Sep - Oct 2016

Will I Lose More Weight as a Vegetarian?

By Karah Stanley, RD LD


Many people assume that by following a vegetarian diet, they will automatically lose weight. This may be due to the fact that, on average, vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index compared to non-vegetarians. However, it is the types and amounts of foods that you choose to eat, no matter what diet you adhere to, that ultimately leads to weight loss.


A vegetarian diet is defined as one that restricts animal products. There are various types of vegetarians based on the types of animal products they chose to include. For example:



Plant foods only. No animal products


Plant foods plus cheese and other dairy products


Plant foods plus eggs


Plant foods plus cheese and other dairy products as well as eggs


Plant foods plus fish and seafood


Eat all plant foods and animal foods except red meat


There are many foods that are vegetarian but are not necessarily healthy or good for weight loss. Cookies, chips, French fries, onion rings and soda are all vegetarian foods, but are high in fat and calories without providing a good source of vitamins and minerals. Additionally, candy and soda may be vegetarian yet these are high in sugar and calories.


There are also vegetarian foods that are high in calories even though they are good for you such as nuts, dried fruit and avocado. While these are good for you, it is important to watch the portion size. It is possible to lose weight following a vegetarian diet by paying close attention to the foods you are eating. Make sure to include lots of non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, and leafy greens like spinach, lettuce and kale. These foods are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, plus they are very low in calories. For example, there are less than 30 calories in 4 cups (~120 grams) of raw spinach. In a medium serving of French fries from a fast food restaurant, roughly the same amount by weight as the spinach, there are nearly 400 calories. Clearly, the right food choice makes it possible to eat a large volume of food for very little calories, helping to keep you feeling fuller, longer.


Equally important is to make sure you are including adequate protein in your diet. Among the many functions of protein, it plays a big role in helping us feel satisfied after a meal. For vegetarians that continue to consume eggs and dairy or perhaps seafood, it is easier to get adequate protein. For vegans, there are plenty of plant-based proteins. Beans, lentils, nuts and nut butters, quinoa and soy are all loaded with protein. By including a variety of these foods in your diet, it is easy to get adequate protein. All it takes is a little planning.


Weight loss is very possible following a vegetarian diet, as long as you are choosing the right foods!