Are you a vegetarian looking for the perfect diet plan to help you on your weight loss journey? A vegetarian diet has proven to be effective for weight loss. It is also associated with reduced risks of several ailments like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. There has been a rapid increase in vegetarianism over the years. The non-vegetarian counterparts might argue that animal products like chicken, mutton, fish and eggs are part of a balanced diet, and leaving them out can lead to nutritional deficiencies and inadequate energy. The fact remains that a vegetarian diet is one of the healthiest diets as it is low in calories and saturated fats. By incorporating right foods in a vegetarian diet, one can get the basic nutrients required by the body.
As the name suggests, a vegetarian diet comprises products like fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, beans and peas etc. Those following a vegetarian diet should consume a variety of foods to get all the nutrients they need. They need to pay attention to their intake of protein, zinc, calcium, iron and Vitamin B12. Depending on the variety of foods included, the vegetarian diet can be classified into three categories, namely:
- Vegan diet: It excludes all animal products like meat, dairy and eggs.
- Lacto vegetarian diet: It includes both plant products and dairy products.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet: It includes plant products, eggs and dairy products.
It is essential to maintain a healthy diet plan, which includes nutrients like proteins, antioxidants, fiber and essential vitamins needed for the body.
How Does it Work?
The vegetarian diet is considered as one of the best and healthiest approaches for weight loss. It is not only low in calories but also devoid of the unhealthy fats found in meat and other animal products. All types of vegetarian diets basically focus on the following plant-based foods.
1. Green Leafy Vegetables:
Loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phyto-nutrients, green leafy vegetables are the best foods in a vegetarian diet. They are also one of the best sources of proteins and fiber. Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, cabbage, parsley, broccoli etc., are extremely low in calories and help to reduce fat levels in the body. They can greatly supplement weight loss efforts.
Fruits play an important role in a vegetarian diet. Besides being low in calories, they are also great sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. They improve the metabolism as well as lower the blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Some fruits like watermelon, muskmelon, papaya, orange, berries and apples have a high water content, which makes them excellent choices for weight loss.
3. Nuts and Seeds:
Nuts and seeds are rich sources of fiber, vitamins, minerals, proteins and heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acids. These healthy nuts and seeds include flaxseeds, almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, peanuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. They lower cholesterol and strengthen the bones and brain functioning. As they are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and high in calories, they should be consumed in moderation.
4. Grains and Cereals:
Rich in iron and zinc, whole grains and cereals form an important part of a balanced diet, which provide the required energy to our bodies. You can include whole wheat bread, brown rice, oats, porridge etc., in your diet to boost nutrition. Grains and cereals are rich in carbohydrates, fiber, protein and vital vitamins and minerals.
5. Beans and Soya Products:
The vegetarian diet is often criticized for being low in protein as it excludes protein-rich foods like fish and chicken. This deficiency can be fulfilled by including soya products and beans in your diet. These contain ample amount of protein and nutrients and soluble fiber to help in reducing cholesterol and processed fats in the body. Soya products like soya beans, baked beans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, black beans etc., help in weight loss by reducing appetite and improving the metabolic rate.
Vegetarian Diet Chart:
Depending upon the type of vegetarian diet chosen, you can prepare your own diet chart. A vegetarian diet chart should be well-planned to incorporate the food items that satisfy your hunger pangs and provide you the needed nutrition for the day. Given below is a sample vegetarian diet chart for the day.
|Pre-Breakfast||Honey and lemon juice mixed with a glass of lukewarm water|
|Breakfast||Brown bread, oats, wheat bran or corn flakes, a glass of skimmed milk, fruits salad or sprouts Or Vegetables poha, idli or upma, daliya with fruits and skimmed milk|
|Morning Snack||Tea, black coffee or juice, a handful of nuts like walnuts and almonds|
|Lunch||Chapatti, salad, vegetable or vegetable curry, rice without starch, dal and curd|
|Evening Snack||Sprouts, apple, cucumber, carrot or nuts, tea with light biscuits|
|Dinner||Chapatti, rice without starch or brown rice, salad, soybeans soup, dal and curd (in lesser quantity than that of lunch)|
|Post Dinner Snack||A glass of warm skimmed milk|
This diet chart will help you to lose weight without depriving your body of vital nutrients. You can do away with the post dinner snack if you do not feel hungry or have already taken it at breakfast.
