Will a Vegetarian Diet Help Me Lose Weight?

Many people choose a vegetarian diet for health or ethical reasons. But when it comes to shedding the pounds, will a vegetarian diet help you lose weight?

Yes –Libby
When I started university I was about three stone overweight. That’s because I was brought up eating lots of meat products and would regularly tuck into burgers, hot dogs and pepperoni pizzas. But at university I shared a flat with a vegetarian. She loved to cook and made delicious vegetarian meals every day for both of us. I could see how much healthier it was than my old meat-heavy diet and my excess weight began to drop off.  I decided to become a full-time vegetarian and the result is I’m still slim almost 10 years later. Every day, I enjoy a wide range of foods and base my meals around fruit, vegetables, grains and pulses. This makes it easy to stick to a low-fat and low-calorie diet.

Many meat dishes are high in fat and cholesterol, making them bad news for anyone who wants to be healthy and lose weight. Being vegetarian forces you to think more carefully about mealtimes so you’re more likely to make healthy choices.

When I told my family that I’d become vegetarian, they were worried that I wouldn’t get all the nutrients I need. However, I believe I get a much more balanced diet now and it’s easy to make sure you’re getting protein by eating things like yogurt, cheese, eggs, beans and pulses.

No – Mitch
No one food group is to blame for weight gain, so cutting something like meat out from your diet is unlikely to have an effect on your weight, unless you are making other changes too.

Of course, some meat dishes are high in calories and fat but many vegetarian dishes are too. Think about macaroni cheese, four cheese pizza or chocolate cake – they are all vegetarian but none of them will help you lose weight. I think that vegetarian food can be just as bad for you as meat-based dishes if you make the wrong choices.

Vegetarian dishes are often high in carbohydrates or dairy products as they rely on these as a substitute for the meat. In high quantities both of these can add to weight gain. Also vegetarian diets tend to be lacking in protein. Protein actually makes us feel full, so if you aren’t getting enough then you’re likely to feel hungry more often, causing you to eat more.

The other problem is that when eating out, vegetarians have much less choice than meat eaters. This makes it harder to choose healthy options. For example, in a restaurant, a chicken salad will be much healthier and lower in both fat and calories than a rich, creamy mushroom risotto served with garlic bread.

Rather than cutting out meat entirely, it would be better to look at your overall diet and see where you can make healthy changes.

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