Should I Go Vegetarian to Lose Weight?

Get the facts about becoming vegetarian for weight loss

Flammkuchen with red cabbage, pears and non-dairy cheese
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Have you thought about going vegetarian to lose weight? Many healthy eaters choose to give up meat for ethical reasons, because of environmental concerns or to improve their health. But should you go vegetarian for weight loss? The answer depends on a few different factors.

Becoming Vegetarian: Weight Loss Benefits

If you go vegetarian, you may lose weight. But weight loss won't be a slam dunk if you give up meat.

Whether or not you slim down depends on how many calories you consume, not necessarily on the source of the calories.

If you eat more calories than you need you will gain weight, whether you eat meat or not. Weight loss is possible on a meat-based diet and on a vegetarian diet. So you should evaluate the pros and cons of going meat-free before you make the change.

A potential benefit of going vegetarian to lose weight is that you may consume fewer calories. Research has shown people following a typical vegetarian diet consume, on average, around 500 fewer calories daily than their meat-eating counterparts. Interestingly, the research showed that they actually ate more food than non-vegetarians, another great benefit.

So how do you get to eat more food and take in fewer calories? A healthy vegetarian diet is often comprised mainly of complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are starchy, fiber-rich foods that are naturally low in fat and calories.

Examples of complex carbs are legumes and other vegetables and whole grains.

Remember, every 3,500 calories cut equals one pound lost. If you do the math, it's easy to see that a 500 calorie daily deficit will lead to one pound of weight loss per week. Whether you're a veggie or a carnivore, this deficit can create real results.

Becoming Vegetarian: Weight Loss Drawbacks

Some people who go vegetarian for weight loss don't lose any weight at all. Why? Simply eliminating meat doesn't necessarily lead to a calorie deficit. And you may eliminate meat but replace it with other higher calorie foods, like fatty cheese or milk.

The trick to losing weight on a vegetarian diet -- and all diets -- is to plan your meals in advance. Whether you go vegetarian to lose weight or include small amounts of lean meat, you should always make sure that you include a variety of fruit, vegetables, and grains. Try to avoid foods that are heavily processed as these junk foods often provide too many empty calories and don't boost weight loss results.

Vegetarian Diet Plans for Weight Loss

If you're looking for convenience, there are plenty of healthy vegetarian-friendly meals in grocery stores. Meals like Amy's frozen dinners are ready in minutes in your microwave. Veggie burgers by Boca or GardenBurger can also be microwaved, or for a "cooked-out" flavor, grilled.

Try them as a burger with a bun and fixings, or, alongside other veggies as a replacement for a meat entree.

There are also many diet plans that help vegetarians lose weight. Veestro is a plant-based meal delivery program that provides healthy and delicious meals for dieters who don't eat meat. And many of the popular commercial diets also provide a vegetarian option.

*This article was edited by Malia Frey, Weight Loss Expert

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