Following a more plant based diet can help you lose weight, and it doesn’t have to be a full-on vegetarian diet. A semi-vegetarian diet or flexitarian diet will help you lose weight, too. That’s the conclusion of an analysis presented at the European Congress on Obesity, who found that people lost weight and experienced other health benefits from only partially switching to a plant-based diet.
A plant based diet and weight loss
Researchers analysed the results from 9,641 middle-aged and older adults who were followed for around 26 years in the ongoing Rotterdam Study in The Netherlands. As well as completing food frequency questionnaires, they also had their height, weight, waist circumference, fat mass and fat-free mass measured at regular intervals of 3 to 5 years.
Their food diaries were assessed, and researchers created a plant-based diet score for each person, based on the degree of plant-based foods and animal-based foods they ate. They gave positive scores for eating plant-based foods such as nuts, fruits, and vegetables, and negative scores for eating animal based foods such as meat, dairy, and fish. A person with a higher score therefore followed a diet high in plant-based foods and low in animal products.
Those with higher scores had a lower BMI over the long-term, mainly due to having less body fat on board, even after taking total energy intake and exercise levels into account.
Those with score of 10 points, for example, had a BMI of 0.70 kg/m² lower than those whose score was zero. This 10 point higher score could be achieved in various ways, such as replacing 50g of red meat with 200g of vegetables per day. Having a higher score was also associated with a lower waist circumference and body fat percentage.
So, even if you don’t think you could follow a strict plant-based diet, cutting back on the portion size of meat and piling on more vegetables instead will still help you achieve your weight loss goals. The trend towards a semi-vegetarian diet, or a flexitarian way of eating means generally eating more vegetables, nuts, beans, and fruit, while cutting back on animal based products – but you don’t have to ditch your favourites (bacon is usually mentioned here) altogether.
How much weight will you lose?
Following a more plant based diet could help you lose 1lb to 2lb per week (0.5kg to 1kg) without too much effort as the high fibre content will help keep you feeling full. Food choices are important, however. One of our clients was significantly overweight despite following a vegetarian diet as she ate nothing but pizza, donuts, pasta and chips!
And you won’t just lose weight, you will also gain pounds in the financial sense. Another study from the Nestlé Research Center in Lausanne, looked at the cost of following three diets for people who bought their groceries online. Following a vegetarian diet cost, on average, $2 per person per week less than for those following a US healthy diet or a Mediterranean style diet.
Plant based diet plan
The following plant based diet food list will help you follow a healthy vegetarian diet.
- Select whole-grain cereals rather than refined cereals (eg brown bread, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, buckwheat, polenta)
- Carrots, sweet potato, swede and other coloured root vegetables are a better choice than white potatoes
- Cabbages and turnips help to boost your metabolism
- Tofu, soy beans and mycoprotein, derived from the fungus Fusarium graminosum, are good sources of protein
- Mock meat substitutes are also a useful protein source try veggie mince, burgers, sausages, bacon and even vegetarian steak fillets if you want some familiar looking dishes.
- Eat at least five and preferably seven or more servings of vegetables/fruit per day – aim for at least 450kg (1lb) of vegetables in weight (not counting white potatoes)
- Have plenty of dark green leaves (eg spinach, chard, kale, watercress, broccoli)
- Nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and cereals all contain protein but eat a wide variety to get all your essential amino acids
- If you don’t want to drink semi-skimmed cows’ milk alternatives include fortified soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, hazelnut milk and oat milk – browse the shelves of your local health food store to see the full range
- Cheese provides protein and vegetarian versions are available
- Eggs are a great source of protein and also fill you up so you eat less during the rest of the day
- Olive, rapeseed, flaxseed, hemp seed and nut oils are all good sources of healthy fats.
When making drastic changes to your diet, consider taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement, especially if you are cutting back on animal-based foods, which are an important source of iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
Plant based diet recipes
You will find some great, healthy vegetarian recipes at the following links. There’s so much choice you could eat something different and delicious every day of the year and still lose weight!
Taste Australia’s Viegetarian Recipes (3,580 of them)
Vegetarian Times clean eating recipes