Approximately 70% of the American population is overweight. That’s a staggering statistic. It’s no wonder we are bombarded with so many ads and fads regarding weight loss. We are so desperate to lose weight that many times we end up trying all kinds of diets…..some not very healthy.
Research has shown that a plant based diet is effective in helping us to lose weight and maintain the weight loss. Let us therefore take a look at How to Lose Weight on a Vegetarian Diet.
Yesss! I lost weight…..Oh no. It’s back.
Have you ever yielded to the temptation of going on some spurious diet and then get so excited when you see the numbers dropping on the scale. You probably believed that you were losing fat when in fact what you were mostly losing was water and muscle.
Some diets even include a water pill which can remove lots of pounds quickly due to the water loss. Unfortunately, when the body replaces the water, the weight comes right back. Excessively high protein intake will cause a similar occurrence as the liver will convert the excess protein to a substance called Blood Urea Nitrogen which in turn causes the kidneys to force water out of the body. These diets are dangerous to maintain on a long term basis.
Some of these fad diets drop the intake of calories way down to starvation mode. The body in an effort to protect vital organs begins to digest its own proteins so instead of just losing fat, you are also losing muscle and water. Definitely not a good weight loss plan.
Slow, steady weight loss is the way to go. The quick fix fads are not it. You need to slowly establish healthful habits. When you develop a better, healthier lifestyle you will be able to lose weight and keep it off.
So you don’t really need a new diet, do you? What you need is a new dietary lifestyle and the vegetarian diet has been shown to be very effective in achieving and maintaining acceptable weight.
Not all vegetarians are slim
Now don’t be misled. Not because you adopt a vegetarian diet it means that you will automatically lose weight. There are quite a number of overweight vegetarians around.
How come, you ask?
Well they fall into the category of “vegetarian” because they do not eat meat. But this does not mean that they are eating healthily. Eating lots of simple carbohydrates and sugary juices and pastries is not eating meat, is it? But I can assure you, it is certainly packing on the calories.
If you want success, you will need to pay special attention to the food choices that you make.
The Vegetarian Diet
The key to losing weight on a vegetarian diet is to replace high-calorie foods with low-energy-density foods.
What do I mean by this? Okay. So you understand what I mean by high calorie food, but what on earth is low energy density food?
To put it simply, energy density is the number of calories (energy) in a specific amount of food. High energy density means that there are a lot of calories in a small amount of food. Low energy density means there are few calories in a lot of food.
Sounds complicated? Let me put it another way.
High energy dense foods have a high concentration of calories per bite, while low energy dense food have fewer calories in the same size bite.
So which type of food should you be eating if you want to lose weight? If you said low energy density foods, you are correct.
What do you think the next question will be? You guessed it. Which foods are low energy density foods?
And the answer is…..
Fruits and vegetables tend to be high in water and fiber and low in fat. This makes them some of the least energy-dense foods available. That is why the vegetarian diet is so effective in weight loss efforts.
Non-starchy vegetables, like broccoli, spinach, kale, lettuce, cabbage and carrots, are lower in energy density than starchy vegetables, like potatoes, peas and corn.
Fresh or frozen fruits are better than dried fruits which are higher in sugar and therefore higher in calories when you compare the same quantity.
Other foods with low energy density are those with lots of added water, such as soups and stews. Low fat foods also tend to have a lower energy density.
Choose whole grains over refined grains as they contain more fiber. This will cause the food to move through the digestive tract more slowly thus allowing you to feel fuller longer. This removes the temptation of constant snacking which is a sure way of hijacking your weight loss plan.
High Energy Density Foods
Low Energy Density Foods
- Low fat milk
- Fruits (especially berries)
- Bell pepper
Principle of Weight Loss
Simply put, to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn.
3500 calories is equivalent to one pound so if you eat 500 calories less each day, at the end of the week you will lose approximately one pound.
You might be thinking, “Only 1 pound!” But 1 to 2 pounds per week is considered safe weight loss.
