The vegan diet has never been more popular, but it’s not a new concept. Eating a mostly vegetarian diet and choosing to avoid animal products is a habit that people have followed for centuries. If you ask advocates of the plant-based diet, you’ll hear them say everyone can go a little more vegan to make a real difference to the climate and their health. For example, the idea of choosing kale over tuna supports healthy living while helping animals and the environment. Another positive aspect that people are promoting is that a vegan diet can help in weight loss if done correctly and sustainably. However, how much is scientifically proven? How much of it is sustainable? How healthy is it? These are some of the frequently asked questions that surface.
Read on to delve into the best vegan diet tips and strategies so you can stop yo-yo dieting, lose weight, and reap the benefits of a vegan diet.
The vegetarian diet: an introduction
Both vegetarian and vegan diets exclude meat and seafood, but vegetarian diets go further. This eating plan gravitates toward a complete, plant-based diet that stays away from dairy, eggs, and honey. Beginners can start with a more flexible vegetarian diet, which allows occasional additions of meat and other animal proteins.
A plant-based diet is one of the most effective ways to reduce consumption of processed foods and control weight. However, since it also restricts the consumption of dairy products, getting enough nutrients like protein and calcium can become difficult. Hence, nutritionists and health care experts recommend a balanced diet that contains foods from all food groups. But with more research into the vegetarian eating pattern, people are now categorizing vegan diets into some flexible categories. So, let’s take a look at some.
Here are some of the differences you can see in plant-based diets.
- Whole plant diet: Focuses on whole plant foods like fruits, nuts and whole grains
- Raw food vegetarian diet: It includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and plant foods cooked below 48°C.
- 10/10/80 Vegetarian Diet (Vegetarian, fruit or low-fat diet): Limit high-fat foods such as nuts and avocados and include consumption of fruits and vegetables.
- Starch solution diet: It relies on cooked starches such as rice, potatoes and corn instead of fruits.
- Flourish Diet: A form of a raw vegan diet, in which food items are cooked at the lowest temperature.
- Undesirable vegetarian diet: It lacks whole plant foods and focuses on vegan cheeses, imitation meats, vegan desserts, and other processed plant foods.
A vegan diet includes only foods made without ingredients produced or derived from animals. A whole food vegan diet is more filling due to its higher fiber content and less calorie density, which aids in weight management. Regardless of the components of your current diet, eating nutritious and balanced whole foods will always be beneficial.
Healthy plant foods to add to your diet
The vegetarian diet is gaining popularity, and those who want to protect the environment while losing weight follow it. First, however, you must know how to properly plan your meals to get enough nutrients. This is because along with the countless benefits of this vegan diet, it can also increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies. Hence, it is of utmost importance to research and follow a well balanced and divided diet plan to ensure your overall well-being.
Here are some healthy, nutrient-dense, varied and delicious food sources that you can add to your vegan meal plan.
- High-fiber foods: Berries, pears, apples, oranges, broccoli, potatoes, carrots, Brussels sprouts and more.
- Leafy vegetables: Spinach, collard greens, kale and Swiss chard
- vegetable protein: Tofu, tempeh, soy milk and seitan
- healthy fats: Avocados, olive oil, nuts, nut butters, and seeds such as hemp, flax, and chia
- All grains: Brown rice, quinoa, oats, rice and whole grain bread.
- Beans and legumes: Black beans, lentils, kidney beans, peas, and chickpeas.
Foods to avoid in a healthy vegetarian diet
There is a common, unnoticed fact that vegetarians can fall into a wide variety of unhealthy diets, just like any carnivorous diet. It boils down to eating more mock meats and plant-based cheeses. Hence, there are some plant foods that you should stay aware of, for your health, especially in terms of weight loss.
Here are some vegetarian meals/foods that you need to avoid or limit on your weight loss journey.
- Processed meat alternatives: Read the food label carefully for alternatives to processed meat, although some are healthy options.
- Vegetarian desserts: Whether it’s vegan cookies or ice cream, eat them in moderation unless you’re unsure of the ingredients.
- White bread and pasta: With a vegan diet, it’s easy to overindulge in starchy foods. Therefore, you should check the portions on your plate, and add more space for the vegetables.
- Vegetarian snacks: Vegan granola bars and chips are processed snacks that you can eat in limited quantities after carefully analyzing ingredients, calories, and sugar levels.
