The Most Laid-Back Guide to Going Vegetarian You’ll Ever Read

Last Saturday, I had the honor of speaking at the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival.

It went well and I had a great time, but in hindsight, I realize the topic I chose was a tough one.

I spoke about the “no-pressure approach” to vegetarianism that I take with No Meat Athlete. Instead of trying to persuade people that they should go vegetarian (and now, dammit!), I’d much rather just set an example that people can choose to follow or learn from if they’d like. I’ve just never been one for confrontation, and I hope my writing here reflects that.

But after I was done speaking, I thought to myself: Boy, that would have been so much easier if I had just talked about the same stuff I write on the site. 

And so I got to thinking — what’s the gist of my message?

That’s when I got the idea for a series of posts that I should have written long ago. This is the first post in that series, the heart of the message I want to spread about vegetarianism (future installments will be about running and healthy eating, I think).

And as it turns out, it’s pretty much a demo of what I talked about in NYC. So that works out. 🙂

“Should” you go vegetarian?

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want you to go vegetarian or vegan. Compassion for animals was big part of my reason for doing so, and so I’d love it if nobody ate them.

But I’m not going to tell you what’s best for you. That’s for you to decide.

Is a plant-based diet healthier than an omnivorous one?

Tough one.

I believe I’m a lot healthier now that I’m vegan. It forces me to avoid fast food and countless other convenient, but unhealthy, foods that I used to eat. So in my mind, there’s no question that a well-planned plant-based diet is healthier than the standard (terrible) American diet.

But how about compared to a whole-foods diet that happens to include a small amount (say, 10% of calories) of meat, maybe a little dairy? Honestly, I’m not convinced that one is clearly healthier than the other.

There’s a lot of science that says a plant-based diet is better. And there are plenty of people who claim that this science is bunk.

To me, it’s not clear that one diet is necessarily healthier than the other. I’m fine to call it a tie. I just know that passing up a McDonald’s is way easier for me now than it was before I was vegetarian, and as a result, I make so much more of my own food than I used to, and eat so many more fruits and vegetables than before. For that aspect, I like it.

Is a plant-based diet better for sports?

I got faster when I went vegetarian, so much so that I took over 10 minutes off my previous marathon and qualified for Boston on my first attempt after I changed my diet.

But I also changed the way I trained, so I can’t say for sure how big a role each change played. I can say that I lost 5-10 pounds when I went vegetarian, and I believe that was a huge factor in getting faster.

Brendan Brazier and Scott Jurek have both told me they believe they recover from workouts better on a plant-based diet than on other diets. And the number of professional non-endurance athletes who choose plant-based diets seems to be increasing.

What does all this mean? To me, this means you can perform just as well without eating animal protein as you can with it. It doesn’t necessarily mean you can perform better; that probably depends on the individual.

But if better athletic performance is your goal, it means that a plant-based diet is worth as much consideration as any other.

So now that that’s out of the way…

I know — real strong case I’ve made for going vegetarian, right?

But seriously, I don’t think it should be about health or performance claims compared to omniviorous diets. It just doesn’t need to be.

The standard American diet is so bad that almost any whole-foods based diet will beat it — in a humiliating fashion, no less. So if a plant-based diet is aligned with your values, particularly as they relate to how human beings treat animals and the environment, then go for it.

Or if you just think it’d be fun to try eating vegetarian or vegan (or even just eating less meat) to see how you like it, then of course I encourage you to do it. (I actually now enjoy the challenge of choosing and making different foods than what used to be the default.)

If you want to try eating less meat or even go all the way, here’s how I’d do it.

The easiest way to eat less meat

I made two attempts to go vegetarian. The first failed miserably after a week; the second has lasted three years and I have no plans to go back.

From those two experiences, and from what I’ve seen others experience, here’s what I think are the most important keys to making the change last.

1. At first, don’t try to “never eat meat again.”

I have nothing but admiration for those can who give up meat, once and for all, right off the bat. They decide, right away, that they’re going vegetarian or even vegan, and they never go back.

I wish I could say it worked like that for me. Instead, for that entire first week of my failed attempt, I just kept thinking about how hard it was — that there was no way I could actually make my vegetarian foray last.

So what was different about the second time? A lot of things, but one big one was that I set end-dates.

At first, I said I’d eat vegetarian + fish for 10 days. After that, I could go back if I wanted.

But I liked how I felt, so the next time, I set the mark at 30 days, and started cutting out the fish too. Again, if I got to the end and decided to quit, it was cool.

In this way, by the time I started thinking, “I’ll never eat meat again,” I didn’t really like eating meat anymore. Or at least I was accustomed to not eating it. And so it never felt like much of a loss.

