Tara’s Top 10 Tips on How to Lose Weight AND Be Vegetarian
I live by these rules:
- Calories In … Calories Out: Remember, the weight loss fundamentals still apply to vegetarians, even though we cut out an entire food group. 3500 calories = one pound. Burn the calories or slash them from your diet. Portions count. Can’t change the math.
- Beware of Vegetarian Junk Food: You know what it is. Fried, processed junk in a shiny wrapper, box, or can. You cannot eat an unlimited amount of a food because it says ‘plant-based’ or ‘organic’ or ‘meat-free’. Just because it doesn’t have meat in it, doesn’t make it healthy. Ditch it.
- Beverage Calories Count too (sorry): just because you drink it doesn’t mean the calories in it don’t count. Organic wine, kombucha, chia seed drinks, green juice in a jar. Most of these plant-based ‘heathy’ drinks come with a whopping 300 calorie price tag. I have to run 3 miles at an 8-minute pace to burn that off. I’ll take a water please.
- Plan Ahead: it isn’t easy to try to count calories and eat on the go and find food that doesn’t contain meat. I always have food with me. People that go places with me know that I always have a snack in my bag. Spend time on your day off planning out your week, actively think about the meals you need for the week, make a list, shop, chop, portion out your snacks, pre-cook beans and grains so that they can be mixed into your recipes without any delay on busy days. No simpler way to put it: you want to lose weight you need to plan what you are going to eat, you want to be vegetarian you need to plan what you are going to eat, no way around it. If you are going to eat out, read my tips here first.
- Clean the Kitchen: If it isn’t in your house it can’t make it into your stomach. Ditch the junk. Keep your counters clean of clutter and boxes of snacks. Organize the refrigerator and put all healthy foods where you can see them. Make the pantry pretty and organized so that you can easily find something when you are ready to cook or eat. Follow my tips here for how to set up your vegetarian kitchen.
- Protein: so many new vegetarians become ‘carbatarians’ at first, they forget about protein or don’t know how to get it. Protein keeps you full and helps you improve muscle mass. More muscle = higher metabolism = burn more calories = easier to lose and maintain weight. So, remember your clean vegetarian protein sources and include them at every meal. What should a vegetarian looking to lose weight eat for protein, what needs to be organic?
- Organic eggs
- Organic, non GMO Tofu
- Organic low-fat milk and yogurt (or Siggi’s is a great on-the-go option)
- Nuts and nut butters, made without oil and added sugars, in moderation (caution: these are high in calories for a small serving BUT they are high in fiber and healthy fats so don’t exclude them)
- Vegetables, yes vegetables have protein (spinach, tomatoes, artichokes, peas)
- Beans and Legumes, hummus
- Chia seeds
- Vegan protein powder or grass-fed, organic whey protein powder
- Don’t snack on just fruit: yes, eat the fruit, eat lots of fruit BUT when you eat fruit alone it causes your blood sugar to rise quick and drop quick. Pair it with a handful of seeds or nuts or a tablespoon of nut butter or hummus. That way the protein slows the absorption of the carbs and you stay fuller longer without the ups and downs of your blood sugar.
- The Vegetarian Salad Trap: picture this … a pretty white bowl … inside is a layer of fresh sliced romaine lettuce, spinach leaves, and an assortment of chopped veggies … but … the gorgeous palate of nutrients and fiber are drowning … getting smothered in processed, calorically-dense salad dressing, and topped with diet-busting fried croutons and non-organic full fat cheese… the salad trap. A salad can be a wonderful base for a vitamin, fiber, and protein-packed meal but be very cautious of toppings and dressings. What can you do to avoid the salad trap? Be very generous with the amount and color of veggies and add in healthy fats such as avocado, olives, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. The salad trap, don’t fall in it.
- Fiber: keeps you regular and makes you feel fuller longer. Fiber is so important, and people don’t pay enough attention to it. Most people only get half of the amount of fiber they need and that puts them at risk for diabetes, inflammatory disorders, obesity, and difficulty losing and maintaining weight. Where can you get fiber? Popcorn (my favorite recipe here), pumpkin, sprouted grain bread, seeds, hummus, oats (easy overnight oats are a great option), apples, beans, whole grains, apples, peas, chickpeas.
- Find an activity you like: vegetarian or not, you need to move to lose weight or maintain weight. Dance, walk, jump, skate, run, ski. Find a friend, get an app, take a class, movement is movement, do it. Remember, you are vegetarian for a reason, and likely is that the reason is to respect life. Respect your own life too by caring for your body.
Any veteran vegetarians have anything to add? Aspiring vegetarians have questions? Leave a comment below. Happy Tuesday 🙂