You’ve probably heard that comment from your healthcare provider about your blood pressure and needing to eat more fruits and vegetables to help manage it. Maybe you’ve been thinking about making the switch already to more plant based meals but you’re not sure where to start. We get it. Starting a vegetarian meal plan to help you meet your weight loss goals can feel daunting at first so we’ve broken it down into more digestible pieces.
What is a vegetarian diet?Before we get into more detail, it would probably be helpful to know what a vegetarian diet actually is and how it differs from a vegan diet.
A vegetarian is someone who eats mostly plant-based meals and may still use eggs and dairy products for protein and other nutrients while someone on a vegan diet is eating no animal products whatsoever. Vegetarian meal plans, depending on the vegetarian, may occasionally use fish as well.
What does a vegetarian eat?Now that you know the broad answer to this (plant-based meals), let’s talk about what this actually means and how it might apply to weight loss.
Vegetarian meal plans focus on foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains (pastas, breads, oats, or rice), legumes (like black beans), nuts or seeds / nut or seed butters (almonds, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, and more), tubers (root vegetables like potatoes), and other plant-based proteins like tofu, tempeh, and seitan. A vegetarian meal plan for weight loss will also work to limit processed sugar and heavy, saturated fats as well.
Finding a balance that works for you and your vegetarian meals might take a little practice and here are some things you might want to keep in mind to help you figure it out. Vegetarian protein comes in all shapes and sizes. You might use products like tofu or tempeh or enjoy more black beans and lentils. Protein is especially important if your goals involve weight loss to make sure your muscle stays healthy and strong. Knowing your protein needs will help you work towards a healthy vegetarian protein intake. To find out what your body needs use the equation below.
- Your weight (lbs) x 0.36 = grams of protein daily, Your weight (kg) x 0.8 = grams of protein daily (USDA)
Need some recipes to help you work more enjoyable vegetarian protein into your meals? Check out these six meatless recipes that pack a protein punch.
On top or knowing your protein intake, it will be important to know your calorie needs as well. Vegetarian meal plans are lower in calorie density due to the nutrient rich foods that are included. While this is great, you’ll want to keep your calories in line with your weight loss goals so that you don’t lose weight too quickly, too slowly, or not at all. The good news though is that plant-based foods can be incredibly filling and satisfying due to the healthy amount of fiber! To find out what your calorie needs would be on a vegetarian meal plan for weight loss, use the Harris-Benedict equation below and remember to factor in your level of physical activity.
- Men – BMR = 88.362 + (13.397 x weight in kg) + (4.799 x height in cm) – (5.677 x age in years), BMR x Activity Multiplier
- Women – BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 x weight in kg) + (3.098 x height in cm) – (4.330 x age in years), BMR x Activity Multiplier
- Activity Multipliers
- Little to no physical activity – 1.2
- Light physical activity (1-3 days per week) – 1.375
- Moderate physical activity (3-5 days per week) – 1.55
- Heavy physical activity (6-7 days per week) – 1.75
Vegetarian weight loss plan
For weight loss, a vegetarian meal plan will still need to carry a calorie deficit depending on your weight loss pace. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a loss of 1-2 pounds per week or, in other words, a deficit of 500-1,000 calories per day achieved through changes in eating habits and exercise.
7 day vegetarian meal plan
Now that we have covered the more technical aspects of a vegetarian meal plan for weight loss, let’s put it all together in an example 7 day meal plan. This vegetarian meal plan for weight loss might be a template for what you could do yourself as you get started on your nutrition journey. When you’re choosing your meals for each day on your vegetarian meal plan, you’ll want to consider your protein servings, balancing your complex carbohydrates, and including healthy fats and veggies.
See the example weekly meal plan below, which includes delicious vegetarian and vegan recipes!
If you want to give a vegan meal plan a shot, learn more about vegan meal plans here.
How to stick with a vegetarian meal plan for weight lossWhen it comes to weight loss, we know it’s not easy most of the time. Now adding in a vegetarian meal plan for weight loss might feel even more complicated, but know that it doesn’t have to be! When it comes to sticking to a vegetarian meal plan, different strategies work for different people and you might need to consider how big of a change this is for you. Are you starting this new habit from scratch or are you going back to this habit after some time away?
Generally, meal planning and prep can really come in handy. You might also take an inventory of your pantry and fridge to see what you have, what needs to be replaced, and what you need to put on the grocery list. Focus on satisfying protein options and find your go-to recipes. Most importantly, if this is new to you, know that you don’t have to be perfect in your vegetarian meal plan right out of the gate.