By Lauren Orlandi
Reviewed by Jinan Banna, PhD, RD
There are a variety of different vegetarian diets that people follow. All vegetarians exclude meat, fish, and poultry from their diet. However, there are some vegetarians who also exclude either dairy, eggs, or both, from their diet as well. There are many reasons as to why people might adopt a vegetarian diet. It could be due to animal welfare, religious reasons, or health concerns.
Studies have shown that healthy plant-based diets have been correlated with a decreased risk for type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. Studies have also shown that obese individuals and individuals with type 2 diabetes who ate a plant-based diet showed noticeable weight loss results and improvements in hemoglobin A1C levels, which signifies the average blood sugar levels of an individual over a three month period. Of course, this is predominantly dependent on the types of foods that people consume on a plant-based diet.
Get Enough Protein
Sufficient protein is important if you want to be successful in losing weight on a vegetarian diet. The reason is because protein provides strong satiety effects that can make you feel full for a longer period of time compared to the consumption of fats and carbohydrates. It is also essential to consume high protein foods because it will help to preserve muscle mass as you lose weight. You can refer to this blog about “Vegetarian Alternatives to Meat” to learn more about protein sources for vegetarians.
Sources of protein:
Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, tofu, beans, lentils, quinoa, peanut butter, nuts, seeds, edamame, green peas, spinach
- 1 small plain nonfat container Greek yogurt: 16g
- 1 cup 2% low fat cottage cheese: 24g
- 1 large whole egg: 6g
- .25 block hard tofu w/ nigari: 15.5g
- 1 cup cooked black beans: 14.5g
- 1 cup cooked lima beans: 11.6g
- 1 cup cooked lentils: 18g
- 1 cup cooked quinoa: 8g
- 1 tbsp peanut butter: 3.8g
- 1 oz walnuts: 4.3g
- 1 oz raw pumpkin seeds: 8.6g
- 1 cup edamame: 18.4g
- 1 cup green peas: 8.6g
- 1 package of spinach: 8g
Eat More Complex Carbohydrates
Vegetarian diets are often recognized for being higher in carbohydrates. However, this isn’t a bad thing because a healthy plant-based diet should include a vast array of complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and whole grains. These foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber that can help you to lose weight and maintain it.
Limiting consumption of refined carbohydrates, which include processed and ultra-processed foods and beverages, can help you to limit your intake of “empty” calories. These include foods and beverages that are oftentimes high in sugar, salt, saturated fats, and contain little nutritional value. Try to consume sources of carbohydrates that are high in dietary fiber.
Sources of dietary fiber:
broccoli, brussel sprouts, avocado, artichokes, sweet potatoes, apples, pears, blackberries, raspberries, chia seeds, almonds, oats, bran cereal
- ½ cup broccoli: 1.2g
- ½ cup brussel sprouts: 2g
- 1 avocado: 9.25g
- ½ cup artichokes: 4.8g
- 1 medium sweet potato: 3.8g
- 1 medium apple: 4g
- 1 medium pear: 5.5g
- 1 cup blackberries: 7.6g
- 1 cup raspberries: 8g
- 1 oz chia seeds: 9.8g
- ½ cup raw oats: 4g
- 1 cup bran flakes: 6.4g
Be Mindful of Caloric Intake
It is important to always consider caloric intake while trying to lose weight. Therefore, looking at food labels and utilizing portion control for your meals and snacks will help you to not overeat. Eat foods that are higher in protein and dietary fiber. Try to eat these foods first before eating the other foods on your plate.
Food items such as nuts, seeds, and whole grains can be high in calories. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to serving sizes. This will allow you to keep track of how many calories you are consuming. Simply paying attention to signals of hunger and fullness is a good way to eat the right amount.
Meal Plan Ideas
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, whole grain toast with peanut butter and blueberries
Snack: Greek yogurt with almonds
Lunch: lentil soup
Dinner: stir-fry with quinoa and vegetables
Dessert: chia pudding
Breakfast: oatmeal with walnuts and banana
Snack: cottage cheese with peaches
Lunch: protein bowl with quinoa, black beans, edamame, and sweet potato
Dinner: vegetarian chili
Dessert: rice cake with nut butter and honey
Breakfast: whole grain toast with avocado and soft boiled egg, raspberries
Snack: apple with peanut butter
Lunch: wrap with cooked and seasoned tofu, hummus, and veggies
Dinner: black bean burger on a whole-grain bun, baked sweet potato, side salad
Dessert: dark chocolate
*Smoothies can also be a great meal or snack option for weight loss. You can add a variety of vegetables, fruits, seeds, and plant-based protein sources to your smoothie to make it delicious and filling. You can refer to this recipe on how to make a high-fiber smoothie.
*You can also find healthful vegan and vegetarian recipes and meal ideas from this blog. It provides a sample meal plan for a whole month if you are looking for different ideas.
A vegetarian diet doesn’t necessarily mean that it is “healthier” for you. This is predominantly dependent on the types of foods that you choose to consume. Try to limit consumption of processed and ultra-processed foods and focus on incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet.
It is possible to lose weight while eating a vegetarian diet. Remember to incorporate protein and dietary fiber into your diet, as these are filling. Eating these types of foods on your plate first will limit the need to eat more food to feel satisfied. Remember to always pay attention to portion sizes and caloric intake to support your weight loss efforts.
It can be hard to come up with ideas for healthy vegetarian meals and snacks on the spot. It can be helpful to plan out your meals prior to grocery shopping. This will help you to list all of the necessary ingredients that you will need to make your meals for the week. You can always refer to blogs and recipes online to help spark your creativity in the kitchen.
Let me know your favorite vegetarian meals and recipes below!
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