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The Vegetarian Meal Plan for Weight Loss: What You Should Know

Author: Amand Cofer, MPH

It’s no myth that eating more plant based foods can help you become a healthier you. There are multiple studies, cultures, and individuals that can speak to how incorporating more plants into your every day diet can help improve your nutrition. But what about for weight loss? Sure, caloric density is at play here. You can eat more broccoli than cheese for the same amount of energy. What do you need to know if you’re eating vegetarian meals for weight loss?

What kind of vegetarian do you want to be?

We know, that sounds like a loaded question giving you flashbacks to grade school when everyone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up. A vegetarian diet involves removing meat products from your diet but there are different types of vegetarian eating methods to consider. These types play around with other sources of protein coming from animals like eggs and dairy with some even using a little meat here and there. 

Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: has removed all meat products from their diet uses eggs and dairy items in their meals. 

Lacto-vegetarian: has removed all meat products and eggs from their diet but does use dairy items

Ovo-vegetarian: does not eat meat products or dairy but use eggs in their meals or cooking

Pescatarian: does not eat meat products like poultry but does eat fish and sometimes uses eggs or dairy items. 

Flexitarian: no, this is no flexing those muscles you’ve been working on in the gym. This person eats mostly plant based meals but does eat meat occasionally.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on the lacto-ovo-vegetarian eating (“traditional” vegetarianism, if you will) and what this means for weight loss. 

A vegetarian meal plan for weight loss 

There are a lot of benefits that go along with eating more plant, or as we might put it at Noom, more foods from the green color category. Those eating more plant-based meals generally get in more fiber for colon health, more vitamins like C and E, and magnesium. Also, calorie intake has potential to be more controlled because is caloric density leading to more satisfying meals. Eating this way over the long term can decrease risk for a long of diseases like colon cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Of course, this comes along with a well balanced vegetarian diet, which can be the tough part. 

When things aren’t balanced there are some certain disadvantages that come with eating this way.  Without a well balanced diet a vegetarian may have low levels of iron, calcium, or vitamin B-12, or zinc. Most vegetarian food or plants do have these things in them but you need to know how much of each to enjoy in order to get the right amount of nutrients. This can be a bit of a learning curve at first. Another factor here is protein intake. This is extremely important for weight to keep from losing muscle as you lose fat mass. So where does protein come from when you eat mostly vegetarian meals? This is also takes a lot of practice and balance. Items like lentils, rice, tofuf, and tempeh all contain protein so making sure you have the right mix to get in complete proteins. 

So would a well balanced vegetarian meal plan for weight loss look like? It’s important to keep in mind that going vegetarian alone does not guarantee weight loss. There are so many other aspects of your life and behaviors at play and Noom can help you decipher through this to make permanent change. If you are wanting to set some goals around plant-based eating, your coach can help you work through it while keeping portion sizes, mindfulness, and hunger cues in mind. Here is an example day of meals you may consider.

  • Breakfast: 2 eggs, 1 piece of whole grain toast, 1 cup sauteed spinach, and ¼ avocado
  • Lunch: salad with chickpeas, beets, walnuts, berries, vinegarette dressing
  • Dinner: 3 oz. of tempeh or tofu, asparagus, brown rice, some pesto for flavor
  • Snacks: sliced apple and nut butter, low-fat Greek yogurt

The bottom line: Vegetarian eating and weight loss

In the end there are a lot of health benefits that go along with (mostly) removing meat products and eating more plant-based meals but you’ll need to consider nutritional factors to make sure you have a balance that works for you. Switching to a vegetarian eating style make help you control your calories but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee weight loss. Since nutrition is only one piece of the lifestyle change puzzle, Noom can help you work through other changes on a deeper level to alter your habits for good as well as help you make a balanced vegetarian diet permanent, if that’s what you’re after, of course!