Vegetarian Diet without Weight Gain
Savvy Vegetarian Advice
BY JUDY KINGSBURY
Question: How can I eat the proper vegetarian diet without weight
gain? - T.L.
Vegetarians tend to be thinner, on average, particularly
vegans, but the same principles of weight gain or weight loss apply
to a vegetarian diet as to a non-vegetarian diet. There are quite a
few variables, but there are lots of ways to eat a proper nutritious
vegetarian diet without weight gain.
Some of the Main Variables
1. Your lifestyle and activity level. If you're physically active,
especially if you spend time in outdoor activity every day, you won't
have as much problem with weight gain, because you'll be burning calories
as you eat them. I have to say it: Exercise is an inescapable part
of weight control.
2. Vegetarian or Vegan: Vegans tend to be leaner,
because a balanced vegan diet tends to be higher in fiber and lower
in calories, because of the absence of dairy and egg. High-fiber beans
and whole grains are staples of a vegan diet, and the protein/fat/carb
balance in those foods falls more into the recommended balance of 10-20%
protein, 15-35% fat, and 50-70% carbohydrate per 100 calories.
Tofu is the high-fat, low-fiber exception. Nuts and seeds are very
high in fats, but a little goes a long way, and they are prime sources
of vital nutrients.
3. Your physical characteristics and metabolism. If
you tend to gain weight and be a slow-moving, earth-mother type, then
you need to eat accordingly, and not like your stick-thin friend who
eats everything and never exercises. Each person is
unique, which means that what's
right for one isn't necessarily right for the next person.
Ways to Control Your Weight
1. Favor vegan sources of protein. That doesn't mean
you have to go all vegan, just go easy on the high-fat, low-fiber foods.
2. Make every calorie count, nutritionally, with high quality, fresh,
organic whole foods, and very little processed food or instant food
- that makes it easier to eliminate high calorie ingredients, and satisfy
your appetite without overeating.
3. Maintain 50-70%of your calories in carbs, to keep your metabolism
and your blood sugar steady and avoid food cravings.
4. Get plenty of liquids, especially warm liquids,
like teas, but not much soda, cold or sweet drinks. Favor high- liquid,
low-fat, but nutrient-dense foods, like soups, salads, and fruits.
5. Exercise daily, consistently, with at least 30 minutes of moderately
1. Don't cut fats and carbs out of your diet. High-protein
diets of any kind are harmful. You still need a good protein/fat/carb
balance. For more info on this topic, read the Savvy Vegetarian article Vegetarian
Protein: Myth & Reality.
2. Don't starve and binge, or adopt a punitive exercise routine that
you can't maintain. Think long term, and be consistent. Have realistic
expectations and goals. Size 4 may be unattainable, but last I heard,
size 12 or even 14 was perfectly respectable.
3. Avoid extreme diets, like extreme vegan or raw
food diets, or macrobiotic. It's better to learn what your individual
body needs on a daily basis and go with that. Think sustainable.
4. Don't take diet pills, or other chemical or herbal weight loss
aids. That goes right along with starving and binging.
5. Don't overeat - quit before you're full, don't snack, and eat light
Becoming Vegan, and The New Becoming
Vegetarian, by Vesanto Melina
and Brenda Davis. Excellent and indispensible vegetarian nutrition
primers - they cover this issue pretty well.
For more resources on weight loss from Judy Kingsbury, visit The
Health Disclaimer: Savvy Vegetarian provides education
and support to individuals who want to become vegetarian, or improve
their diet. We don't advocate any particular vegetarian diet. We don't
claim to be health care professionals, or nutritionists, nor do we
treat any illness. Any changes that you make to your diet, or results
of those changes, are your decision and responsibility. For your protection,
we ask you to be completely open with us about your health, and we may recommend
a medical exam before changing your diet. We reserve the right to refuse or
to end a client relationship if we believe the client's actions may
endanger his or her health.
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