Updated: Sep 19, 2019
Eat your veggies. That used to be something only your mum said over the dinner table, but nowadays, going vegetarian is so mainstream it's a multi-billion dollar business. Just punch in 'vegetarian for weight loss' for example, and you'll get over 10,900,000 search results on Google and well over 14, 268, 038 hits on Instagram for the tag #vegetarian.
Going plant-based is not just for hippies chewing organic dandelions and trying to save the world's animals. It has blossomed beyond saving our fur friends, exploded as a movement and has become an everyday lifestyle for millions people across the globe, myself included!
Medical Research Says
Part of the appeal of vegetarianism or a plant-based diet is the medical research and nutritional statistics popping up just about everywhere suggesting a plantbased diet is the pathway to optimum health and vitality. Giving meat the cold shoulder has also been touted as the secret to maintaining one's youthfulness and living a long, healthy life. Now, if you ask me, I believe this is to be true, but it might also be because many vegetarians also choose to go dairy and gluten-free.
By stripping the diet of animal products like meats and dairy, and eliminating gluten protein (like I have to), it's no wonder so many studies indicate that those on a plantbased diet are more likely to have a healthy BMI (body mass index). Both dairy and gluten are known allergens that often trigger or cause bloat, IBS, weight gain and many other health issues especially when regularly consumed in highly processed forms.
Just walk down the middle aisles of the local grocery shop and nearly every shelf is lined with products containing a combination of milk solids and wheat. If you are plantbased or a vegetarian, unless you are grabbing a tin of kidney beans, you rarely see these aisles, let alone consume processed foods.
Typically, those who choose to go plantbased tend to be very health conscious and make nutritious food choices. So it really is no surprise that going vegetarian you might be less likely to suffer from obesity, coronary artery disease, some types of cancer, and hypertension. But how does all this aid weight loss?
Go Plantbased, Lose Weight
Well, theory has it, because the plantbased lifestyle calls for avoiding meat products (the main source of saturated fat in our diets) and consuming a lower amount of fat overall, a plant-based diet is more healthier compared to meat eaters. Vegetarians also tend to consume more essential vitamins such as vitamin C and E, extra dietary fibre, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and phytochemicals than those who consume animal products. This is because the typical plantbased diet replies on the consumption of more plants, nuts, seeds and other alternative sources for nutrients.
According to the American Dietetic Association, "appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases."
Now let's be real and drop a #truthbomb, you could easily go plantbased and still eat crap. And in that case, I'm sorry this lifestyle isn't going to help your weight loss. Adopting a plant-based or vegetarian diet, like anything, needs a plan, some common sense and consistency to work for you. It needs to be a lifestyle you choose to commit to otherwise it just becomes another calorie-restricted diet that you won't stick to long term.
If you want to make vegetarianism work for you and help manage your weight, you need to be all in and make sure every bite counts. Just dumping meat and sipping green smoothies isn't going to give you results.
What will give you results is starting to look at food as either creating health or keeping you stuck where you are right now. If that is overweight or feeling flat, bloated and frustrated, giving a plantbased diet is definitely worth a go.
The Plantbased Diet For Weight Loss
Firstly, you don't necessarily have to go 100% plantbased to benefit from a vegetarian weight loss diet plan. Simply cutting down on the amount of meat you eat can have a positive effect. For example, you may choose to eat only lean meat, eggs or fish three times a week and stick to a vegetarian plantbased diet the rest of the time. You can still eat similar portion sizes, but you will find that you lose weight more easily as a vegetarian because the diet generally contains fewer calories. A plate of ham and pineapple pizza versus an equal sized quinoa spinach salad have drastically different calories and nutrients.
While on a plantbased diet, you will need to ensure your diet is well balanced. The main concern is usually that vegetarians don't get enough protein. We all need protein and the only source comes from the foods we eat. Most meat eaters take in far more protein than they need - and an unhealthy form of protein at that containing hormones, antibiotics, nitrates and other chemicals.
On a plant-based diet as long as you're eating plenty of legumes, beans, soy, products, you should have the protein you need. The legume family, in particular, are good sources of vegetarian protein. Just one cup of peas contains 7.9 grams—about the same as a cup of milk. Pretty amazing!
Other great sources of plantbased protein are tempeh, tofu, edamame, broccoli, chia seeds, chickpeas and quinoa. Make up a batch of homemade hummus using 1/2 cup of chickpeas and you'll get 7.3 grams of protein; are also high in fibre and low in calories. Quinoa is a seed commonly used as a grain that contains more than 8 grams of protein per cup. It includes all nine essential amino acids that the body needs for growth and repair, but cannot produce on its own. Win!
To see results adopting a plantbased diet, you will need to track your caloric intake and create a calorie deficit. For many, simply swapping meat out for plantbased meals initiates weight loss. This might look like using zucchini noodles with pesto instead of traditional spaghetti bolognese. Marinating a slab of tofu in Mexican spices instead of a steak in spicy bbq sauce. The thing is when you start focusing on more veggies and plant fibre in, many people start to gravitate away from sugary, process sauces to more fresh herbs. You start to lose the need or enjoyment of them. This in turn aids your weight loss efforts.
Nutrition Coach's Top Tips
Here are my top tips to make the shift to a plantbased diet for weight loss.
Look at going plantbased as your new lifestyle (complete with better health), not a quick fix.
Cut out all processed foods, sugar and alcohol when you start to really kick start weight loss.
Every meal or snack is either nourishing you or causing inflammation and weight gain; you choose!
Focus on healthy plantbased protein sources at every main meal and build your plate around that.
Have fun and try to recreate your favourite meat based foods with plantbased alternatives.
Shake it up! Protein shakes made into healthy smoothies are a great way to get more nutrients.
Remember, a plantbased weight loss diet plan alone will not cause the weight to fall off. You'll have to eat clean, keeping track of calories and engaging in regular exercise if you're really serious about getting your weight down. If you can do that, the rest will follow.
Would you like a little help getting started? I've been plantbased on and off since my childhood and as an adult passionately maintain a plantbased diet. I know it can feel challenging to get started, and sticking to it. But the health benefits are so great, I'd love to support you on the path to healthier. Click here to contact me for support.