Points to Be Kept in Mind:
If you wish to lose weight by following a vegetarian diet, you need to keep the following points in mind. To achieve weight loss and other health benefits successfully, this diet requires some discipline and dedication., which are listed below:
- Avoid taking salt after 7:30. It is advisable to have your dinner by 7:30, so that your food gets digested by the time you go to sleep. If you feel extremely hungry, you can have a glass of skimmed milk.
- Stay away from aerated drinks (even the diet version) as they are unhealthy. Replace them with healthy fruit juices and water to stay hydrated. Artificial juices should be avoided as well.
- Though the vegetarian diet focuses on the consumption of fruits, certain fruits like mango and banana should be restricted as they are high in calories.
- Consumption of potato and rice should be restricted. Rice without starch or brown rice should be consumed.
- The diet will be effective if it is supplemented with regular exercise. It is advisable to indulge in half-an-hour of aerobic exercise daily. If it is not possible to join a gym, you can try skipping or working out with 1.5 to 2 kg dumbbells to tone your upper body. You can also practice 20 minutes of breathing exercise.
- Junk foods, sweets, fried foods and bakery products should be avoided.
Advantages of the Vegetarian Diet:
The vegetarian diet has been regarded as a healthy option by the American Diabetes Association.
1. Simple and Easy to Follow:
This diet is simple and easy to follow as it does not involve rigid meal plans or pre-packaged meals. All you need to do is to ensure that you do not consume anything that goes against your doctor’s advice.
2. Lowers Cholesterol Levels:
Unlike meat products, a vegetarian diet is comparatively low in saturated fat and is effective in lowering cholesterol levels.
3. Lowers the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease:
Certain items like nuts and seeds included in a vegetarian diet are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
4. Aids Weight Loss:
Since a vegetarian diet is comparatively low in calories, it is a great option for weight loss.
5. Reduces Blood Pressure and Hypertension:
A vegetarian diet is rich in vital nutrients comprising of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These nutrients play an important role in normalizing blood pressure and reducing hypertension.
6. Safe for Everyone:
The vegetarian diet is safe for everyone. Children, teens as well as pregnant and breastfeeding ladies can go for the vegetarian diet without any health risks. In fact, excess consumption of red meat has been associated with the risk of cancer and heart diseases.
Drawbacks of the Vegetarian Diet:
In spite of the fact that the vegetarian diet can be beneficial for the health in many ways, it has certain shortcomings:
1. Lack of Protein:
Quality protein found in animal products like egg, milk, meat, fish and chicken lacks in plant products. Following a vegetarian diet can lead to protein deficiency and inability of the body to fully metabolize the high amount of fiber. Vegetable protein found in peas, beans, green vegetables, chickpeas, cereals etc., are of poor quality and do not contain all essential amino acids required by the body for its proper functioning.
2. Lack of Other Nutrients:
A pure vegetarian diet can deprive your body of certain vital nutrients. Omega-3 fatty acids which are abundant in fish are comparatively low in plant-based foods. Vitamin D is also not found in abundance in plant-based products. Iron is found in some plant-based sources like spinach but the quantity is low and non-absorbable as against the absorbable iron found in meat. This diet can also lead to deficiency of calcium which is found in dairy products and meat. Lack of Vitamin D can further affect calcium absorption.
3. Not Suitable for Everyone:
A strict vegetarian diet is considered safe for pregnant and nursing women, yet it may not be suitable for them. It may deprive them of vital nutrients required for the proper development of the fetus and infants, increasing the risk of rickets, congenital malformations, abnormal growth and anemia.
The vegetarian diet has been considered a healthy lifestyle. You need to keep in mind both the benefits and drawbacks of this diet before resorting to vegetarianism.