now. Here's my opinion:
1) Turn vegetarian because you believe in it, not because it is yet another diet. If you do it for the beliefs, you will stick to it for the rest of your life. If you do it due to dietary concerns, unless that concern is medical related
, you will probably end up dropping it after a few years due to...well...lack of determination. It requires a strength of will to push against the tide, push against the massive amounts of meats the America food industry will pass off around you, and without the solid determination of will you will probably give up sooner or later.
2) Ween yourself off meats. There is no rule that says you have to turn vegetarian, go "cold turkey", in one shot. As Deinagob said, drop off one thing at a time with poultry the last - you'll find doing things in this manner the least impactful on your taste buds and willpower.
3) MOST IMPORTANT - it is about sustainability. I chose ovo-lacto, and indeed Indian vegetarians are ovo-lacto, because it can still provide the body with the necessary complex amino acids that a stricter vegetarian diet (vegan) will almost always be lacking. My secret to eating health - I almost never take vitamins and pretty much almost never need
to, either - is to balance your diet. Even though all food products you eat will be made from vegetable matter
, when you build a meal you still
need to count individual portions as the following:
So, even though everything will be "vegetable", because everything you eat will be made
from vegetables, you must find some vegetable product that can count as a protein (beans, legumes, tofu, eggs, cheese, tempeh, soy / veggie patties, etc.) in the meal. Then a starch: for example, even though pasta can count as a protein as when cooked al dente
the proteins do not break down, still try to count it as a starch. Then a vegetable cooked as a vegetable: carrots, broccoli, asparagus, etc.
Same proper food group balancing as a omnivore, simply all products will be fundamentally based from plant sources. Too many vegetarians will miss this and say "I'm a vegetarian so I'm always eating well because I am always eating my veggies!", but they miss the bodily requirements that the "food groups" grant you.
What does this mean? It means that, properly done, you must treat food unlike the average carnivore / omnivore - you must actually know what you are eating
. Know foods - the good, the bad, what they are to the body in terms of fats, calories and nutrition, etc. In other words, once you become a good
(sustainable, long-term) vegetarian you will be something a lot of people are not nowadays - an educated food consumer
(just as Skrying's hidden comment suggests). And then you'll realize the CRAP that most people eat!!
And why so many people are in poor health now
For some personal comments: I personally almost never eat a salad as a meal. The mass (weight / volume) versus nutrition giveback is too low for my personal tastes. Yes, it is mostly roughage and fiber, a good thing, but unless you make a really complex salad (which I do, when I break that "almost never" rule) you generally have little, or none, of the proteins and other things I just told you pay attention to. So, IMHO, for salad as meals for vegetarians as a frequent occurrence: just say "no".
And the most important comment IMHO...just wait until you try good
vegetarian cooking! You're head will EXPLODE!
EVERY carnivore that I have given vegetarian cooking to - either my own or the best when I go out with friend and find a place that will serve both styles of food - has told me that my vegetarian food tastes BETTER than their meats. EVERY ONE. Vegetarian cooking demands more skill in balancing flavors - there isn't one main flavor (meat). So it is more complex, almost as a rule, than most meat dishes. Much more flavor complexity and balance is important, and the food is lighter (not greasy, as a rule) to boot, so grease does not get in the way of tasting the flavorings.