Let’s say for example that your average caloric intake to maintain metabolic function each day is 2000 calories. To lose at least one pound at the end of one week, you would need to decrease the amount of calories you consume by 500. You will therefore need to consume 1500 calories per day.
This will put you in a calorie deficit and so the body will now have to find ways to provide the necessary energy needed for basic metabolism. The body will then go to the fat stores and start breaking down fat to provide the needed energy. This is what you will see reflecting on the scale at the end of the week.
Here is the drawback.
It can get very complicated and burdensome trying to measure and count calories in every morsel of food you eat each day. It is enough to make the most patient of persons throw up their hands in despair.
But not to worry. There is an easier way.
The Easy Way – My Plate Portions
MyPlate is the nutrition guide published by the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. You are probably very familiar with the food pyramid of past years which listed out the amounts and types of food recommended. The food pyramid was replaced in 2011 by MyPlate, which is a food circle depicting a place setting with a plate divided into different food groups.
When you are sharing your meal, fill half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables of your choice.
A quarter of the plate should contain your whole grains or starchy vegetables.
The other quarter will contain your peas and beans or other low energy dense protein of your choice.
If you follow this method you will have the right proportions of food at each meal.
Foods which contain a lot of water or absorbs lots of water during cooking also tend to be low in energy density. A good example of this is rice.
Soups and stews also fall into this category as they contain a lot of water.
You can also decrease the energy density of any mixed dishes by adding more vegetables or fruits.
When you are having cereal for breakfast, fill part of your bowl with fruit so you will end up eating less cereal.
Before you get to the main course of your meal, have a low energy density course such as a green salad. This will help to fill you up resulting in you reducing the number of calories you actually consume during the meal.
Do not smother your vegetable salads with high fat dressing. Instead opt for low fat dressing or maybe just drizzle some lemon juice over the salad.
Go easy on fats and choose the healthy unsaturated varieties such as olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocado over saturated fats.
Choose to cook with oil and not butter.
Keep in mind that there are some healthy, wholesome vegetarian foods that are high in calories. Watch out for them and eat them in moderation.
These include avocados, nuts, seeds, whole grains, full-fat dairy products like cheese and whole milk, soy products, beans, dried fruit, fruit juices, eggs, plant oils and margarine. In addition, many breakfast cereals and energy bars are high in calories because of their sugar content.
Eating out and snacking
If you are trying to lose weight on a vegetarian diet you might be a little challenged when it comes to eating out as you do not have control over how the food is prepared. But don’t despair. All is not lost. You can still go out to eat. You just need to use the principles you have learnt and choose you food wisely.
You can order lots of fresh fruits and vegetable. Ask them to hold the dressing on the salad. Order high fiber grains and starchy vegetables………just remember your MyPlate.
Snack mainly on fruits and vegetables. Use nuts sparingly as they are high calorie foods and even though avocado makes everything taste better it is high in fat so go easy on that as well.
Don’t forget exercise
To aid your weight loss programme it is important that you don’t leave out regular exercise. Exercise helps you lose weight by boosting your metabolism and strengthening your muscles. The good news is that it does not have to be rigorous. In other words, you don’t have to be in the gym pumping hundreds of pounds of iron or sprinting up some mountain side. Just put on a comfortable pair of walking shoes and aim for at least half hour of walking each day.
A vegetarian diet is very effective in helping you to attain your weight loss goals. The method outlined above is a healthy, balanced way of losing weight. No deprivation of necessary nutrients, no starvation, just good choices of a wide variety of foods.
Will you choose 3 pounds of apples or a 4 ounce chocolate bar? The calories are the same.
Will it be 5 baked potatoes or a 5 ounce steak? Yes you guessed it. Same amount of calories.
Five ears of corn or 1 ten ounce milk shake?
25 medium carrots or a small brownie?
Will you choose to eat 1 baked potato which is 120 calories or potato chips which is 1000 calories
It all depends on the food choices you make.
Go ahead. Eat more (low energy density foods) and lose weight.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please write them in the comments section below.