02/02/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Vegan Living: New Year's Resolution - Go Veg For 30 Days

I've rarely kept a New Year's resolution. The closest I got was when I pledged to stop biting my fingernails, and I still nibble from time to time. It's overwhelming to think of sticking with something for 365 days. Habits are easier to form with small steps each day, which is why this year I'm making new month's resolutions. Right now I'm focusing on getting back to the gym on a regular schedule for the month of January. Once January is over, I'll aim to continue the schedule for February and for now that's as far ahead as I'm thinking.

It's difficult to change any habit or behavior for an entire year, and it's even more difficult to change a lifetime habit - like eating meat. But one of the best New Year's resolutions you can make for your health, the planet and for animals is to stop eating meat.

The easiest way to become a vegetarian is to stop eating meat cold Tofurky, but don't get discouraged if it takes a few tries. I had a couple of false starts when I became a vegetarian. The morning after I decided to try vegetarianism, I ate bacon for breakfast. A few days after getting back on my vegetarian plan, I ate chicken ramen. But I had promised myself I was going to stop eating meat, and I stuck with it until I went one week without meat, which turned into two weeks, then a month and then years.

Start by challenging yourself to go meatless for two weeks. The criteria is pretty simple: eat what you like but don't eat meat. This is not to say you should subsist on grilled cheese sandwiches and Oreos alone. Your body requires more care than that, so incorporate into your daily meals beans, whole grains and even those intimidating but super healthy vegetables like spinach, kale and collard greens. The months after the holidays can be a letdown - there are no more parties or presents or gingerbread cookies - so make things interesting by experimenting with foods you always overlooked at the grocery store. Try meat substitutes like seitan and tofu. Treat yourself to a vegetarian cookbook. Look through your favorite recipes and figure out how to make them vegetarian. Eat at that vegetarian restaurant next to your office. Buy a spaghetti squash and figure out how to cook it. (That's actually a goal on my 2009 list.)

It's easy to fall back into what you're used to, especially when you get home from work or school and you just want to eat something. Map out each week's menu ahead of time. What are you going to have for dinner on Tuesday night? What ingredients do you need to buy? Do you have a green vegetable included in each of your meals? (that's my mom talking) It also helps to make food on Sunday - a big pot of minestrone or a few servings of rice and beans, for example - that you can take for lunch or eat for dinner one night if you get home late.

The two weeks will fly by, so challenge yourself to go another two weeks without meat. It will only get easier the longer you do it. PeTA also has a petition you can sign, pledging to go vegetarian for 30 days. They will send you tips and resources to help you go veg and will also donate money to the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, which helps hungry people around the world. You can also find vegetarian recipes, nutrition information, restaurant guides and links to more veg sites at the Vegetarian Resource Group.

Take each day meal by meal. Soon you'll have more energy and a better awareness of what's going into your body. Before you know it, 365 days will have passed and it will be time to make a new resolution. Like not biting your fingernails.