Let’s get one thing straight – going vegetarian isn’t a surefire way to lose weight. Cutting out meat doesn’t automatically make you healthier, but it can if you have the right tools. Whether you eat meat or not, it’s vital that you get all the nutrition you need in your diet – that means consuming enough protein, vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Taking a look at a nutritionist-approved vegetarian meal plan can point you in the right direction.
So, what makes a vegetarian? A vegetarian is a person who abstains from eating meat, including fish and seafood. Some choose this lifestyle because they care about animal welfare and the environment, others because of their health. Unlike vegans, vegetarians typically eat eggs and dairy, although some may also abstain from one or the other.
For some vegetarians, the magnetic pull of french fries, cheese pizza and other junk food can feel stronger than ever after cutting out meat. As always, such foods are ok to indulge in from time to time, but if you start depending on them, you might be damaging your health. The good news is that learning to cook easy vegetarian meals from scratch can help keep your cravings at bay and also ensure that you’re getting all the nutrients you need to stay fit and healthy.
Not sure where to start? We’ll lay it all out for you, and we’ll also include a vegetarian meal plan so that you know what you should be eating if you want to get the most out of your lifestyle changes.
Vegetarian diet for weight loss
As we explained earlier, becoming a vegetarian does not guarantee weight loss. However, if losing weight is indeed your goal, it certainly can be done if you understand the basics and eat the right foods. Whether you’ve been a vegetarian your whole life or you’re switching to a vegetarian diet for weight loss, it’s never too late to implement some positive changes to your routine.
When you first go vegetarian, it can be tempting to load up on processed foods like vegetarian hot dogs, veggie burgers and other faux meats, but they’re often full of sodium, additives like maltodextrin, added fats and excessive calories. While that’s ok from time to time, it’s best to fill your diet with plant-based sources of protein and other whole foods that will keep you satisfied.
If you need a bit of guidance in planning your week ahead of time, check out our vegetarian grocery list and vegetarian weekly meal plan below – you’ll see that vegetarian nutrition isn’t so tricky after all.
Check out our vegetarian weekly meal plan
One thing that’s particularly important when it comes to sticking to a healthy vegetarian lifestyle is meal prep. Just an hour or two spent prepping during the weekend can save you a lot of time throughout the week, especially if you’ve got a busy schedule.
Picture this: You come home after a long day at work and you’re absolutely starving. Your options are either ordering take away or whipping up a meal from scratch. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if you had dinner (or at least part of it) ready to heat up? That’s the beauty of meal prep, it doesn’t even let ordering out cross your mind.
If you need inspiration, have a look at our sample vegetarian meal plan for some creative ideas. For exact measurements and recipe instructions, sign up for 8fit PRO.
Vegetarian grocery list
Whether you’re following our meal plan or not, we can recommend some staples that are worth your while to keep on hand. To make your journey to vegetarian weight loss successful, we recommend keeping some of these staples on hand:
Whole grains are excellent for keeping handy for when you want to whip up a tasty meal for little money, and they keep for a long time (up to around six months!). Some well-known whole grains include whole oats, whole-grain barley, bulgur, buckwheat, amaranth and sorghum. But what is it that makes these whole grains better than white rice and their counterparts?
Let’s take a look at brown rice. It’s actually harvested from the same plant as white rice, but the difference is that brown rice retains its fibrous husk, bran and germ, which gives it its trademark nutty flavor. Why should you care? Well, it’s an excellent source of dietary fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals like magnesium, manganese and selenium. And, thanks to all that extra dietary fiber, brown rice will keep you fuller longer, making it ideal for vegetarian weight loss.
Your best bet is to combine the whole grain of your choice with some beans – that will give you all of the essential amino acids necessary to make a complete protein.
Legumes and beans
Speaking of beans, we recommend keeping a variety of them on hand. On weeks when you have more time on your hands to meal prep, soak dry beans in water overnight and cook them the next day to prepare for the whole week. For meals in a pinch, canned beans are perfect, but make sure to watch out for elevated sodium levels – have a look at our article about how to read food labels to make sure everything checks out.
There’s really no limit to what you can do with a can of beans. After draining and rinsing, heat them up with a bit of garlic and onion for a tasty burrito filling, mash them up with some spices for a hearty dip, or add them to your salads to bulk them up. The possibilities are endless!
If you’re an ovo vegetarian, then make eggs (preferably organic!) your friend. They’re great to have on hand, especially since they stay fresh for three to four weeks in the refrigerator. Eggs have always had a reputation for being high in cholesterol, but the good news is that the particular cholesterol they contain, HDL (high-density lipoprotein), is heart-healthy – it’s sometimes even called ‘good cholesterol’.
Our suggestion? Boil a dozen eggs and keep them in your fridge whenever you want a snack. Store them in the carton your bought them in and take one with you whenever you want a great snack to go and are pressed for time. Or, mix things up by scrambling or poaching your eggs with a side of whole-grain toast for lunch. They’re the perfect addition to your vegetarian meal plan and they’re tasty, too.
It’s probably obvious, but one of the best things you can stock up on for vegetarian weight loss is vegetables. Unlike frozen meals and junk food, plain frozen vegetables are as fresh as they come, and often even better than the vegetables you get at the grocery store.
Why’s that, you ask? It’s because manufacturers freeze the veggies directly after being harvested, ensuring that the food is at peak freshness. The produce you find in most restaurants is picked unripe, later ripening on the road and sometimes traveling for thousands of miles until reaching its final supermarket destination.
Take it from us
Anytime you embark on a new lifestyle whether it’s trying to lose weight, going vegetarian or preparing for pregnancy, it’s important to pay close attention to your body’s signals and adjust your diet when necessary. Keeping your nutrition in check is paramount, and we’re here to help you every step of the way.
Whether you want to gain weight, lose weight, maintain it or just feel better, 8fit’s exercise routines and recipes can help bring you closer to your goals. If you liked our vegetarian meal plan, create an 8fit Pro account and you’ll get hundreds of recipes to suit your lifestyle. It might just be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made for your health!