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Staying Safe in the Sun: Nontoxic Sunscreen & Sunbathing Tips

Staying Safe in the Sun: Nontoxic Sunscreen & Sunbathing Tips | smelltheroses.com

Aloha, Smell the Roses readers! Spring is officially here and that means it’s time to start preparing for warmer weather! For some, that means wanting to slim down or get organized. For me, it means making sure I have everything I need to keep my skin healthy and protected when outside in the hot sun. ☀️️  This post outlines my sunbathing tips and recommendations for nontoxic, cruelty-free, & natural sunscreen.

The Importance of Proper Sun Protection

Skin Cancer

It is common knowledge that excessive sun exposure expedites skin aging and increases your risk of skin cancer. In the United States, skin cancer is the most common cancer. Despite this knowledge, rates of melanoma are on the rise. As seen in the graphs below, rates are steadily increasing and highest in white men and women. Although these demographics are at highest risk, anyone of any race can develop skin cancer. (Source: CDC)

Melanoma Rates (CDC) - smelltheroses.com

Sources: CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries and National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program.

Melanoma Rates (CDC) - smelltheroses.com

You may have noticed incidence and death rates are higher in men. In 2013, almost twice as many American men died from melanoma as women. A suggested explanation comes from a survey that showed only 48% of men report routine sun avoidance, compared to 68% of women. (Source: EWG)

Skin Damage

Even if you do not develop skin cancer, excess sun exposure will show in your appearance. What’s the worst part about it? The damage does not show up right away. It is a cumulative effect that develops over time and is worsened by every incidence of sun exposure.

Pictured below is a side by side comparison of the same person photographed in both regular and UV lighting. Although UV images do not predict skin cancer, they still highlight the consequences of excess sun exposure (ex. wrinkles, sunspots, red blotches, texture, pore size, etc). By visualizing skin damage normally invisible to the naked eye, these photos raise awareness to the gradual and drastic damage caused by the sun. (Source: EWG)

Canfield UV Camera Photos - Your Sun Damage Wake-Up Call - smelltheroses.com

Source: Canfield UV Camera Photos (EWG)

Vision

Growing up, we were warned to not stare directly into the sun and for good reason. The sun is extremely damaging to the eyes and can cause cataracts, macular degeneration, and pterygium. To keep our eyes healthy and vision strong, the National Eye Institute recommends we wear sunglasses that block out 99 – 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation. The addition of a wide brimmed hat is helpful too! Now you have an excuse to wear more accessories! 🕶️  👒  (Source: NEI)

Infants & Children

Infants (0-6 months) – Babies under six months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight because their skin does not contain enough melanin to protect them from the sun’s harmful rays. Their skin is also too sensitive for sunscreen. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that small amounts of sunscreen can be used on infants only as a last resort when shade cannot be found.

Toddlers & Children – Proper steps should be taken to prevent sunburn.One blistering sunburn before the age of 18 can double a child’s risk of developing melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. Broad spectrum sunscreens with an SPF 15+ are best to use in addition to shade and protective clothing. Avoid spray sunscreens due to the dangers associated with inhalation. (Source: Skin Cancer Foundation)

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Buying & Using Sunscreen

Our skin is the largest organ of the body, and it absorbs nearly everything we put on it. Let that fact soak in for a minute. Although applying sunscreen seems like a health-conscious action, it all comes down to which one you are using. If you are not careful, I believe your sunscreen can be causing more harm than good (for both you and the environment)!

Ingredients To Avoid

Sunscreens can provide one of two forms of protection; chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens contain synthetic ingredients that are absorbed by the skin to block or reflect UV rays. These have the highest incidence of skin irritation and cellular toxicity and therefore should be avoided.

Try to avoid these harmful ingredients: 