2. Transition smoothly, from four legs to two legs to no legs.

Making drastic changes is fun. Exciting. And sometimes, effective.

For me, for this, it wasn’t.

That first time, I just stopped eating all meat. It didn’t last.

The second time, I stopped eating red meat and pork first. For an entire year. It wasn’t part of a plan to go vegetarian; I just felt at the time that since vegetarian was too hard for me, this was the next best thing.

It was easy to get by on turkey burgers, seafood, and lots of chicken. And all the Italian recipes I loved to cook worked just fine when I replaced the ground lamb, pork, or beef with birds, so it was pretty easy.

Then, when I decided I wanted to go further, I cut out our flying feathered friends. I still ate fish for a few weeks, not sure if I wanted to go all the way.

Then one day, I just realized that I didn’t really like eating fish. By that time, I ate so little of it that I don’t even remember when I “officially” stopped. And it wasn’t until two years later, after gradually phasing out dairy, that I became vegan.

It was all so easy. I’ve since learned that making tiny changes, stacked on top of each other, is the most effective way to make big changes. So that’s how I recommend you do it.

3. Plan for each new phase.

If you decide, spur of the moment, to change, you’ll likely fail like I did the first time.

So how exactly does one “plan” to give up chicken, for example?

First, you make sure you don’t have chicken in your house. Finish it up, or give it away.

Then do a little research. Since you’ll be cutting out a protein source, make sure you don’t just replace it with starchy carbohydrates. Pick out a few hearty, healthy vegetarian meals you can try.

Next, you plan an entire week’s worth of meals that don’t include chicken. Pick a few vegetarian recipes, maybe a few that include fish, perhaps even a few with Gardein fake chicken while you adjust. Then go to the grocery store to get what you need for the week. (Just a tip: freeze the fish if it’s going to be a few days before you eat it.)

And don’t forget — if you’re going to be going on a car trip, or maybe to a party where they won’t have anything you eat, be prepared. Get some snacks or even eat a small meal beforehand so that you won’t have to rely on willpower to get you through it.

4. Give yourself a break!

I don’t mean a break from vegetarianism — I mean let yourself eat some less-than-ideal foods to make the changes easier.

When you first cut out the meat, let yourself eat some extra pasta, fake meats, or even cheese. Sure, none of these are great for you, but the point is to ease the shock and make the transition more pleasant, so that you aren’t tempted to quit.

I still eat Field Roast sausagey-like substance from time to time when I’m really craving it. It’s made from wheat gluten, and I’m sure it’s total junk food. But if it takes an occasional splurge to eat a diet that, the other 95% of the time, compels me to make better choices, then to me, that seems worth it.

5. Try new foods

The most exciting part of a vegetarian diet is all the new foods there are to experience. Sure, you could have tried them all along, but for some reason you didn’t when it’s easy to fill the plate with meat, potatoes, and — when you were feeling really saucy — a vegetable.

So take advantage of a new reason to expand your horizons. Make some Indian food, or go to a Thai restaurant or eat Ethiopian food with your hands. Or find a weird-looking, brown, hairy root in the produce section of the grocery store and Google “recipes based on weird-looking, brown, hairy roots” and make one of them. (Make sure you catch the name of said root, because the cashier will not know it.)

Allowing yourself to experience all these new flavors and textures will take your attention off of what’s missing from your plate, and shift it to what’s new and interesting.

In short: relax your expectations and make it easy on yourself

Trust me, I know how hard it is, when you’re all pumped up to make a big change, to understand that your willpower and enthusiasm will, at some point, wane.

And so, rather than crashing at that point, and feeling like you failed, I’ve learned that you’re so much more likely to succeed if you don’t expect too much of yourself.

So go slowly, go smoothly, and don’t beat yourself up over mistakes. And when you’ve got questions or concerns, reach out. It’s not hard to find someone who wants you to be vegetarian and would be happy to help.


A few more useful posts and pages about going vegetarian:



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  1. Hey! I totally agree with this post, especially the part where we need to not expect too much from ourselves. That works so well for me, in all aspects of my life. However with being vegetarian, I did do it all in one fell swoop, mentally, but I did make mistakes. It was not until I made the connections completely, in my head, of how much better I feel eating this way. And, the whole foods movement has been a positive inspiration. I was blessed with the genetics of being chronically “plugged-up”.(sarcasm)- but it was the huge motivational force to find what works for me. And, the whole foods, no oil approach has been a ray of light in my life. I encourage everyone to try it!! It makes life so much better. And, now, I get to train every day, and have awesome runs. It is a win-win.