Benefits of a vegetarian diet for weight loss
A plant-based diet has beneficial health effects on body weight and BMI, reducing the risk of potential disorders such as heart disease, arthritis, blood pressure and diabetes. Furthermore, a study showed that a low-fat vegan diet leads to significant and sustainable weight loss.
Here’s how a plant-based diet can help you lose weight.
Harness the power of high-fiber content
A vegetarian diet is rich in fiber that will improve your bowel movement, and keep you full for a long time. The fiber in the diet can improve your gut bacteria in general, improve your digestive health, and prevent you from snacking on calorie-rich snacks. In addition, it will help you lose weight.
More natural and healthy meals
A plant-based diet will meet your daily calorie intake from whole grains, seeds, nuts and legumes. Eating nutritious foods that are free of sugar and triglycerides can help you better manage weight loss.
Cut down on saturated fats and benefit from healthy fats
Saturated fats are associated with an increased risk of obesity and poor health. Switching to a plant-based diet will encourage weight loss by adding healthy fats and omega-3 acids to your diet. These fats can act as the best driving force for perfect weight control with attention to serving size.
Low in calories but sustainably saturated
Most people look for foods that are low in calories, which help in losing weight by satiating cravings. A vegan diet approves of most low-calorie vegan food items that are highly satiating and help tackle cravings.
You can maintain a calorie deficit more efficiently on a vegetarian diet. While many people see initial weight loss by switching to a plant-based diet, it will only stay in the long-term when you exercise regularly. If you simply switch to vegan junk food, you most likely won’t see weight loss.
Vegetarian Diet: Checklist Meal Plan Options
As the newest vegetarian diet, you may be wondering how to prepare meals suitable for a day. As you plan your meals, add various items, including vegetables and different sources of protein, to meet your nutritional needs and keep you healthy. Here are some simple and delicious meal options that you can include in your healthy vegetarian diet plan.
- Soak oats overnight with fruit, fortified plant milk, and chia seeds
- Whole grain toast with peanut butter and banana
- Vegetarian pancakes covered with fruits and nuts
- Protein shake and bean salad
- Chia pudding with fruits and nuts
- Spinach and bean sprouts salad
- vegan banana bread
- Fresh vegan sushi with tofu
- Mushroom and tofu salad
- fruit salad
- trail mix
- Cauliflower and tahini
Possible side effects of a vegetarian diet
A vegetarian diet is usually an excellent lifestyle if you have the right resources. However, since it is a diet that is a bit restrictive, one may miss out on important nutrients and fall into the trap of many side effects. Here are some of the potential risks of following a vegan diet without proper guidance.
Vitamin B12 deficiency risk
Vitamin B12 is essential for providing energy and synthesis of DNA and red blood cells. Foods that are avoided in a vegetarian diet are rich in vitamin B12, which leads to an increased risk of deficiency and nerve damage. Since meat, eggs, fish and dairy products are among the richest sources of vitamin B12, you need to replace them with much fewer vegetarian options.
Consuming processed plant foods such as sweetened soy milk and yogurt may cause hormonal disturbances. Moreover, it can cause infertility issues due to the strong anti-estrogenic effects.
Many non-vegetarian foods are rich in iron, such as meat, fish, and eggs. Excluding such foods may lead to anemia due to an increased risk of iron deficiency. However, adding spinach, legumes, pumpkin seeds, and broccoli to your daily diet will help you keep your iron level under control.
Tips for planning a healthy vegetarian diet
Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of following a vegan diet, you should go through some valuable tips to keep in mind before starting your diet plan.
- Add high-fiber foods such as whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables to your vegetarian diet for weight loss because it will keep you feeling full for longer.
- Avoid processed foods as they may be high in fats and sugars, which can lead to weight gain. Instead, focus on whole, unprocessed foods that are low in calories.
- Pay attention to your health needs and reduce portion sizes to avoid overeating in one sitting and prevent weight gain.
- Exercise accounts for most of the calories you burn. Therefore, you cannot bypass the need for regular exercise. Move more, because a little daily movement is good for overall health.
A vegan diet comes in many different forms, and switching to the diet won’t automatically and instantly make you healthier. Besides planning a plant-based diet, your determination and consistency are key factors to help you stay on track in your weight loss journey. In short, adapting a balanced diet accompanied by a healthy and regular exercise regimen will give you benefits far beyond your slim waistline, enhancing your quality of life and health.