  • Oxybenzone | Sunscreen Agent – UV light absorber
    • Hormone disruption (i.e. mimic or alter hormone levels)
    • Linked to reproductive and developmental issues
    • Endocrine disruption – associated with endometriosis in women
    • Known skin allergen
    • Accumulates in people – difficult to excrete
  • Octinoxate | Sunscreen Agent – UV light absorber
    • Hormone disruption (i.e. mimic or alter hormone levels)
    • Linked to reproductive and developmental issues
    • Endocrine disruption
    • Produces free radicles that contribute to premature skin aging and skin cancer
    • Accumulates in people – difficult to excrete (has been found in mothers’ breast milk)
    • Ecotoxicity
  • Vitamin A (aka Retinol) | Skin-conditioning Agent
    • Tumors and lesions develop sooner on skin coated with creams containing vitamin A when exposed to direct sunlight (Source: EWG)
    • Produces free radicals that contribute to premature skin aging and skin cancer
    • Known human reproductive toxicant
  • Homosalate | Sunscreen Agent – UV light absorber
    • Hormone disruption (i.e. mimic or alter hormone levels)
    • Accumulates in people – difficult to excrete
    • Endocrine disruption
    • Ecotoxicity
  • Methylisothiazolinone | Preservative – Paraben
    • Linked to serious allergic reactions (especially in children) (Source: EWG)
    • Named Allergen of the Year in 2013 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society (Source: EWG)
    • Hormone disruptor
    • Linked to reproductive and developmental issues
    • Ecotoxicity
    • Neurotoxicity

Ingredients To Look For

Physical sunscreens are generally considered the safer form of sun protection. They are made from natural minerals which sit on top of the skin and are not readily absorbed into the bloodstream. Be aware, due to the nature of these ingredients, they do tend to have a white appearance on the skin (some brands are better than others – my recommendations are listed below).

Safe sunblocking ingredient to seek: 

  • Zinc Oxide (non-nano) | Sunblock Agent – Colorant
    • Offers moderate broad spectrum UV protection
    • Low skin penetration – low health risk in lotions

Other Factors to Consider

Broad Spectrum Coverage There are two types of UV light that can harm your skin — UVA and UVB. Too much exposure to either can cause skin cancer. A broad-spectrum, or full-spectrum, sunscreen protects your skin from both. Sunscreens will have this labeled on the bottle! (Source: Mayo Clinic)

SPF Protection There is a misconception that higher SPF levels equal better sun protection. Unfortunately, SPF only applies to UVB rays (those responsible for burning) and does not take into consideration the harm associated with UVA rays (those responsible for age spots and wrinkling). For this reason, the Mayo Clinic recommends rather than focusing on a sunscreen’s SPF, choose one that is broad-spectrum. They state, even the worst burners will get adequate protection using a broad-spectrum SPF 30 when applied properly! (Read more about this topic: Mayo Clinic)

Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 but no greater than 50!

Reef Safety

Over the years I have seen first hand the effects of sunscreen on our oceans. While vacationing on the tourist-dense beaches of Waikiki, there were days you could see a film of sunscreen on the top of the ocean water. I couldn’t help but feel immense guilt as I watched little fish swimming through their chemical infested home. The pollution in our oceans from Oxybenzone has had toxic effects on our coral reefs and has contributed to coral bleaching.

Hanauma Bay Infographic - Reef Friendly Sun Protection | smelltheroses.com

Hanauma Bay Education Program | Hawaii Sea Grant

Pictured above, is an infographic from Oahu’s Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, a popular snorkeling spot known for its vast coral reef and diverse sea life. I found this posted when vacationing on my most recent trip and was so happy to see them making a stand against chemical sunscreens. I hope chemical sunscreens will eventually be banned but for now all we can do is try and educate the public on the importance of reef safe sunscreen.

Zinc Oxide has no known negative effects on our oceans and its inhabitants.

Application Types

Lotions | good for dry skin, best for application on large areas, can be messy

Stick | good for application on areas that require precision (i.e. around the eyes)

Spray | extremely dangerous if inhaled (apply in a well-ventilated area and be conscientious of those around you), easy to apply (especially on children), must apply a generous/even coating to ensure proper coverage and to tell where it was applied, great for quick reapplication after an initial coat of lotion

How To Apply

  1. Pick one you like because you’ll be more likely to use it. If it’s hard to apply or messy, I doubt you will be reaching to reapply it as often as your should!
  2. Apply your sunscreen 15 minutes before sun exposure. Physical sunscreens are typically effective immediately where chemical sunscreens need time to be absorbed.
  3. Reapply at least every 2 hours and after swimming or excessive sweating.

Extra Sun Bathing Tips

  • The best sun protection is avoidance! Always have a beach umbrella or shaded area to retreat to during the hot hours. ⛱️
  • Sunscreen should still be applied on a cloudy or overcast day! ☁️️
  • The sun is strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. At these times, try to avoid direct sun exposure! (This is the perfect time to go grab lunch in the shade or indoors). To put it into perspective, the following exposures may result in the same amount of solar energy:
    • one hour at 9:00 a.m.
    • 15 minutes at 1:00 p.m.

smelltheroses.com


Non-Toxic Sunscreen

Search for Non-toxic Sunscreen

Listed below are two databases that offer a color-coded rating system for product toxicity. Scores are applied based on each products’ ingredient composition. As a general rule, any product that falls in the green range is a safe choice!

