While many people turn to a vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based eating approach as a means to lose or maintain weight, weight loss is not guaranteed, even with this radical lifestyle change. Many new plant-based eaters make a number of mistakes while transitioning into their new lifestyle and eating plan. Heed the following tenants to make sure your new plan promotes your intended result!
Eat fiber! vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based eating approaches generally contain a greater quantity of fiber than the standard American diet, thanks to our increased consumption of vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and legumes. While fiber’s role in the bowel is well recognized, many of us fail to consider the other perks of a high fiber diet, especially in regards to weight maintenance. Because fiber provides bulk and slows digestion, it also promotes satiety (the feeling of fullness), making it a weight loss superstar. When we feel fuller longer, we’re less prone to snacking, nibbling, or feeling tempted due to unnecessary hunger.
It should be noted, however, that some Vegans or plant based eaters (especially new converts, who are still learning) still consume a diet that is high in carbohydrate, fat, and processed fare, all of which is largely unhealthy and lacking in fiber. To avoid this nutritional trap, always focus on whole vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes, soy, and nuts: avoid processed options like “vegan cookies” or “vegan mac and cheese”, aside from occasional indulgences or special occasions. Even in a vegan or vegetable-based diet, moderation is key.
Manage added fat! Many people assume that all vegan and vegetarian diets are low in fat. However, many new vegans make the mistake of overdoing it on cooking oil and nuts- while both of these items are important components of a plant-based diet, they are high in calories, so be sure to monitor your portion sizes!
Reduce restaurant dining! Unless nutritional information is made available to you, there’s really no way to guarantee that whatever you’re being served is a healthy option, even if it’s vegan. A 2013 study by Tufts University in Boston found that the average entree in a sit-down restaurant (regardless of specific cuisine) contains 1,400 Calories! There’s simply no way for the average person to regularly consume restaurant food and maintain weight, unless you’re consuming very small portion sizes to moderate calories, in which case you won’t be satiated by your meal.
When you do go out, choose wisely!When you do go out to eat, try to choose a restaurant that has nutritional information available either online or on the menu to help you make sound nutritional choices. You can also request for oil, fatty sauces, or calorie-heavy garnishes be left off your meal, but chefs may or may not be able to oblige your request depending on the specific meal. At the very least, do make sure that you avoid restaurants whose vegan options are carb-heavy and devoid of protein many eateries feature vegan entrees that are little more than piles of cheap carbohydrate smothered in fat. Instead, consider visiting Asian restaurants and Indian restaurants, both of which generally have a great selection of plant-based main dishes that are high in fiber (vegetables) and filling protein (soy, beans and legumes, nuts).
Become more aware of what you’re putting in your body!One of the little-recognized benefits of a vegan, vegetarian, or otherwise plant-focused eating approach is that is requires you to become vigilant about what you’re putting in your body. Suddenly, instead of haphazardly filling your grocery cart with whatever looks appealing, you’re scrutinizing and comparing foods labels. While you’re looking for animal products, you’re also becoming aware of calories, fat, sodium, sugar, and serving sizes. This increased awareness of your food and overall intake positively affects weight maintenance – when you know exactly what is in your food, you can decide what, when, and how much to eat of something.
The healthiest meal components and snack options available are the easiest: they don’t require a nutritional label or ingredients list- they’re simply natural and quite obviously plant-based (or not), such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Choosing options with as few ingredients as possible takes you back to nature, where the healthiest food choices originate.
Considering adopting a Vegan, Vegetarian, or Plant-Based Approach?
That’s great! Many people assume that the transition is difficult or unenjoyable- while there is a learning curve, many people find that they flourish on a plant-based diet. Educating yourself and making the change slowly can help initiate you to a plant-based methodology. Learning to check ingredient labels and make sound nutritional choices on a new diet is a learning process – don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake. Instead, try to stick to the tenants we’ve discussed here, and consult the resources available on this website for continued emotional and educational support on your lifestyle change.