  2. Jon Weisblatt says:

    Right On Matt!! I’m still a work in progress more than 2 years after making the effort. I still eat pizza occasionally and I looove my wife’s nachos. I just can’t find a vegan cheese I like (I’ve tried a few kinds. Next up is the one sold at Trader Joe’s). So if I eat a bit of dairy or the occasional tuna wrap when the other choices would be less than idea (a healthy helping of french fries or onion rings with a salad if I’m on the road), I’m ok with it and won’t beat myself up. Even T. Colin Campbell admits to eating salmon a few times a year. Rock on Matt!

  3. Agreed Matt! Thanks for pulling all this great info together in one place. I completely concur on your lets-not-shove-it-in-people’s-faces-and-try-to-gross-them-into-going-veg*n approach. It often isn’t going to win over converts and certainly not make friends so better to lead by example and be support. The slow and steady method of cutting back similarly worked for me (along with the splurges) and having all the great resources you have linked to has made a great difference.

  4. This is the kind of post I’ve been waiting to see online (to share!) forever now! I feel the same way about your non-pressure approach. I don’t feel like I should push my vegetarian ways upon anyone else (just like I don’t feel they should push their diet on to me!). But there’s no harm in sharing veg’n information and letting everyone decide for themselves. There’s too much outrageous information out there about meat being bad for you (health-wise) and I think it makes some veg’ns sound a little crazy when they argue “meat is BAD, it gives you CANCER”. Um, no, more than likely organic, grass-fed meat will not make you die or give you cancer. We need more level-headed veg’ns like you walking around! And a little less of the crazy ones 😉 Great article!

    • Not A Vegetarian Yet says:

      Meat is harder to digest. While I agree with you that if cows are fed properly they will be healthier to consume, I would have to say that it wouldn’t necessarily make them a healthy choice to eat. Speaking in term of ratio, carnivores have a smaller torso-intestinal ratio because meat rots after a certain period of time and they have to push out that waste quicker. Herbivores have a longer and same torso-instestinal ratio that we do. The greens require a bit more time to break down in order to get all of the nutrients. Rarely will you see a vegetarian/vegan with cardiovascular problem. Even rates of Irrital Bowel Syndrome are nearly unheard of. Many scholars have argued that we as humans aren’t omnivores and quite frankly, I’d agree. I’m not a vegetarian by any means, but I’m thinking of attempting the transition while remains a bit lax in terms of discipline. (If it’s pizza and wings night then I will eat some) 🙂

      • Not A Vegetarian Yet says:

        Sorry I meant “remaining”* (not “remains”)

      • India has some of the highest rate of cardiovascular disease in the world. The idea is to still remain healthy while being vegetarian; stay away from fried foods, excessive carbs that get converted to sugar and add to cholesterol at the end. Plant based diet with phytonutrients and plant based proteins are important.

  5. Guess I am a bit confused. What is the point of being No Meat Athlete if you are not convinced of the health benefits. I thought in the past you had credited your diet for your athletic improvement, and now it might have been the change in training? Matt, I like you and I like your site, but it sounds to me like you are backing down or getting kind of wishy washy as to the benefits of No Meat.

    • Frida Nielsen says:

      It shouldn’t necessarily be about being healthy, i personally am here becuse of the animal cruelty, and my love for animals

      • Me too. I can just no longer allow myself to have any part or be the reason for the the screams of abused cows, goats, pigs, even babies: lambs and calves or the intelligent chickens that are used for our food.
        If it keeps me up at night and I remember that those farm workers hit them, kick them, cripple and rape them even, then how can I eat something innocent that has suffered so much. We are the greatest savages on earth, us humans.

  6. this is a great post! i agree with you in believing vegan is the healthiest diet for us. there are too many studies to now believe it is true and like you i have felt the incredible effects first hand.

  7. I’m not vegan for my health, I’m vegan for the health of the animals. That’s why I stick with it. The other benefits are just an added bonus.

  8. Bearing in mind that I’m maybe 1/20th as athletic as you, Brazier or Jurek, I have found that while training for a marathon as a vegetarian, my recovery times after long runs are *much* shorter than when I was a meat eater or a less-meat eater training for halfathons. My husband points out that I may also be better at training (maybe), more fit (not really), etc. But I really think the diet change – and resulting increase in plant antioxidants & other phytochemicals – is a big part of the difference.

    At any rate, I really appreciate the low-key veg approach on NMA. I refer people here all the time for that reason.

  9. I seem to remember something about the Tarahumara eating small rodents… maybe this is the secret to their amazing running ability .