EWG Rating System | smelltheroses.com

EWG Rating System

Think Dirty Rating System | smelltheroses.com

Think Dirty Rating System

smelltheroses.com


My Recommendations!

Beauty by Earth Sunscreen | smelltheroses.com

Beauty by Earth

Facial Sunscreen SPF 20 | Sunscreen SPF 25 | Face & Body Bundle | Aloe Vera Gel 

*Code “SMELLTHEROSES” saves you 15% on your online purchase

Badger is made in the USAEWG Rating | smelltheroses.cpm

smelltheroses.com

Badger Sunscreen - smelltheroses.com

Badger

Rose Face Sunscreen SPF 25 | Unscented Sunscreen SPF 30Sport Sunscreen Stick SPF35

Badger is made in the USAEWG Rating | smelltheroses.cpm

smelltheroses.com 

I put a lot of time and research into this post because I am so passionate about this topic.  I hope you learned something new and will improve your sunbathing habits as a result of this post! If so, please let me know in the comments section below!

xoxo Caitlyn | smelltheroses.com

0 In FYI/ How to...

How to Survive a Long Flight: Carry-On Essentials

CARRY-ON

Hello! This post outlines what I consider carry-on essentials for a long flight. After years of experience, I have learned it is just as important to pack for your flight as it is to pack for your vacation!

*Read the previous post in this series on “Choosing Your Seat”

Please note, this post does contain affiliate links.


carry-on essentials from smelltheroses.com

Helpful Hint: Pin the image above for future reference!

Tip #2: Carry-On Essentials

Know What You’re Allowed

We all know how strict airlines are with what you can and can’t carry-on a plane. Although the rules tend to be consistent amongst each airline, I always recommend you double-check your airline’s carry-on policy before getting to the airport. This will prevent you from possibly being forced to check a bag you intended to carry-on.

Carry-On Policies

Since long flights tend to book-up, airlines follow their carry-on policies very closely on these flights. Most airlines allow you to bring one carry-on and one personal item in the cabin with you (but keep in mind, these rules are constantly changing).

  • Carry-On: A small size luggage that must be stored in the overhead compartment (small luggage, weekender bag..)
    • Approximate Dimensions: 9″ x 14″ x 22″ = 22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm (including handles and wheels)
  • Personal Item: Any item that can fit under the seat in front of you (purse, briefcase, backpack, laptop bag, diaper bag..)
  • Additional Items: Most airlines will allow you to bring other little items on board with you in addition to your carry-on/personal item, such as a pillow, blanket, umbrella, or jacket.

Picking the Perfect “Personal Item” Bag:

On a long flight, your personal item will be your survival kit (you may think I’m being funny, but I’m not)! It is best to store anything you will need access to during your flight in your personal item since it will be stored under the seat in front of you. Therefore, I like a bag that is spacious yet compact enough that it doesn’t take away all of my leg room.

Here are some vegan bags I recommend:


What To Pack!

Now that you have the perfect bag picked out, let’s discuss what you should consider packing for the flight. It may seem like a lot, but you can pick and choose which are essentials for you during a long day of travel. (Side Note: all suggested items are made from non-animal materials or faux leather!)

Click here for a condensed PDF version of this carry-on packing list!

Travel Wallet &/or Passport Holder — 

Traveling is a good time to switch out your regular wallet for something a bit larger that can hold all your important travel documents (passport, tickets, hotel information, car rental, cash, credit cards, etc..). Organization is key! Plus, some wallets come with technology to prevent hackers from stealing your credit card information using RFID. Here are my picks:

Pillow & Blanket

The ones the airline provides are reused and it’s unclear what their sanitation process entails between flights (if there even is one). Since flights can get chilly & if you tend to be cold, dress in layers and pack a light blanket. If you are a fan of neck pillows, try to find one that inflates or is compactable. Here are my picks:

Self-Care Items

Just because you are on a long flight does not mean your personal care routine goes out the window. Remember, you are going to be on a flight for the majority of your day! Side Note: If you are comfortable with it, I recommend going make-up free so you can easily care for your skin during your flight.

