Let me preface this post by saying that I’m not claiming to be an expert on being a pescatarian by any means, but I’ve been through the process of conversion and I hope this post helps the newbies navigate and implement their decision to become a pescatarian.
I know what you are thinking, “I LOVE Fish and Sushi”, “it can’t be that difficult”, “I want to feel healthier”, “all fish is good for you” “I’m not really into meat any ways”, “this will be a great stepping stone to become a vegetarian”… Do any of those phrases sound familiar? Well I found that any change of habit takes time and an implementation process. I’ve outlined some steps to consider before you jump in with both feet/fins!
1. Educate your self
Yes, there are many health benefits to eating and incorporating fish and seafood into your diet. But believe it or not, not all not all fish is healthy for you. I would suggest exploring the National Resources Defense Councils guide on the mercury levels in fish, use their mercury calculator, and download their handy wallet card to take with you as you shop for fish or eat out.
Another tidbit to be aware of is that farmed raised fish and seafood can carry high levels of contaminates, pesticides, antibiotics, and chemicals. Not only are these bad for you, but are not healthy for the environment and those living around these mass farms. Take some time to read up on sustainable fish and seafood. The Environmental Defense Fund and the Montery Bay Aquarium have great resources to identify sustainable fish/seafood options. I always choose to purchase fish that is wild caught (in a sustainable method) and because I live in the US I choose fish that is local to the US and not farm raised/imported.
I think everything should be eaten in moderation and I follow a formula in my meal planning that includes a balance of vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian dishes. For my family we only really eat fish/seafood two-three times per week and the other days are supplemented with dairy free and vegetarian options. I found I feel the healthiest with this balance.
2. Be realistic
Be aware that changing any habit takes time. It might not be realistic to jump in with both feet or cut out meat cold turkey (yes for some of you turkey might be the hardest to give up–or peperoni pizza). Think about your lifestyle and prioritize your goals. Is this an ethical change or one for health. What things or habits do you need to change for you to meet your goal. Also, know that it might not be realistic to cook every meal at home, or pack a lunch every day even though you have grand plans to do so. So prepare for that by stocking up on simple things you can turn to or map out healthy places to grab something on the go. Start week-by-week and give your self some wiggle room/phase out to transition as you move to a pescatarian lifestyle, and then use this same transition plan if you plan to transition to a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet. This will give your transition some structure and will help you stick with your goals.
3. Plan, Plan, and Plan (oh, did I mention plan)
I’m all about spontaneity, but when it comes to changing your lifestyle a little structure and planning go a LONG way. I mentioned that starting your transition should be taken week-by-week, but in reality the week-by-week planning continues and I found is amazingly important for budgeting your new habit, sticking with the diet, and making sure you are incorporating healthy well rounded meals. Once you’ve done this awhile this planning process becomes expedited as you build a repertoire of healthy dishes.
My weekly planning starts on Friday morning. I start thinking about my schedule for the following week; what meetings do I have during the week, what events I might have in the evening, and what day/s do I just want to go out, have fun and not worry about cooking. Read this post about planning your meals for the week.
Don’t forget about snacks. These are almost as important as your meals. I’m sure you have heard that snacking between meals is important, well I’m going to say AMEN to that. Snacks between meals ensures that you’re keeping your body’s blood sugar levels stable throughout the day and keeps you on track so you are not as likely to eat anything in front of you to quench the hunger. I’m not talking about chips or highly process snacks, I’m talking about fruit, yogurt (if you eat dairy), toasted seaweed, portioned nuts (no more than 1/4 c. per snack), popcorn with coconut oil, some avocado with a bit of salsa, or fresh coconut, to name but a few.
You might be thinking, “Where do you want me to move to?” Well, moving to an exotic island might be nice, but I mean physically moving your body. I don’t care how well you eat, if you are not moving at least 3 times a week your not doing your body or mind justice. It doesn’t have to be a trip to the gym, but go out and find the beauty around you and in just moving your body, feel the blood circulate, and the sweat carrying the toxins from your cells. I schedule my workouts/getoutsandmove weekly along with my meal planning so I know I’m avoiding any conflicts that would give me an excuse to not move. If you do do this too, you will feel the health benefits of being a pescatarian a million times over, I promise! 🙂
5. Assess after 30 days
Every transition or implementation (my technology manager self talking here) requires an assessment. After 30 days take some time for yourself and reflect on the process (maybe with a nice glass of wine). Is there something that needs to be tweaked? Are you ready to move even more? Do you have any new goals? Do you want to educate yourself more? Reflect, assess, and implement! Doesn’t it feel good, you are taking care of yourself!