  10. I completely agree with this approach. Kudos to you, Matt, or spelling it out in such a relatable way. As much as I want everyone to go vegan the second they taste my food or listen to my passionate rhetoric, I understand my own path was a progression that started with giving up beef and pork as a teenager,which ultimately led me to become a dedicated vegan in my mid-twenties. I can’t imagine ever going back, not even for a second, but I do understand my journey had multiple moments of enlightenment, which furthered my commitment, before I became the passionate vegan I am today. Thank you for sharing your adventure and making it sound so easy for others to join you.

  11. Sean Murphy says:

    This is a really great post – it’s refreshing to see someone willing to take the scientific view of “we just can’t tell” even when it would be an easier sell to argue based on feeling and opinion. I agree that any whole foods based diet will give you big performance gains when compared to the standard American diet. It always makes me frustrated vegans and meat-eating whole fooders argue over which is healthier – they both are. The rest is just a personal/moral choice at this stage, until there is more evidence for a performance difference either way.

  12. As a vegetarian and now vegan – I have tried more foods that I ever tried as a “meat-eater”. I have actually found that pizza is awesome without cheese!! You can actually taste all the flavors of the sauce and veggies! I think it is important to try new things with an open-mind… you may find your new favorite food. And it also helps in the optimal nutrition department 🙂

  13. Thanks Matt, I really appreciate your honesty and your laid-back approach.

  14. I’ve been veggie for 15 years. I live in the South where being a vegetarian is sometimes considered akin to choosing not to breath air.
    I am now 5 months pregnant with a giant (large for it’s size) vegetarian baby.
    Thanks for all of your posts that encourage a plant-based lifestyle and also encourages all of us to make better choices.

  15. Fantastic post, Matt. As a born-and-raised vegetarian, I have it easy–you can’t really miss what you’ve never had–so I have MAD respect for those of you who make the conscious choice to give up a huge part of your diet. You are all awesome!

  16. Great post Matt! I used the “cliff-jumping” method to make the transition but as a personal trainer I’ve used your “legs” approach with my clients when they express interest. It’s tough not to push my desires for their vegetarianism during our sessions – tough. But keeping my trap shut and presenting a healthy, happy, butt-kicking example of vegetarianism has sparked more change than all of the times I’ve screamed from my soapbox – combined!

    Thanks (yet again!) for creating this community. All of us NMAers appreciate what you do!

  17. I went vegetarian 15 years ago cold turkey so to speak… it wasn’t hard. But I still love cheese so I’m not vegan at this point. And I don’t love cooking, so I don’t get as much protein as I probably should. But it’s a work in progress!

  18. Matt,

    I am a first time reader to your site and LOVE IT!!!

    I recently gave up all moving creatures (four legs, two, fins, shells, etc) corresponding with Christian Lent holiday (I am no longer religious, just a good time to try something) and while my running has waned due to winter laziness; I feel much more energetic and alert.

    I get a lot of social pressure to eat meat and it is a little harder for me to explain my rationale as this is a dietary experiment and has little to do anything else.

    I look to start running again Sunday and look forwardd to reading more of your site.


  19. Great post! I totally agree that you have to work in phases. This isn’t a diet, it’s a complete lifestyle overhaul. Going from omnivore to vegetarian to vegan took me about two years total. And I still dabble in seafood from time to time! It’s whatever works best for you. But the switch over definitely keeps you away from fast food joints and inspires you to go to the gym.

  20. Chris G. says:

    If everyone took this balanced and honest approach to issues, the World would be a better and more peaceful place. Good for you for providing the honest facts and letting people decide for themselves. Thanks Matt!

  21. WONDERFUL post!! This was GREAT to read…and I am so glad you put this all in “real” terms for REAL people! I just watched Forks Over Knives, bought the Engine 2 Diet book – and have tried like heck NOT to feel guilty b/c I can’t give up cheese yet! Beef – easy. Pork, no problem. I am even better with the chicken and fish…but cheese? Meh.
    I plan to revisit your site often – and check out recipes! Thanks SO MUCH for your encouragement!

  22. Great information, going vegetarian is clearly not for everyone, but I feel like most Americans should strive for less animal products in their diets. I followed a vegetarian diet for some time, and now I just try to keep animal based foods at a minimum.

    I love the “Relaxed approach” that you take to going vegetarian, and or vegan. So many people nit pick all the little details and it ends up consuming who they are. It’s good to know what you believe in, and stick to your beliefs, but when it comes to food I think that self control and education is simply all we need.

    I don’t have any problem with someone who enjoys fast food. However, those kinds of overly processed and subsidized foods should not be staples in our diets. It’s just calories and fat, nothing in between. Our bodies need whole food to provide all that we need to “thrive”!

