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Mexican tomato black beans rice with cilantro. the toning. selective focus© Photo: Shutterstock/Nataliya Arzamasova Mexican tomato black beans rice with cilantro. the toning. selective focus

Going vegetarian is by no means a small decision. This seemingly small lifestyle change can be far more difficult than you anticipate. At least, that's what I found. When I started eating healthy vegetarian meals, I was surprised at everything from how people reacted to how hard it was to avoid cravings. Here are seven things that I wish I'd known back then.

1. People will act like you've made a mistake

Brace yourself. When you first start telling your friends, family and loved ones of your decision, you may get a rather off-putting response. Many people are so averse to the idea of going vegetarian that they might tell you that you've made a mistake. Since you've likely thought long and hard about this decision, you could find that difficult to hear. Hang in there!

2. So, you may have to be patient

You will need to give people a little time to adjust to the news. Never underestimate how stubborn people can be with their opinions. I saw this first-hand and was shocked at how rude some people were. Many people thought I was a sheep blindly following a fad...and that I'd eventually break. In time, they came around and saw that I was serious about this lifestyle choice.

3. Getting vitamins and nutrients is crucial

While you may no longer wish to eat meat, it's important to acknowledge that this food group offers some of the most important nutrients that we all need. There are easy ways in which you can combat this issue. For instance, you can take iron and B12 supplements. You'll also find that there are plenty of protein-packed vegetarian recipes.

4. Holidays may be a little tricky

Heading home for the holidays can be a stressful time without adding new food restrictions into the mix. Telling your family that you're going vegetarian and need special foods is unlikely to be met with glee. Try to make things as easy as possible by contributing your own meatless holiday dish to the holiday buffet table.

5. You have to get creative in the kitchen

If you're completely new to the world of vegetarianism, you may find it hard to know what to cook. The truth is, making meat-based meals is all too easy: you cook a cut of meat add some vegetables and a starch, and you're done. When you ditch the meat, you will need to be a little more creative in the kitchen. Just know that there are lots of options out there, from quick and easy 5-ingredient vegetarian recipes to hearty meatless slow cooker dishes that you can set and forget when you're busy.

6. You might cheat (but it's OK!)

Nobody's perfect. Expecting yourself to stop eating meat overnight might be a little impractical. Sure, it's an honorable goal, but don't beat yourself up too much if you fail to meet it. Many newbie vegetarians get tempted by the meats they once loved along the way. If you slip up and eat a meaty dish, it doesn't have to be the end of the line! Just chalk it up to experience, forgive yourself and move on. (And yes, I gave in and ate meat over Christmas. Whoops!)

7. There are plenty of meatless menu options

Luckily, vegetarianism is much more popular today than it was ten years ago. You'd be hard-pressed to find a restaurant without a vegetarian option and there are more and more vegetarian and vegan restaurants are opening up around the globe, which means that you shouldn't have a major problem finding places to dine out.

So, do you think you're ready to dive in and give it a go? There are so many health benefits to a plant-based diet, that it's worth a try if you're thinking about it. Plus, there are benefits to eating meatless, even if you don't follow a strict vegetarian diet (hello, meatless Mondays!).

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