How to Lose Weight as a Vegetarian

You’ve checked your BMI, and the results show that you’re overweight. The next thing you know, you’re on Google, searching for diets, meal plans, and recipes in hopes of losing weight. You’ve read about many popular diets—Atkins, Dukan, paleo—but have you considered a vegetarian diet?

26% of millennials are vegetarians, and 10% of the global population follows some kind of vegetarian diet. If you join them, you’ll reduce the risk of death from heart disease by 40%, and reap many other benefits. Even though it’s simple to follow, the vegetarian diet should be planned out carefully, especially if you want to lose weight and never gain it back.

Going Vegetarian for Weight Loss

The basics of any weight loss come down to a more reduced calorie intake than what your body needs, and it’s the same with the vegetarian diet. To know how many calories you should cut, calculate your body mass index (BMI) and basal metabolic rate (BMR). Those two will tell you how many calories you need to cut safely. If you love food, then you don’t have to cut that many calories, but you need to include more physical activity in your daily routine.

Never aim at losing more than two pounds a week. That’s the weight loss you’ll be able to maintain later. Also, never eat less than 1,200 calories a day, or it can lead to nutritional deficiency. If you exercise, you already know how important it is to feed your muscles.

Muscle fuel is protein, so you’ll have to replace your meat protein with proteins of some other kind. Luckily, the vegetarian diet isn’t as limited as a vegan diet. Here are some great sources of protein for your muscles:

  • Quinoa
  • Chickpeas
  • Beans
  • Greek yogurt
  • Tofu
  • Lentils
  • Peas

It would be best if you also implemented some changes when it comes to your carbs and fats. Good sources of carbs are kale, spinach, apples, bananas, carrots, and whole-grain bread. Some of the good fats are avocado, extra virgin olive oil, cheese, nuts, and seeds.

Different Types of Vegetarian Diets

Going vegetarian on its own is great, but did you know that there are many types of vegetarian diets? Let’s go over each briefly. 

  1. Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet is plant-based but includes eggs and dairy. Any type of meat is off-limits. 
  1. Lacto-vegetarians consume dairy—cheese, yogurt, butter, kefir, ghee. They also eat all sorts of vegetables, while eggs are excluded from the diet.
  1. Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but don’t eat dairy. Ovo-diet is in contrast to lacto-diet, as all dairy products are excluded.  
  1. Pescatarian consumes fish and seafood along with plants. Most pescatarians are also lacto-ovo vegetarians.
  1. Semi-vegetarians sometimes include chicken or fish in their diet, along with eggs, dairy and plants, but never eat red meat.

Benefits of the Vegetarian Diet

Other than weight loss, there are additional benefits of the vegetarian diet, such as:

  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower risk of type 2 diabetes

What Are the Challenges?

Even though you’re in a hurry to lose weight, you shouldn’t rush into the vegetarian diet. Your body might need more time to adjust to a change, depending on which vegetarian diet you chose. Weight loss is a long-term process on its own, and so should be the transition. Don’t forget to consult with your doctor before you make a decision.

It would help if you always tracked your portions and your macronutrients. It’s easy to be fooled when your plate seems full, but you can mistakenly eat less protein. It’s especially important to be aware of portion sizes when you have refined carbs on your plate, such as bread, pizza, and pasta.

An excellent strategy is to fill half of your plate with non-starchy veggies, including protein with every meal, switch to complex carbs, and eat mostly whole foods.

Summary

If you devote your time to studying the vegetarian diet, you’ll get to know all the benefits that it brings to your body. Still, changing the way you eat can be stressful, so make sure you take your time and gradually move away from your old eating habits. Luckily, there are multiple types of vegetarian diets that you can test out and find the one that fits you most. Remember, vegetarianism is not only the path to weight loss—it’s also a lifestyle.

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