  23. Just discovered your blog and now I’m doing the happy dance! I’ve never really liked meat and so I rarely ate it. After reading a couple of books, I chose to be vegan — about a month ago. I’ve never felt better! I’ve already lost 5 pounds and I hope that my running speed will improve. Thanks for the good information!

  24. Great post, Matt! I’m glad to know there are other non-pressure veg runners out there like me.

    I wanted to add something to this thoughtful post as well: it seems to me that a lot matters on one’s own body. We’re all different and no one diet fits another precisely. I think the same goes for vegetarianism and veganism. What works for one person might be a disaster for another. Some vegans end up super-healthy (whether or not they like to cook or are getting the right amounts of things, etc) while others end up experiencing problems. And vice versa. I’m convinced that I’m lucky, because after about three meat-free years, I haven’t had many problems. But when I tried to go vegan I found myself weak and nearly passing out–part of this was related to my choice of diet. I found out, for example, that it is not easy living in certain places (non-first world countries) and surviving on a vegan diet. I ended up adding eggs back to my diet because I was getting sick often. Again, this doesn’t happen to everyone and a lot probably depended on my body, in a new environment, with new foods to work with.

    Likewise, one of my favorite, long-time vegan chefs, started adding back dairy for similar reasons of illness. Meanwhile, people like Scott Jurek can get by eating 100% vegan and running 100 mile races. Everyone’s body is different!

  25. Thanks for this post! Just read your other post on running. I’ve been a vegetarian now for about 5 weeks. I’m working on going vegan, not so easy..I love chocolate and sometimes the cheese gets me, usually the only time this happens is if I want a pizza or I’m our somewhere. I try to eat grains, beans, veggies, and fruits..I wish I could do this 24/7 hopefully one day! I’m also training for a half marathon. i honestly wish I was a faster runner but I guess in time I can work on that, for now I’ll focus on just finishing!

  26. Michele says:

    Hi Matt. I recently found your website and have to say I love it. I am a new vegetarian, been a runner for over 20 years. I wanted to try years ago and reduced my meat consumption but then started P90X and couldn’t figure out how to get the protein they recommend. I’m not a big fan of beans and hate tofu and tempeh. Since then I have ended up trying a few black bean dishes that I never thought I would have liked and started gradually reducing my meat intake since last fall. Black bean and roasted sweet potato casserole is my favorite, I even made black bean brownies 2 weeks ago and they were delicious.

    I’ve lost 45 lbs in the past year and in January I started making green smoothies every day in my $10 Walmart blender. After a couple weeks of that I watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and was so inspired the next day I bought a Vitamix. Since then I’ve been eating mostly meatless meals and this Saturday, my 45th birthday, I will officially be a vegetarian. I had originally planned to have a final burger and gooey dessert but have lost all desire for the burger. I still want the dessert of course. I’m really enjoying your articles and am excited to see how my running improves. It’s been a few years since I’ve run a 1/2 marathon but there’s one in Nov I did in 2006 and I want to see if I can improve my time and make under 2 hours. Back then it was 2:05:57 so I’ve got a good chance. I’m so excited to start this new chapter in my life. Next week a nutritionist from one of the local hospitals is having a seminar on vegetarianism. I also have a private consult with her before the class so I’m really looking forward to learning more and she’s also a runner so that’s another benefit. Thanks for the inspiration!

  27. I agree that for a lot of people, quitting cold turkey is a recipe for failure. I first said to myself that I would not eat beef pork or chicken but yes to dairy, fish and seafood which meant I could have pizza and easily eat at Chinese restaurants. It was fairly easy to stick to that. I did have a steak a couple of times just to try it and then found it wasn’t as great as a remembered. I think it’s good to go back to meat a couple of times in the initial stages, so that you don’t feel a complete loss of your former life, and to not overly idealize meat into something that it isn’t. Your taste buds change over time. You will start to crave more plants and less meat. As I gave up fish and dairy, I gradually learned a whole new way of cooking and many recipes. I bought a Vitamix. I make my own almond milk. People think I’m a real homemaker but I’m the laziest person on earth. If you go vegan before you know how to cook differently for yourself, you won’t eat well and you will fail. If you do fail, don’t judge yourself, just add more plants in every day and you will eventually succeed. Good luck!

  28. Thank you for being honest, instead of confusing me. I have done so much research onf what kind of diet is the best for myself and my family. What I have realized so far is its not so much what we eat, but that it is organic, minimally processed and wholesome. I am still trying to decide to go vegetarian and I really want to but my husband does not. Maybe you can write an article on how to introduce a no-meat diet to young children and the spouse? I would love to read about it.

