Many people embark on vegetarian and vegan diets motivated by a view that it will help them control their weight. It is true that a recent study found that vegans weigh on average 30 pounds less than meat eaters do.
While technically a plant diet should be lower in calories because fruits and vegetables are naturally lower in calories than meat and dairy, it is important to realize that it can quickly turn unhealthy and very unsupportive to weight loss. For example, vegans who eat junk food, like chips, cakes, and cookies all day, all of which are vegan, but are hardly conducive to healthy weight management or weight loss.
Sometimes, those who seek to lose weight by going vegetarian may remain unaware of the key principals of successful weight loss and continue to struggle with their weight regardless of their significant dietary changes.
Basic Weight Loss Strategies that Work for Vegetarian and Vegan Diets
Here are scientifically proven steps to weight loss that are safe for vegetarians and vegans.
Achieving a caloric deficit is crucial to lose weight
It has been scientifically proven that to lose weight you must expend more calories than you consume for a prolonged period. Your daily caloric needs are a combination of your basal metabolic rate plus any physical activity in which you engage. Your basal metabolic rate is largely determined by the amount of muscle mass your body has, with those who have more muscle having a higher metabolic rate.
It is helpful to understand how many calories the body requires each day. You can easily determine this by using a reasonably accurate calculator.
Once you know how many calories your body needs each day, aim to create a daily deficit of around 500 calories from a combination of reduced dietary intake and increased physical activity.
Simple strategies to reduce your calorie intake include decreasing meal and snack portion sizes, choosing healthier less calorie dense foods such as fruits and vegetables and limiting the consumption of sugary beverages such as fruit juice and soft drinks.
Now here is where following a vegetarian diet can play a special role. Since plant foods are lower in calories and very low in fat (which increases calories in food), you can eat more while sticking with the deficit discussed above.
As an example, compare two meals, one vegan, and one non-vegan:
A salad with…
2 cups of lettuce (16 calories)
1 tomato (16 calories)
½ cup of cucumber (8 calories)
1 teaspoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon vinegar (41 calories)
1 cup of cooked black beans (227 calories)
Total calories: 308
The same salad plus…
1 chicken breast (boneless and skinless) – (284 calories)
Total calories: 365
A difference of 57 calories!
The black beans also give you 15 grams of fiber that keep you full longer, a key element of a quality food in weight loss.
Moreover, the fat count is lower in the vegan meal as well, with the chicken breast adding an extra 5 grams of fat over the black beans that only has 1 gram of fat per cup.
As you can see, the 57 calories per meal is a big difference and that is just one meal. There are many more examples that can save tons of calories, so you can choose to save calories while eating more with plant foods. This makes losing weight easier.
Increased physical activity will increase your energy expenditure
Getting some exercise is a healthy way to increase the amount of calories you burn each day and will assist with weight loss when combined with a sensible calorie controlled diet. Best of all for those who do not like running or going to the gym, it really does not matter what physical activity you do.
Simply choose something you enjoy and stick with it for the long term, whether it is going for a walk with a friend or some other low impact activity.
Increased fruit and vegetable consumption will displace less healthy food choices
People who have significant fruit and vegetable intakes tend to have less difficulty managing their weight. This is primarily because fruit and vegetables contain fiber, which will keep you full for longer preventing snacking on less healthy food choices.
Aim to consume at least five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit each day. Determining the size of a serving of fruit is easy, with one medium piece considered a serving.
Reduced intake of discretionary high sugar/fat foods and beverages
When attempting to lose weight, it is important to limit the quantity of high fat and sugar discretionary food choices such as chips, cake, muffins, biscuits, and sweets. This applies universally to all diets, including vegans, vegetarians, and meat eaters.
These foods provide little nutritional benefit and contribute significant amounts of sugar and fat to the diet. To lose weight, try swapping these foods with healthier snack choices such as fruit, yogurt, raw vegetables, nuts, and even cheese on whole-wheat biscuits.
Limit alcohol consumption
Alcohol contributes a whopping 7 calories per gram; therefore, it is unsurprising why many drinkers have difficulty achieving significant weight loss. When drinking, it is highly recommended that you limit your consumption to one or two alcoholic drinks spaced with water. This will help you limit your calorie consumption and provide a significant benefit to your health and waistline.