  • Facial Wipes: Use these to freshen up mid-flight or prior to landing. Trust me, you’ll feel so much better with a clean face! Confession, I have even used these on my underarms when my connecting flight got canceled and I was stuck in an airport for hourssss. #lifesaver — Here are my picks:

Clothing —

Here is my advice on dressing/packing clothes for a long flight:

  • Please wear socks!! You will most likely have to take your shoes off while going through security so make sure you are wearing socks with your shoes otherwise you are going to find yourself barefoot in the dirty airport. 😣
  • Consider your footwear carefully… Make sure to wear shoes that are easy to remove and put back on quickly since you’ll have to do this at the security checkpoint. Also, keep in mind the climate of your final destination!
  • Dress in layers! Airplanes can feel warm/stuffy when you first get on but once you reach altitude the cabin quickly gets chilly. Save room in your bag by wearing a sweater/sweatshirt onto the plane (you can always take it off and use it as a pillow).
  • Pack or wear appropriate clothing for your destination! A long flight often equates to a drastic change in climate. If you’re heading somewhere tropical, yoga pants and a pair of flip-flops in your carry-on will keep you comfortable upon arrival. Going somewhere cold? Have a jacket in your carry-on or easily accessible from your luggage.

Electronics —

Entertainment —

  • Many long-distance flights have seatback entertainments systems which are a life saver! However, if watching TV is not for you, make sure you have some other source of entertainment. Long flights are prime time to start that book you’ve been meaning to read! Here are some suggestions:
    • Books/magazines
    • Adult coloring book & colored pencils
    • Drawing pad

Food/Snacks —

  • It is always better to pack your own meals & snacks. However, there are certain types of foods you should stay away from on a long flight. I have an entire post on what-to-eat during long-distance flights coming soon (“How to Survive a Long Flight: Meals & Snacks”). Stay tuned!

Miscellaneous Items —


Did I miss anything? I hope not (if I did, let me know in the comments)! This list may seem like a lot to pack but I promise it will all fit in your personal item and be a life saver on your flight.

Click here for a condensed PDF version of this carry-on packing list! 


Thank you for reading!

0 In FYI/ How to...

Choosing Your Perfect Planning System: 2017 Edition!

Choosing Your Perfect Planning System: 2017 Edition!

Okay, I know it’s only November and may seem early.. but this is the best time to start thinking about your planner for the upcoming year! (Side note: how is it almost 2017?!) Most brands have officially launched their 2017 collections for preorder so now is the time to buy to ensure you get your ideal planner before it sells out (and trust me, they do)! I believe the key to starting off a new year on the right foot is being prepared. For me, that means having an effective planning system in place!

Maybe I’m old school, but there is something about a paper planner that I LOVE and cannot give up. I have tried using only my phone/laptop but failed miserably. For those of you who can use a digital calendar alone, kudos to you! I have finally figured out a system that works for me and it consists of both digital and paper planning. It doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as it saves you time and stress!

About this Post: 

Below I break down some of the various planning systems out there in the hopes it will help you figure out what is a good fit for you! I have tried A LOT of different planners over the years so I like to consider myself a planner expert (ask my friends/family, and they will support this statement ?).

I have physically purchased or used all of the planners I’m featuring in this post at some point in my life so they all come highly recommended. The large featured image of each planner is linked to its shop listing so if you find one you like, you can view its specifications and potentially purchase it.

If you have any specific questions, feel free to comment below this post or send me an email on my contact page! I hope this post helps you find some planner peace 🙂

Let’s get started!

Featured Brands & Where to Find Them:



Choosing Your Perfect Planning System for 2017!

Option #1 – Digital Planning

apple calendar

Apple.com

What I Like About Digital Planning (e.g. phone/tablet/computer..)

  • Convenience – If you are someone who carries your phone on you at all times, then that means you also have your schedule with you at all times & it is compact/portable. This is perfect for on-the-spot planning (how I personally use my iPhone calendar). Being able to sync your calendar across all of your devices is another win.
  • Reminders – Who else has almost missed an appointment but a pop-up reminder came and saved the day? I doubt I’m the only one who will admit to this. I especially love this feature for reminding me of birthdays first thing in the AM!
  • Delete/Edit – I have to admit, not having to erase/whiteout schedule changes is a big pro.
  • Space – It is impossible to run out of writing space because you don’t have to write! You can put every detail about an event right in your calendar (time, address, reoccurrence, etc.) Your handwriting will no longer dictate what size planner you need.
  • Sharing – All it takes is a click of a button to send someone all the info about an event. So simple and easy!