  29. I am looking to try being a vegetarian again, and came across your page. LOVE the idea of stepping gradually away from meat, and not putting hard deadlines! Has made me feel less stress than the last time I tried (lasted 8 weeks).

  30. Thanks so much for this post! I’m interested in eating less meat (and possibly transitioning into full-on vegetarianism/veganism), but I find a lot of blogs about becoming vegetarian are so biased and pushy that it kind of turns me off the idea. This is a great source of info and it made me get excited about eating less meat!

  31. Totally agree with the don’t try to never eat meat again policy. Can it work? Yes it can. HOWEVER, most of the time the best way in is to gradually go for it. Make on switch at a time. Take action, massive action, on re-arranging your enviroment – this is so helpful, I covered it even more in the free report I give out. That can be done full guns blazing, ie switch all meat snacks for vegetarian snacks. One other great thing is to write a list of 100 reasons why you want to become a vegetarian, heck go visit a slaughter house for motivation!

    I believe the vegetarian lifestyle truly is a win win, for human health and animal protection. What could be better, eh. Once again great post, love it!

  32. I have been wanting to go vegetarian for a while now and today I just typed into Google “going vegetarian”. I was really prepared for a lot of condescending websites by hardcore vegetarians and was expecting to be turned off and not being part of that “cult”.

    Then Google gave me your site as the first result and that’s where my reading stops. Thank you for writing this piece and being wishy washy like another person has caked you. I can live and join something where people aren’t all crazy and hardcore and judgemental about stuff.

  33. christiana says:

    I have recently been considering going vegetarian and your post has helped me with final decision. I am definitely going to!! Wish me luck!!

  34. Milcaly says:

    This was really helpful I’ve been thinking about going vegetarian for months but didn’t think I could pull it off. Now I think I should at least give it a try 🙂

  35. Christopher says:

    Not pressuring adults into changing to a vegetarian way of living makes so much more sense to me than beating us over the head. Adults receive so much information in any given day and in general, and we don’t like or appreciate being told what to do. I’m new to vegetarianism (after 2 previous failed attempts). I liken it to giving up booze or cigarettes, or going on a diet. You won’t be successful unless you’re truly ready. It takes work. Planning every meal can be pain in the butt but it’s sorta’ fun and in my case anyway, it’s revealed I have a creative side. Something I didn’t know I had.

  36. Thank you for your inspiring post. Coincidentally I have been going vegetarian this past month in the exact same way described. I tried to go vegan a few years back and failed miserably. Now I’m not even thinking about putting myself in a defined box. I seem to naturally want veggie dishes if I don’t put much thought into meat. It helps that my 4 year old loves veggies to especially peas. I also have discovered how versatile lentils are.

  37. I was glad to come across this post. I’m thinking about going vegetarian but I’m trying not to “declare” anything or label it for the time being. (This way is less self-pressure). But it is refreshing to see an article on transitioning to vegetarianism that’s not full of judgment. I initially became inspired by a someone who transitioned to raw vegan and all the benefits were physically apparent. The claim of better health, weight loss, beautiful skin, etc. But once I began to follow this person, I noticed that with each “motivational” post there was blatant judgement regarding the “rest of us” who hadn’t made the transition. It’s difficult to remain inspired by someone like that even when you see the benefits. So thank you for this post!

  38. Thank you sooooo much Matt love for this post. Because of your post I’m so happy that now it’s a little more easier to become a vegetarian. I’ve been thinking about becoming a vegetarian for a year now but I didn’t now where to start. Because of you it’s a lot more easier. I needed this badly. Once again thank you soooo much.

  39. I really want to try and go vegetarian this is a really useful poiece of advice:) thank you!

  40. one of the biggest decisions that i made in my life is to change to a Vegetarian lifestyle. Now 4 years on the same system/diet i have nothing to complainte about, at the beginning it was hard to get rid of all the fatty meals and the bad fast-food habites ( i’m not fat by the way ) i tried to focus on meals with a better seasoning, so i made some researches and decided to follow a Pescatarian Diet, This excellent diet includes fish and excludes meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products. IMO Fish is very important to exclude from our meals !

  41. This is exactly the approach I need! Been dancing around the idea of a vegetarian diet for quite some time but must admit I’ve been put off by a lot of the retorich in the vegetarian/vegan community. It has all seemed very “all or nothing”.

  42. Thank you for this very interesting blog.
    I’ve been shifting to becoming vegetarian by myself; without even realizing…so I think it’s a question of choice to actually cut out what’s left of my meat consumption.

    However I must also recognize that this blog, and others I’ve stumbled upon, really help in the process.

    Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with the world !

