Many people have the mistaken idea that becoming a vegetarian is a guaranteed way to lose weight. In fact, a vegetarian diet can be even unhealthier than a meat-based diet, depending on the foods that people choose to eat. Picking a balanced variety of nutritious foods that are high in vitamins and minerals and low in fat, however, is very likely to help with weight loss.
According to Mayo Clinic registered dietitian Katherine Zeratsky, vegetarians tend to eat less fat and fewer overall calories than meat eaters, and vegetarians also tend to have lower body mass indices. However, the causes behind the research aren’t entirely clear. Vegetarians may have lower caloric and fat intakes because they are more concerned about health than many meat eaters are, rather than because their diets dictate it.
Vegetarians have different nutritional recommendations and requirements than meat eaters. Heeding these requirements is important to maintain good health. In general, foods that fulfill the nutritional recommendations tend to be low in calories and fat, so they do fit in to most weight loss plans. Making sure to eat a variety of vitamins and minerals can also help avoid nutrient deficiencies. These deficiencies sometimes result in cravings for high-fat or high-calorie foods. The Vegetarian Resource Group recommends that plant-based dieters pay special attention to how much protein, iron, vitamin B-12, calcium and Omega-3 fatty acids they eat.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, or NIDDK, makes specific dietary recommendations for vegetarians to ensure balanced nutrition and a low-fat, low-calorie diet. NIDDK suggests regularly eating plenty of green vegetables, nuts, lentils, beans, fortified foods, low-fat dairy products, tofu or soy products, eggs and whole grains.
Vegetarians who are just starting a weight loss plan will find the pyramid laid out by the American Dietetic Association and the Mayo Clinic especially helpful. The pyramid features whole grains, plant-based proteins, vegetables and fruits. Following the pyramid will also help vegetarians avoid foods with high amounts of sugar, cholesterol or saturated fat. To accelerate weight loss, all vegetarians following a fitness plan should also supplement healthy diets with regular exercise.
To make sure that a customized vegetarian diet plan is likely to help with weight loss and fulfill nutritional needs, talk with a dietitian or nutritionist. It’s also important to design a plan that is sustainable in that it’s easy to stick with for the long term as opposed to just a few weeks or months.
- vegetarian dinner image by Maria Brzostowska from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.