Why It Wasn’t For Me:

  • Although I love all the features listed above, when I tested utilizing only digital planning, I found myself missing my paper planner. When scheduling through my phone, I somehow missed events or tasks. I think this had to do with the fact that I remember things better when I physically write them down and I also found my physical planner to have a better monthly/weekly view than that of my tiny phone screen.

How I Use Digital Planning:

  • Since I don’t always have my physical planner on me, I use my phone calendar to mark off events that come up when I am out and about. This works well for work meetings, classes, or shows. When I get home, I transfer the event from my phone into my physical planner.

Do you use digital planning alone? If so, I would love to hear how you have made it work for you – tell me about it in the comments section below this post!



Option #2 – Horizontal Weekly Planner

  • This format is one of the most common in the planner world.
  • Format: Week divided over 2 pages with sections for each day.
  • Works best for: List makers & task-oriented planners.

Sugar Paper: Weekly/Monthly Planner ($14.99)

Click to Shop: Target.com or In-Store ($14.99)

 

Sugar Paper: Weekly/Monthly Planner ($10.99)

51232594_Alt02

Click to Shop: Target.com or In-Store ($10.99)

Day Designer for BlueSky: Weekly/Monthly Planner ($19.99)

Click to Shop: BlueSky.com

ban.do: Weekly/Monthly Agenda – 17 Months ($28.00)

ban.do Weekly Agenda

Click to Shop: bando.com ($28.00)

 



Option #3 – Vertical Weekly Planner

  • Format: Weekdays divided into vertical columns over 2 pages. Columns usually contain divided time slots. Limited space for a daily to-do list.
  • Works best for: Scheduled events/meetings/appointments.

Day Designer for BlueSky: Weekly/Monthly Planner ($24.99)

ddverticalweekly

Click to Shop: BlueSky.com ($24.99)

inkWELL Press: Classic Weekly/Monthly Planner ($44.99)

liveWELL Classic Weekly Planner by inkWELL Press

Click to Shop: Office Depot Online or In-Store ($44.99)

*FYI: There is a horizontal (aka Flex) option available exclusively through InkwellPress.com!

Start Planner: Hustle Weekly/Monthly Planner ($55.00)

20160914hustleweekly012_86c929e7-c4a8-4ddd-9da3-7a2cc738eb37

Click to Shop: StartPlanner.com ($55.00)

 



Option #4 – Weekly Overview

  • One of the newer planner layouts!
  • Format: Weekly planning divided over 2 pages – one side for weekday-specific planning & one side for organized lists.
  • Works best for: List makers who also want daily scheduling capabilities.

Sugar Paper: Weekly/Monthly Planner ($14.99)

51232664_Alt02

Click to Shop: Target.com or In-Store ($14.99)

Sugar Paper: Weekly/Monthly Planner ($14.99)

Sugar Paper Weekly Planner

Click to Shop: Target.com or In-Store ($14.99)



Option #5 – Daily Planner

  • This format is harder to come by and tends to be bulkier/more expensive.
  • Format: Each weekday gets its own page including scheduling time slots & to-do list. Sat/Sun tend to share a page.
  • Works best for: People with busy days & varying daily schedules. Detail oriented planners. People who write large.

Simplified Planner by Emily Ley: Daily/Monthly Planner ($58.00)

Daily Simplified Planner

Click to Shop: EmilyLey.com ($58.00)

Day Designer by Whitney English: Daily/Monthly Planner – Flagship Version ($59.00)

Daily Planner by Day Designer

Click to Shop: DayDesigner.com ($59.00)

Day Designer for Blue Sky: Daily/Monthly Planner ($19.99)

Day Designer for Blue Sky 5"x8" Daily Planner

Click to Shop: BlueSky.com ($19.99)

Day Designer for Blue Sky: Daily/Monthly Planner ($29.99)

19993_d3

Click to Shop: BlueSky.com ($29.99)

Start Planner: Hustle Daily/Monthly Planner ($60.00)

Click to Shop: StartPlanner.com ($60.00)



Option #6 – Monthly Planner

  • This format is much simpler and lacks supplemental weekly/daily planning space.
  • Format: Month view over 2 pages. Will sometimes include additional monthly planning pages.
  • Works best for: People with a consistent schedule. Long-term planners.

