- Pub. Date:
Treating your body right is a radical act of self-love
The Smart Girl's Guide to Going Vegetarian is an inclusive guide—written by a nutritionist—for young people looking to learn more about what they put in their bodies and how food can be used to practice self-care, mindfulness, sustainability, and body positivity.
These days we're immersed in diet culture—every other celebrity is vegan, influencers push skinny teas, and we all know at least one person who can wax poetic about the benefits of keto. But here's the thing: what you put in your body isn't about labels or a number on a scale, it's about feeling good and living well.
No labels. No fuss. Whether you're going vegan, vegetarian, fish-only, chicken-only, or plant-based (except for the occasional Crunchwrap Supreme from Taco Bell) this book is for you. Because mindful eating is for everyone: if you want to cut down on meat out of curiosity, to boost your energy, to care for the environment, or to better understand what you need to feel your best, here you'll find advice on how to eat well and treat yourself with compassion.
This accessible vegetarian cookbook and guide includes:
- Daily meal ideas and easy vegetarian recipes that everyone will love
- Tips for discussing your food choices with family and friends
- Ideas for finding good food when you're away from home and have less control over what you put in your body
- Getting enough iron, protein, and other vital nutrients to live well
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Read an Excerpt
When I was twelve years old, I became a vegetarian. A cruddy one. A vegetarian who ate rice for dinner and thought it was perfectly OK to order french fries for lunch when my friends were getting burgers. As a result of my less-than-stellar food choices, I constantly battled low energy and had a handful of pounds to lose and a lot of frustration over constant questioning from adults about my eating habits.
I never really liked meat, to be honest—many of my early memories involve choking down some form of beef or chicken so I could justify eating the french fries (again, those fries!), tater tots, or baked potato that came with it. So that made it easy to entertain the idea of giving up meat entirely. But cutting it out of my diet didn't happen overnight.
The next thing that got me thinking about saying so long to meat was my affection for animals. I loved animals. Still do—just ask anyone who knows me how often I talk about my beagle Penny. As a young kid, I owned countless fish and gerbils. Many of my birthday parties were at science museums and environmental centers and involved petting rabbits, snakes, and other wildlife. As I got older, I started to put the pieces together—that chicken comes from, well, chicken. That steak is just a friendlier way of saying cow. I didn't like it one bit. That taste of meat that I already didn't love grew even worse in my mouth.
The final straw on my road to vegetarianism was as simple as this: my parents bought new leather couches. I was horrified. "You're going to make me sit on a cow?!," I exclaimed. "That's it!" my mother said. "I'm sick of this! You want to save the animals when it's good for you, but when you're in the mood for a hamburger, it all goes out the window!" She was right. I hated when my mother was right. But little did she know, I was never really all that into those burgers, anyway (I still really just wanted the fries!). "I'm never going to eat a hamburger again," I proclaimed.
My parents still have the leather couches. And I still haven't eaten a hamburger.
Since that middle school declaration, I've gone on to high school, to college to be a writer, and to graduate school to be a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). While it's been no shock that I've met a lot of other vegetarians along the way, one thing that surprised me is how many have a similar story to mine. Most all of the vegetarians I encounter stopped eating meat when they were somewhere around middle school or high school. And most of them, like me, played around with the idea of vegetarianism—going vegan and then adding back in dairy, giving up red meat first and then chicken and fish, for instance—before they settled on the degree that felt right to them (for the record, as an adult I started eating some fish, which I continue to do today). I've also met a lot of adults who mention that even though they eat meat now, they didn't for a couple of years during middle or high school.
In my work as a nutritionist, I cross paths with a lot of teenagers who are what I like to call "veg-curious"—they're thinking about giving up meat, but aren't quite sure what their particular brand of vegetarianism is going to look like. Or they're confident about what type of vegetarian they want to be, but are struggling with how to do so healthfully or how to convince the adults in their life that this is a good idea. I'm always looking for books, websites, and other resources that I can recommend to my clients. But when I started looking for a place to send what I call my "VegHeads,"—the huge number of teens and preteens figuring out just how they fit into the world of vegetarianism—I fell flat. I found no book or website that encouraged teens to find the level of vegetarianism that worked for them and helped them do so without falling into the same traps that I did.
Which is why I'm writing this book. I know that deciding to be a vegetarian isn't always super clear-cut. You may decide to go veg and then wake up in a cold sweat because you ate chicken pot pie for dinner ("OMG, chicken! Argh!"). Or you may actively make the decision to stop eating just red meat for now and decide about everything else later on. According to what I've learned as I've been on this journey, becoming a vegetarian—for anyone, but especially for teenagers—is a process. Which is why you will often see me using terms other than "vegetarian" to describe us in this book. VegHead, flexitarian, veg-curious, vegetarian-in-training—any way you slice it, we're all just people who are thinking a lot about the way we eat, contemplating giving up meat or just eating less of it in a way that works for us, for the reasons we've decided are right for us. And while we're at it, we're going to learn to be healthy about it from the start. I'm going to make sure you're all set with tips on how to wow your friends and family with delish food, and answer questions about how to go through life not eating meat or more so you don't have to go through the same troubles I did.
In the first chapter of this book, you'll find a quiz that helps you determine where you are on the veg spectrum. Maybe you're just thinking about shifting to a plant-based diet...but you're not sure it's right for you. Perhaps you've been a vegan for a while now. Most likely, though, you're somewhere in between. Wherever you fall, the rest of the book will be about meeting you where YOU are, and giving you tips on getting the nutrients your body needs, standing up for yourself in social situations, how to eat out meat-free, and more that help you be the healthiest, most vibrant, energetic, and happiest VegHead you can be.
So, readers, congratulations on being the kind of person who takes what she eats so seriously. Wherever you end up going, it says a lot about you that you are taking a close look at the food you put in your body and what it means to you. This is a great opportunity to start taking care of yourself from the inside out. I'm so excited to be joining you for this ride.
Love and veggies,
What the heck is...plant-based?
Generally, this refers to eating in a way that includes more plant foods—vegetables, fruits, beans, grains—and fewer animal foods like meat, eggs, and dairy. It doesn't mean you're a vegetarian, but rather that your diet is leaning in that direction.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1: How Veg is Your Head?
CHAPTER 2: Myths and Realities about Going Vegetarian
CHAPTER 3: Paths to Veg
CHAPTER 4: Nutrition for Veggies
CHAPTER 5: Building Your Vegetarian Meal
CHAPTER 6: Sneaky Sources of Meat, Dairy, and More
CHAPTER 7: Eat Out, Veggie!
CHAPTER 8: Veggie Voyager
CHAPTER 9: Really Cool Resources
CHAPTER 10: Get Cookin', VegHead Style
About the Author