While for some, going vegetarian and losing weight go hand-in-hand, that is not the case for everyone. Some people find that losing weight on a vegetarian diet can be trickier.
The good news is that weight loss can be more sustainable for vegetarians. As it is not a fad diet but rather a total lifestyle change, it can be easier to stay committed for the long run once you get the hang of being a vegetarian.
Here are a few Weight Loss Tips to help you reach your optimal weight while enjoying the health benefits and greater sustainability a vegetarian diet has to offer.
1. Not a free pass
This is the big one. Just because you are switching to a vegetarian diet, this does not mean that you have a free pass to eat anything that does not have meat. It can be easy to go for comfort foods to replace the meat, but processed food is not healthy for us, whether or not it’s vegetarian.
Stay away from chips, cookies, crackers, bread and other baked goods, snack bars, sports bars, and other processed food. Avoid “fake meat” products, as those are usually packed with chemical additives, unhealthy oils, and genetically modified ingredients. Stick to whole vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
2. Go easy on starches and sugars
Sugar is a huge culprit for weight gain because of how it affects blood sugar levels. This can be even more intense for vegetarians because the sugary foods are sometimes replacing protein. Even simple starches, like popcorn and white potatoes, can trigger us as sugar would.
Avoid cane sugar in any form, and syrups like corn or rice. Go easy on dried fruit, very sweet fruit like dates and bananas, and honey. And completely cut out drinks (a.k.a. liquid candy bars), like sports drinks, sweetened iced teas, and fruit juices. Even fresh orange or apple juice packs a lot of sugar with none of the balancing fiber.
3. Manage your protein intake
Protein is crucial for losing weight. It helps maintain and build muscle (more muscle = more burning of fat), and boosts the metabolism. One of the biggest mistakes new veggies make is not getting adequate protein.
Complete protein (containing all nine essential amino acids) can come from a mix of sprouted whole grains and legumes, or nuts and seeds with dark leafy greens. Soy is a complete protein, though only fermented soy products are recommended, and even then in moderation because of how they affect estrogen levels. Chia seeds and quinoa are also complete proteins.
4. No fried foods
This should be a no-brainer for weight loss. Stay away from fried foods, homemade or at a restaurant. Go easy on oil in general, including just a small amount of extra virgin olive or coconut oil, and an occasional avocado. Steam, broil, bake or enjoy your vegetables raw.
5. Vegetables are your friends
Make veggies the largest part of every meal. They will fill you up, give you all kinds of essential nutrients, and contribute to your health. Especially include dark leafy greens, which are high in calcium and iron.
6. Get colorful
Do your best to make a rainbow on your plate. This will ensure you get a wide array of essential nutrients, and make your meals more fun.
7. Stay hydrated
Drink several glasses of water each day. This will keep your organs healthy and make you less likely to snack on simple carbs. Add a little lemon juice to the water to help with detoxification.
8. Exercise regularly
Frequent, vigorous exercise that gets your heart rate up and makes you break a sweat is required to burn fat. Aim for at least 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise, 5 days a week. Include strength training to build fat-blasting muscle, and stress-relieving activities like Yoga to keep fattening cortisol and adrenaline stress hormones in check.
I have coached many people to lose weight on a vegetarian diet. Try out these simple tips, and I feel certain you will look as good on the outside as you will feel inside.