ban.do: 12-Month Planner ($20.00)

bando-12-month-planner-month-view

Click to Shop: bando.com ($20.00)

 

Sugar Paper: Monthly Planner ($6.99)

51233129_Alt01

Click to Shop: Target.com or In-Store ($6.99)

Sugar Paper: Monthly Planner ($6.99)

Screen Shot 2016-11-07 at 10.50.41 AM

Click to Shop: Target.com or In-Store ($6.99)

inkWELL Press: Monthly Planner ($29.99)

liveWELL Monthly Planner by inkWELL Press

Click to Shop: Office Depot Online or In-Store ($29.99)



Option #7 – Pocket Planner

  • A compact planner intended easily to travel with you!
  • Format: Varies – typically consists of a standard weekly spread in addition to a 2-page month view.
  • Works best for: Those who need their planner at all times & prefer a paper planner to digital planning.

Sugar Paper: Weekly/Monthly Pocket Planner ($7.99)

Sugar Paper Snow Leopard Weekly/Monthly Pocket Planner

Click to Shop: Target.com or In-Store ($7.99)

 



Option #8 – Wall Calendar

  • This format comes in all shapes, styles, and sizes!
  • Format: Large monthly view consisting of one month/page. Can be displayed on a wall/fridge.
  • Works best for: Families and major month events (anniversaries, birthdays, parties, holidays, etc.)

Sugar Paper: 15″ x 12″ Wall Calendar (2017) // $9.99

51244015 (1)

Click to Shop: Target.com or In-Store ($9.99)

 

Day Designer for BlueSky: “Navy Floral” 15″ x 12″ Wall Calendar (2017) // $14.99

19990_d1

Click to Shop: BlueSky.com ($14.99)

 

inkWELL Press: Desk Pad Monthly Calendar (2017) // $17.29

inkWELL Press Desk Pad Monthly Calendar

Click to Shop: Office Depot Online or In-store ($17.29)

 



Option #9 – Binder System

  • The most versatile of all planner systems!
  • Format: This is entirely up to you! There is an insert for every need.
  • Works best for: People who desire flexibility & the ability to customize their planning system.

inkWELL Press: A5 Planner Inserts ($34.00 – does not include binder)

Click to Shop: inkwellpress.com ($34.00 – does not include binder)

Day Designer by Whitney English: A5 Luxe Collection ($89.00 – includes binder & starter pack)

Day Designer A5 Luxe Collection

Click to Shop: DayDesigner.com ($89.00 – includes binder & starter pack)

Start Planner: A5 Fancy Pants Binder System ($98.00 – includes binder & starter pack)

Start Planner: A5 Fancy Pants Binder System

Click to Shop: StartPlanner.com ($98.00 – includes binder & starter pack)



Phew! I’m sure that was a lot to take in but I hope it helps you pick your perfect planner for 2017!

Which planning system in your favorite? Do you stick to the same one year after year or are you going to spice things up in 2017? Let me know in the comments section below!

0 In Food/Supplements/ FYI/ How to.../ Wellness

How to Become a Vegetarian: A Step By Step Guide

How to Become a Vegetarian | smelltheroses.com

Switching to a plant-based diet is a decision that deserves a lot of thought. I thought about going vegetarian for a while before actually starting the lifestyle change. I have to admit, I gave more thought to WHY I should become one and not as much to HOW to (properly) become one. That being said, I am writing this post for any of you who have been considering it.

Before getting started, I want to make it known that I know not everyone wants to be a vegetarian and I don’t write this thinking everyone should be. It is a very personal decision and I respect that. 🙂 And remember, I ate meat for the first 23 years of my life so I would never judge someone for doing the same. This post is simply a resource for those interested that I wish I had before I made the switch!


How to Become a Vegetarian

Now, let’s get started.

1. Ask yourself WHY you want to switch to a plant-based diet. 

  • This is the most important step because your answer to “why” is what is going to guide you through the entire process. When it feels tough or you start having cravings, it is going to be what keeps you on track and motivated. I wrote an entire post on why I made the switch (read it here), but everyone has their own reasons. Do your research and be honest with yourself. If you are not passionate about this lifestyle then it will never work for you.

2. Pick what type of plant-based diet you want to follow.

  • Dependent on your reason(s) for going plant-based, you may want either more lenient or strict diet guidelines. In other words, you may want to remove all animal products from your diet or eliminate certain animal products. Read my post on types of plant-based diets to help decide which one fits your needs.

