Many people that struggle with dieting and losing weight will often get frustrated with their smaller efforts and ultimately opt for something drastic—a crash diet, a very low calorie diet, or even overhauling their eating habits completely. Some even go vegetarian in the hope that they can lose weight! But is that the right choice? Will a vegetarian diet for weight loss even work? Read on to find out everything you need to know about the vegetarian diet and weight loss…
What is a Vegetarian Diet, Really?
All vegetarian diets revolve around eating lots of fruits, veggies, seeds, nuts, and plant-based proteins. Most will involve eliminating all animal meats, though some will include fish as an option. Some vegetarian diets avoid all animal products completely, while others will permit milk, eggs, cheese, and other dairy products. The good news is that you have a lot of different options when going vegetarian. As long as you cut meats from your diet—including beef, pork, chicken, turkey, sausages, and anything else that is made with animal flesh—you are technically on a vegetarian diet.
The Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
When you cut animal-based proteins from your diet, you reduce the amount of saturated fat you consume. Saturated fat isn’t necessarily an unhealthy type of fat, but it is very high in calories. A veggie-based diet tends to be lower in calories, and it’s rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Seeing as you’re eating plant-based foods, you’ll get the excellent range of nutrients found in those foods. Many vegetarians also claim that you will feel better, your skin will look healthier, and you’ll have more energy once you cut animal products from your diet.
The Drawbacks of a Vegetarian Diet
While a plant-based diet is richer in some nutrients, it’s also deficient in others. For example, red meat is the best source of Vitamin B12, which is critical for a healthy metabolism. It’s nearly impossible to find Vitamin B12 in sufficient quantities in plant-based foods, so you’ll have to take a supplement in order to get enough of this vitamin in your diet. Animal protein is also the best source of amino acids and critical minerals like calcium and iron. When you go vegetarian, it takes more effort to get enough of these nutrients in your diet. It’s possible, but you have to be more conscious of what you’re eating, or else risk nutrient deficiencies.
Vegetarian Diet for Weight Loss: Does It Work?
When you go vegetarian, you cut back on a lot of the foods that promote weight gain. However, there are many foods that are still high in calories, and especially high in empty carbs (which cause weight gain). For example, vegetarians can still eat bread, noodles, and other flour-based products. They can also eat sugar, candies, cookies, and other foods that are not made with animal products. These are actually the worst foods, far more likely to cause weight gain than animal protein. Just going vegetarian doesn’t guarantee weight loss, especially if you eat a lot of high-sugar, high-carb foods.
How to Lose Weight on a Vegetarian Diet
There are two basic principles to follow when trying a vegetarian diet for weight loss: 1) Cut back on calories, and 2) cut back on empty carbs and sugar. Focus on eating high-nutrient foods like nuts, seeds, plant-based proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Avoid anything that would be considered “junk food” or a “treat” as much as possible. Just because you’ve gone vegetarian, you’re not guaranteed to lose weight unless you diet smart!