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What is a healthy way for a vegetarian to lose weight?

Donna Feldman
Nutrition & Dietetics

The rules of weight loss are the same for vegetarians and meat eaters: eat fewer calories than you need every day. Your energy needs are determined by your age, gender, height, activity level and current weight. The general rule of thumb for a healthy, sustainable weight loss plan is to lose 1-2 lbs per week. As you lose weight over time, weight loss will slow, because when you weigh less, you require slightly fewer calories.

Being vegetarian can be a plus for weight loss. You’re already focused on plant foods, which have a high water content, which make you feel full and stifle hunger. Those foods are vegetables, fruit and cooked grains, which have the added bonus of being high fiber. Including these types of foods at all your meals and snacks can help you control calorie intake by cutting your appetite.

Another good strategy is to include some high-protein food at all your meals. This can also help with satiety. Vegetarians have limited choices in protein foods, so this might take more planning. Most vegetarians eat dairy foods, like yogurt, cheese and milk, which are all high quality protein. Nuts, beans, tofu, nut butters and soy milk are also high-protein meatless foods. Include a variety of those every day at your meals. Dairy foods have the added benefit of being high in calcium.

Like everyone who wants to lose weight, vegetarians need to cut out empty junk food calories, such as from sugared soft drinks, pastries, chips, candy and desserts. Those foods may technically be meatless, but that’s not a reason to overeat them.

And like other dieters, vegetarians need to include daily physical activity to increase fitness and burn calories.

To summarize:

  1. Lots of high water content/high fiber vegetables, fruits and cooked grain foods
  2. High protein foods at your meals and snacks
  3. Cut back on junk food
  4. Exercise

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.