How to Become a Vegetarian (or Simply Eat More Plants)

Longtime vegetarians already know: To be a vegetarian is to eat really well. But if you’re looking to make the switch to vegetarianism or just a more plant-forward diet, you may have questions, even concerns.

What should I cook? How do I think about meals? How will I know if I’m getting enough protein? A vegetarian diet doesn’t have to be especially health-focused, though it can be, just as it can be comforting and flexible. It should never feel limiting or restrictive, but rather nourishing, even joyous.

Whether you’ve been slowly cutting meat from your diet or you’ve just started giving thought to vegetarianism, this guide — from Hetty Lui McKinnon, a cookbook author and vegetarian of 30 years, and Alice Callahan, a Times reporter who focuses on food and health and follows a plant-forward diet at home — is meant to aid in the transition.

Below, we’ll help you get started in the kitchen — and answer some of the most common health questions you may have, with nutrition experts as our guide.

Where do I even start?

If you love chicken Parm, a mushroom Parm is a worthy meatless option.Credit…Johnny Miller for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

Veg-ifying your favorite meals: We tend to cook and eat what we know, but giving up meat doesn’t mean leaving behind beloved flavors. If you love chicken Parm, opt for one made with mushroom or eggplant instead. If you enjoy the vibrant flavors of larb, make it with mushrooms or tofu, just as you can create an adobo with either eggplant or cauliflower, riff on Indian butter chicken by using chickpeas, and satisfy your schnitzel or breaded cutlet craving with halloumi or tofu. Change takes time, but it is much easier if you lean on familiar flavors and dishes.

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