If you’re thinking of trying a vegetarian diet plan for weight loss, you’re not alone. According to “Vegetarian Times“, over 29 million Americans eat a diet that’s either completely non-meat or has an emphasis on sources that are non-meat.
Also, following a vegetarian weight loss meal plan has never been easier. Foods that are completely animal-free have come quite a long way as a direct result of people making a commitment to their own health, the environment, and the animals. Don’t doubt that a vegetarian weight loss diet is a healthy diet. However, these types of diets lack certain important nutrients so make sure you take proper steps to assure you get what your body needs.
Sample Vegetarian Diet Plans
You can download a sample one week vegetarian weight loss diet menu plan here (compliments of Nutribase.com). EatingWell.com has a more comprehensive free vegetarian diet meal diet plan you can follow.
The Real Benefits
Some people worry that if they don’t eat meat they won’t get ALL of the nutrients they need to be healthy. This couldn’t be further from the truth. According to the ADA (American Dietetic Association) vegetarian diets not only provide you with all the nutrients you need but may also prevent certain diseases.
What types of benefits should you expect from a vegetarian diet program?
- Lower cholesterol level
- Lower rate of high blood pressure
- Lower risk of cancer
- Lower risk of diabetes
- Weight loss!
The American Dietetic Association says that you get these overall health benefits because vegetarian diets contain larger amounts of fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.
Also, when you lose weight on a vegetarian diet plan for weight loss you’ll consume less saturated fat. If you have a veggie burger you’ll only consume about nine grams of fat (with almost zero saturated fat). If you have a comparable serving of beef in a hamburger you’ll consume about fifteen grams of fat (with about six grams of saturated fat).
When you eat less meat you also reduce your risk of certain types of cancer. A recent Georgetown University study found a link between eating red and processed meat with specific types of cancer. While diet plans for vegetarians will work for weight loss, it will also have other, VERY positive benefits.
Making Sure You Get Proper Nutrition
When you’re dieting and losing weight it’s very important that you get a wide variety of foods. There’s not one single type of food that can give you all the nutrients your body needs. That’s why we always advise our readers to avoid (like crazy!) any diets that are very restrictive because it’s hard to get all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.
To make sure you get all the nutrients you need you’ll have to make an extra effort. Below are the nutrients you may not get from a vegetarian diet plan for weight loss so you may have to take extra steps to make sure you get them:
1. Calcium – You can get calcium from low-fat dairy foods, milk, turnip greens, collard greens, broccoli, kale, and calcium fortified products like juices, cereals, soy milk, tofu, etc.
2. Iodine – You need Iodine to regulate metabolism and regulate the functions of your brain, thyroid, heart, and kidney. To avoid an Iodine deficiency and goiter you want to make sure you consume salt with iodine (sprinkled on your food or in your cooking).
3. Iron – Iron is tricky because your body doesn’t easily absorb it from plant sources. Therefor to help your body absorb iron in your vegetarian diet you’ll want to consume foods high in vitamin C like tomatoes, oranges, strawberries, cabbage, and broccoli. Some foods that are rich in iron include peas, lentils, whole-grain products, dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, peas, and dried fruit.
4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids – You need Omega-3s for your eye, brain, and cardiovascular health. If you follow a vegetarian diet for weight loss that doesn’t include eggs or fish then you won’t be getting this important nutrient. Because our bodies can’t really process plant-based Omega-3s it’s important to take a supplement or eat products that are Omega-3 fortified.
5. Protein – Protein is VERY important. Men need at least fifty-six grams of protein per day while women need forty-six grams per day (according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention).
Protein is very important for your skin, bones, organs, and muscles. You can get enough protein if you eat dairy, eggs, soy products, meat substitutes, whole grains, seeds, nuts, legumes, and lentils.
6. Vitamin B-12 – You need B-12 in your diet to help produce more red blood cells and to prevent anemia. B-12 is found almost exclusively in meat and other animal products so it’s very difficult to get it in a non-animal based diet. Because a deficiency in vitamin B-12 is not detectable (until severe problems arise) it’s recommended that anyone on a vegetarian diet take fortified products or supplements.
7. Vitamin D – This nutrient is important to maintain bone health. While on a vegetarian weight loss diet you want to make sure you consume enough products that are fortified with this nutrient. Some products that are Vitamin D fortified are soy products, rice milk, cereals, and margarines.
8. Zinc – This nutrient is an important component of many enzymes and plays a big role in the formation of proteins and the division of cells. Some good options for zinc include cheese, whole grains, wheat germ, nuts, legumes, and soy products.
Starting Your Vegetarian Diet Plan
If you think you may have some trouble switching from a meat-based to a vegetable and fruit based diet then try and start out slowly. Start by slowly increasing the number of meatless meals every day.
Also, learn the art of substitution. Take your favorite meals like chili, spaghetti or pizza and make them without meat. You can make chili vegetarian by leaving out the meat and adding another can of black beans. If you like fajitas you can substitute extra-firm tofu for chicken. You’ll be shocked when you find out the taste isn’t that much different.
Also, try and keep your vegetarian diet plan for weight loss varied. Try the sample diets we provided you above or search online for menus or cookbooks. Visit some local ethnic restaurants like Indian or Mexican and try their meatless dishes. This way you expose yourself to all the possibilities!
Are you a vegetarian? Are you considering becoming a vegetarian? Do you have a motive other than weight loss? Share your story or some vegetarian tips below.