3. Map out your nutritional needs.

  • It is important to match your caloric and macronutrient needs (protein, fat, carbs) with your lifestyle.
  • Your nutritional needs will vary based on your gender, activity level, and personal philosophy. If you’re not sure what your target caloric intake and macronutrient ratios should be, I recommend starting with the presets on the My FitnessPal App (ComputeriPhone, iPad, Android). This app calculates each value based on your body mass index, activity level, and ideal weight. If you disagree with the app’s presets you can manually adjust them to fit your needs. Starting out, I logged all my meals/snacks on the app to ensure I was eating enough calories but also getting the right portions of macro/micro nutrients. (Side Note: For those of you who do not wish to switch to a plant-based diet, I still recommend this app. There is a misconception that by going vegetarian you will become malnourished but the average American’s diet is not properly managed.) 
  • As with any major dietary change, you should make sure you are following up with your doctor and getting annual physicals/blood work. If you have a complex medical history, I recommend consulting your doctor before changing your diet. 

|| Once you have completed these first three steps, I recommend one of two methods to start implementing this diet/lifestyle change. One doesn’t necessarily work more effectively than the other across the board; it all depends on the individual. Read both and see which one sounds more realistic for you. ||

4. Think gradual baby steps!

  • Unfortunately, it is not realistic to switch to vegetarianism overnight. Don’t get me wrong, I have heard of people who have done this but it is much easier said than done. Gradually changing your diet will make the change less noticeable and easier to make a permanent part of your life.
  • Option #1: Start by cutting out certain types of animal products at a time. I recommend eliminating red meat first (beef, pork, lamb, veal, etc). You can start by replacing these foods with chicken/turkey/fish alternatives if that makes the change less drastic for you. Next, gradually start eliminating chicken and turkey meat. Many believe this is the hardest step in the process since these meats are staples in most people’s diets. However, almost everything made with chicken can be made with an alternative (think eggplant, avocado, tofu, imitation meat – sounds gross but most are made from natural plant proteins & fibers, etc.). You will slowly redesign your favorite recipes to fit your new plant-based lifestyle. I can confidently say, there is a vegetarian version for just about every meat-based meal. Once you have reached this point, you can consider yourself a pescetarian (what I am although I follow a vegan diet most days). To be able to truly call yourself a vegetarian you must eliminate fish and seafood. If veganism is your ultimate goal, gradually eliminate eggs and dairy. The entire process can be as fast or slow as you like!
  • Option #2: Start by eliminating meat and/or animal products from your diet for one day of the week. You can eat meat as your normally would the other 6 days. Use those regular days to prepare for your plant-based day by writing out your meals and researching new recipes. This will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and unprepared. Gradually increase the number of meat-free days per week. Like option #1, this can be as gradual as you like. If you start feeling overwhelmed, slow down. There is no rush!

5. Always be prepared. 

  • More than likely, you aren’t going to be able to always prepare your own meals. Although restaurants and food stores are introducing more vegetarian options, there is still much progress to be made. Before going out to eat, I recommend looking up the restaurant’s menu. If you are going to a sports game or theme park, you will notice sometimes vegetarian options are so limited you have to choose between a hot pretzel and mozzarella sticks. In an effort to not eat like a picky 5-year-old, you have to plan accordingly. When vegetarian options are limited, try to eat something small before you go out (I suggest a protein shake) and have vegetarian-friendly snacks on hand.

6. No diet is perfect and mistakes can happen. 

  • Every vegetarian’s worst nightmare is the thought of accidentally eating meat (esp. if you went vegetarian for the animals). I will admit, it happened to me and I immediately felt sick to my stomach (I thought I bought tuna when it was actually chicken salad 🙁 ). A sudden rush of panic and immense guilt came over me and I felt like all my previous efforts were wasted. No one is perfect and mistakes happen. These mistakes are more likely to happen when eating out which is why I recommend cooking for yourself as much as possible. If it happens to you, think about what went wrong and make an effort to be more careful in the future. One mistake does not discredit the impact your previous efforts have had on the lives of animals!

I hope you have found this post helpful! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. Leave them in the comments section or contact me directly by email.

Final thoughts: I am significantly happier living a plant-based lifestyle and think of food completely differently than I use to. This lifestyle’s benefits are truly endless.

Thank you for reading!