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Easing Into Vegetarianism

[Cincinnati Enquirer]

The season of decadence is ending, and the season of promises is beginning.

In honor of each new year, many of us resolve to try new things. If you would like to go veggie in 2007, plenty of tricks can ease the lifestyle transition.

In theory, vegetarians choose not to eat meat and vegans choose not to eat meat, dairy, eggs or anything made using animal products. In practice, the definitions are a little looser.

Some people choose to become vegetarian slowly, by eliminating certain foods one at a time. Other people ban meat products overnight.

Either option can work. Pick the way that's right for you. It's important to remember that food is culture, so in some ways you're choosing to change your culture.

"It takes about a year to change your mindset," says vegan food writer Bryanna Clark Grogan. Creativity and a sense of adventure are key. New vegans and vegetarians should be willing to experiment with new foods - Grogran suggests trying one new food each week - and it definitely helps new converts if they can cook.
Most vegetarians quickly learn their decision to give up meat sparks a lot of interest, but Grogan recommends not discussing your choice, especially at the dinner table, where debating meat can ruin a nice dinner. It's also important to understand that just because you've changed your eating habits, it doesn't mean that others will be accommodating - always offer to bring a vegetarian dish to share.

"Allow a little flexibility in social situations at the beginning," she says.

If you're not getting enough support from family and friends, don't be afraid to join a vegetarian-friendly group. Connect with like-minded people at local food co-ops or on college campuses. A thriving vegetarian community also exists online.

As with anything new, keep in mind that practice makes perfect. Give yourself some time to figure out what and how you want to eat. Grogan says new vegans and vegetarians often make the mistake of being too hard on themselves.

"They have to learn to forgive themselves if they mess up," she says. "There's no vegan police."

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