A little over three years ago, I became a vegetarian. I made this switch as a first year in college with the hopes of practicing a healthier diet. This transition was not too hard for me because I have never truly been a “carnivore.” But before you make this switch, if you are considering it, there are several things that you need to take into account. Many believe that “being vegetarian” is healthier, but it is only healthier if you practice it properly. This means that constantly eating carbs is not good for you; it is important to make sure that your diet has variety.

When I initially made the switch in college, I did not practice it properly. My diet consisted of cereal, the desert line, and basically no vegetables. Practicing this lifestyle would give me a burst of energy, but by the end of the day I would crash. Being a student-athlete, this made it especially difficult to get through the day. I decided that I needed to adjust my lifestyle choices and practice being vegetarian properly if I was going to continue. Nowadays, going vegan/vegetarian seems to be a trend for college students, but there are adjustments/additions to your diet that you are going to have to make if you want to practice being a healthy vegan/vegetarian. Below is a list of things that you will need to do if you do decide to make the switch.

  1. Purchase a B12 supplement. Vitamin B12 is essential in order to keep your nerve and blood cells working. Deficiencies in B12 can lead to tiredness, loss of appetite, nerve problems, and depression. This vitamin only occurs naturally in animal foods—so, if you give up meat, the only way to obtain B12 is through a supplement. Make sure you invest in it if you make the switch.
  2. Purchase an iron supplement/multivitamin with iron. This is optional, but a lot of your iron comes from meat. Being anemic, I have had to do this in order to add to my already low iron levels. Other sources of iron include sunflower seeds, leafy greens, and dried raisins.
  3. Be prepared to answer a lot of questions. I cannot begin to tell you the amount of times I have been asked this question: are you an animal activist? Although I love animals and I don’t like eating them, I wouldn’t call myself an activist. This is something that you just have to overlook, make choices according to you. People can be sensitive about their diets, so don’t make it feel as though anyone has to defend their diets.
  4. Find a new source of protein. I personally enjoy tofu, edamame, peanut butter, and lentils. These are all really good sources of protein.
  5. Don’t make the switch all at once. It should be gradual. Begin with limiting your intake of meat and later, completely eliminating it from your diet.
  6. Read food labels. Until I became vegetarian, I never read food labels. Now, I have to.
  7. Prepare to feel happier. It is likely that animals will not be the only ones happy with your switch. Omnivorous diets contain more arachidonic acid, which can trigger neurological changes that drag your mood down.
  8. Don’t shun restaurants. You can still go out to eat, you just have to be more aware. Let servers know of your dietary restrictions ahead of time.

Though making the switch to vegetarianism can sometimes be tough, it doesn’t have to be.

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