  43. I really appreciate all the info you provided. The idea to go vegetarian came to me just now, and in reading your post I found myself. I like eating meat, being a vegetarian never appealed to me, but this weekend my dog gave birth to three puppies and then abandoned them (it was her first pregnancy and the vet said it can happen and she just needs time to adjust which she did and now is a great mommy) and for three days (easter days, meaning the only thing I could do was call the vet for information, no consults) I had to fight like I have never fought in my life to save those three little noodles. It made me feel so selfish and guilty for eating meat, because in the same way those puppies were helpless, so too are the to be slaughtered animals. Reading your post really made me realize that I want to go vegetarian for the right reasons, not because of some diet, or health benefits (sure those may come like you said), but because I care a lot about animals and so how can I claim that and eat them? What I’m trying to say is thank you and great job, you win at life:D

  44. Hi! I never thought I’d give up meat since I always viewed myself as a meat and potatoe type of girl. I started on this challenge a couple weeks ago and have not had any red meat, pork or cheese in four weeks. I have no desire to go back either. I’m down ten pounds and am feeling great!! I’m trying new recipes and getting creative with them. Thank you for posting this article about going vegetarian gradually and not all at once.

  45. Caitlin says:

    I really wanted to say thank you for this post! I have wanted to become a vegetarian for awhile, but the couple times I have tried, I cut all meat products out of my diet, and every time I failed! This post made me feel like it was okay to take a while to transition to vegetarianism and to do it gradually, so the shock to your body isn’t so extreme! I really needed this post! Thank you so much for this!

  46. That is so funny that you said the first time you tried to go veggie failed.. cause that is exactly what happen to me too. I didn’t try to start slow I just went cold turkey..from turkey..and all meat. It was a big disappointment. I thought I would never stop eating meat but like you said I’ve gone from 4 legs to 2 legs. I replaced everything I used beef for with turkey or chicken and its great. I’m losing weight and not craving beef or pork whatsoever. Soon I hope to give up the birds and go plant based diet 100%. Now the real challenge is getting my 7 year old daughter to do the same!!

  47. Thank you! I have been wanting to become vegetarian for some time…or at least really reduce the amount of meat that I eat. It has been overwhelming for me and I haven’t really known where to start. Your post has given me the inspiration to start with attainable goals…and see where it takes me!

  48. I wish I had a big long comment that added value to your post. I don’t. I’m just a big burly guy who wrassels with the love for our animal friends and the practice of consuming their flesh. Just wanted to say thank you for your post. It made me think and help solidify some ideas I was bouncing around.

  49. I love your approach to guiding people towards veganism/vegetarianism. I am in the process of thinking about switching over to vegetarianism and find it really hard to do. After reading your article, i found that your approach isnt pushy and actually encourages me to move in that direction. It makes me think, ya i could do this! The way a lot of others try to encourage vegetarianism or veganism just makes me feel like a horrible person and that the goal of living this lifestyle is so so faraway. Just wanted to say im so glad that i stumbled upon this article and also thank you!!

  50. Great Post, my husband and I are starting our journey to cutting meat out of our lives, not for health reasons, and the catalyst was actually a mouse in my house. The little guy had for some reason fallen asleep in the open and a great guilt washed over me thinking is it dead? did I kill it with the poison I had put out in my house? I grabbed a box and my hubby picked him up by the tail, to which the little guy squeaked, he was alive. We decided we would set him free at a warm safe spot and I looked at hubby and said I don’t want to kill animals…our conscience just won’t let us do it anymore. I can’t stand the thought that something died to be on my plate. Weird that a little mouse opened our eyes. I’m lucky to say we have been eating a mostly vegetarian diet for quite some time with read meat only once a month or longer and chicken or fish once or twice a week, I find having a meal service with some interesting vegetarian meal choices is making our transition easier, I don’t have to put so much effort into finding recipes and buying the ingredients, it all comes nicely packaged for me to cook it. I can easily cut out dairy because I’m lactose intolerant anyway, but hubby’s having a harder time cutting out dairy, he’s big cookies and milk fan. I see nothing wrong with eating eggs which I buy from a co-worker who has lovely hens which just run around living happy lives and laying eggs is just a natural part of their days. They aren’t caged and they lay beautifully colored truly organic eggs and I’m supporting a local business. I’ll have to look more into the dairy industry to find the truth and maybe find a local dairy where the cows are living a good life or find a way to get through to hubby. The health benefits will be a bonus and maybe will help me get motivated to start running again, it’s been 2 years!!! Anyway so far we are just starting, thanks for this post. Here’s to trying to live a better life!

  51. This is the reason I follow you Matt,..the “no pressure approach.” I found your NMA posting while I was going vegan and starting to run 6 years ago. Thanks for being you and for your unique way of passing on this lifestlyle. Your ripple effect of wellness has worked well for me. Cheers!

