So, people-hating animal rights group PETA made headlines last week with their rude billboard ad that basically said that going vegetarian is a great way to lose weight and that meat makes people fatties. ( You can see the ad here. ) PETA kind of sucks in general, so this was not a major surprise. (They did eventually pull the billboard, but ugh–they just love stunts like that.) But, since they brought it up, let’s talk about the whole vegetarian thing in terms of weight loss.
Vegetarians do tend to weigh less than meat-eaters. Is this a rule? No. And it’s not a good “diet” if by “diet” you mean “oh shit I need to fit in my dress this Friday.” If you do decide to go vegetarian, you need to be smart. You can use it as a jumping off point to make your diet healthier, or you can just use it as an excuse to eat all the Doritos and cake your heart desires. Cause hey, they don’t have meat, right? WRONG. Try again.
If you want to lose weight and counting calories is your preferred method, don’t abandon that approach once you take out the meat. If you usually take in 400 calories from protein a day, and that works for you, try to keep that number consistent.
One thing that’s nice about frozen meat-replacement products (like veggie burgers and “chik’n” nuggets) is they have nutritional info on them. Easy-peasy if you’re doing the calorie thing! Still, too many processed foods isn’t a good idea, so don’t completely rely on them.
Always put the “veg” in “vegetarian!” Vegetables are a big part of any healthy diet, but vegetarians have sort of a civic duty to eat more of them. And eating vegetables is going to keep your diet filling and full of essential vitamins and minerals.
Being mindful of protein is important on any diet. It helps you feel full, which is important whenever you’re cutting calories.
Know how much protein you need. A simple formula is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. To find your body weight in kilograms, divide your body weight in pounds by 2.2 And then multiply that by 0.8. The number may be lower than you think! It’s really not that hard to get enough protein if you eat a balanced vegetarian diet, but it’s good to have a ballpark number in mind.
Egg whites pack a baller amount of protein for very few calories! Either hard-boiled or scrambled, this is a great way to up your intake.
Light tofu is another lovely source of vegetarian protein. Put silken tofu in smoothies and learn to cook firm tofu for stir-frys or main courses. It’s not hard, but it’s worth a little effort to know how to prepare it well.
If you let refined carbs make up the bulk of your diet (white pasta, white bread), you’re going to regret it. Grains that have protein are a better bet. Swap Kix for like Kashi Go Lean! Crunch and penne for quinoa.
Sprouted grain bagels are one of my favorite sources of vegetarian protein! (You can find them in the frozen section at health food stores.) Top with some hummus or avocado and a stack of colorful veggies for an under-400 calorie lunch that packs 15 grams of protein. You won’t miss the turkey, I promise.
Low-fat soups were a major way I got enough protein when I cut meat. I love beans, but when it comes to lunch, I’d just rather eat a cup of black bean soup than a cup of black beans. Bean, lentil, vegetarian chili, and split pea soups all pack impressive amounts of protein. Amy’s Organics has a lot of good options, including No-Chicken Noodle.
Don’t rely on cheese for protein. Cheese has 100 calories and 8 grams of protein per ounce, along with a hefty serving of saturated fat. If you do turn to dairy for protein, low-fat Greek yogurt and cottage cheese will give you way more per serving.
Vegetarian and vegan snacks and sweets are still snacks and sweets! Just because it’s animal-free or packaged in a natural-looking container does not mean you should start stuffing your face.
Going vegetarian can help you cut unnecessary saturated fat or excess calories from your diet, but it’s not a sure thing. The right mix of vegetables, healthy carbs, and low-fat protein are crucial to any healthy diet for weight loss. If you’re hoping to lose weight on a vegetarian diet, large amounts of mac and cheese is not the way to do it.