  52. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, your philosophy is very similar to mine. I never set out to become anything, I just decided to give up red meat for health reasons some years ago. After realising I didn’t miss it I then cut out white meat too. The thing I have loved the most has been my re-discovery of my live for cooking! My husband and I now eat freshly cooked food 90% of the time and, even though he is still omnivorous, he only eats meat when we go out to dinner. Anyway I’ll follow your journey and good luck with the sports!

  53. Hi, I have a question from all the vegans and vegetarians who are willing to answer. How about the gases?? I consider week by week to start a vegatarian diet,but I am really afraid of getting a tremendous amount of stinky and disturbing bowl gas from all those fibers and sugars in onions and beans ang cabbagees and peas and etc…What are you experiences???

    • totally funny! Sometimes it can make you a bit bloated and gradually it goes away and it doesn’t affect you anymore but if I don’t eat cabbage/cauliflower/broccoli for awhile then start up again I feel bloated and gassy. And to be a little too sharing: it still smells but it dissipates more quickly than meat-farts. I never noticed a change in bowel movements but I know some people do. I avoid asparagus because it makes urine smell like some creepy deathliquid. Probably toooo much info, but I tried to give your question my “mom” answer 🙂

  54. Perfect advice, thank you for sharing. I loved your ability to relay your opinions and suggestions as if you were speaking directly to me, friend-to-friend, and this approach definitely sheds a positive light on vegetarian and vegan lifestyle…a concept the militant and judgemental crowd sadly are missing when they try to forcefully convert meateaters. For me, I agree with the gradual weaning approach: I went from once a week or two down to monthly then every few months and by then it just felt gross to eat. Seafood does not bother me and I will probably always eat it and I am on the fence with dairy. I did find that cutting out meat and sugar at the same time paired nicely so when I eat meals I feel clean and it helped reduce migraine occurrances. My kids are in their 20s now but at age 3 my eldest daughter announced she wasn’t going to be eating meats or drinking cow milk anymore, and every few years she has a steak then says “ughhhh why did I even eat that?!” So it’s totally fine to fall off the wagon in my opinion since this should be a choice you make for yourself and you owe no one an explanation. Anyways, just felt like rambling with my own thoughts here, thanks again for supporting and inspiring so many people with your honest approach. aloha

  55. Rosalia says:

    What sort of vitamins would you recommend taking when going vegetarian? I’ve heard of iron, but what else is good to take?

  56. Mission accomplished regarding the no pressure approach to becoming a veggie.
    I’ve started by only cooking veggie meals at home and eating meat outside- I don’t eat out much 🙂
    About the easiness of avoiding junk food- I do like the bean burger from Burger King. And I do like fries!
    Nobody’s perfect eh?

  57. I would like to become a vegitarian, but i am scared of what others will say about it.

  58. I’d love to be a vegetarian and I’ve tried going cold turkey but, just like your first try, it didn’t work. I think concentrating on all the things I couldn’t eat anymore just put me in a terrible mindset from the get-go. Now I’m just focusing on reducing my meat intake. At the moment I try to only eat meat maybe 1 or 2 days out of the week and even then I try to only eat chicken. I’m happy with this for now. When I’ve said this to vegetarian friends or family before, I get a judgemental “You’re still eating poor innocent animals” response rather than support. It makes me feel like even the small changes I’m trying to make are meaningless so thanks for this article, it made me feel better!

  59. This is my first attempt of being a vegetarian and I just cut meat all together and now this post make me worried it is being 2 weeks already. I hope I don’t go back to the chicken that it was almost the only meat that I eat. I am still learning how to cook and I leave with more people so it is impossible to get ride of the chicken. I’ll stay strong and see what happen


  1. […] haven’t met vegans who are more laid back about it than my wife and I are. We don’t try to get people to go vegan, we’re […]

  2. […] more tofu, eggs and nuts into my diet. I’ll also avoid any fast food meat. I read on No Meat Athlete that one way to change your diet is to start by not using the word “never”. […]

  3. […] founded the blog in 2009, about the same time he went full vegetarian. Our favorite articles: The Most Laid-Back Guide to Going Vegetarian You’ll Ever Read 7 Steps to Eating Less Meat […]

  4. […] Going vegetarian can surely save a great deal of cash in case you keep away from packaged foods and gourmet elements. But whether or not vegetarianism isn’t to suit your needs, you may save a great deal of money by cutting back on your meat consumption just a very little. Go meatless 1 day a week. Or instead of serving man size steaks, try cutting them up and dividing them and serving  rice and veggies on the side. […]

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