A plant-based diet for weight loss has been touted by health experts because it works...but the kind of plant-based diet you follow matters. Not all vegan food is created equally! (Did you know Oreos are vegan?)
Before We Begin: The Easiest Way to Start your Plant-Based Diet for Weight Loss
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So what's the best plant-based diet for weight loss? A whole food plant-based diet!
Like a vegan diet, a whole food plant-based diet does not include meat, dairy, eggs, or other animal products. But, it also limits or avoids refined and processed foods (including foods that contain refined sugar or white flour). A whole food plant-based diet is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables (both starchy and non-starchy), legumes, raw nuts and seeds.
Ok, so now that we've covered which plant-based diet can help you lose weight (and keep it off), let's tackle grocery shopping. The abundance of choices in the store can certainly feel overwhelming, especially when you're just starting out on this healthy living path. It's hard to figure out what's truly healthy and what's vegan "junk" food, not to mention all the temptations lurking between the aisles.
Take a deep breath...you've got this. With these vegan grocery shopping tricks up your sleeve, following a plant-based diet for weight loss becomes a whole lot easier.
1. Shop the perimeter
Avoid spending too much time in the center aisles — they contain mostly processed foods. Instead, shop along the perimeter of the store, where you will find fresh fruits and vegetables, and bulk foods, like legumes, raw seeds, and raw nuts. Fill your cart with vibrant produce and only enter the center aisles for things that you absolutely need. The less time you spend near processed foods, the less tempting they become!
2. Beware of "healthwashing"
Remember how I said vegan doesn’t always mean healthy? You're going to want to remember that when you head to the grocery store. By all means, try the vegan ice cream if it's going to help you transition away from dairy, but avoid loading up on processed vegan foods just because they don’t contain any animal ingredients. Food companies are very adept at "healthwashing," or making products look healthier than they really are with clever packaging, misleading ingredient lists, and buzz words (like "gluten free" or "vegan").
When in doubt, aim for vegan products that have natural ingredients, with fat and sugar content that will not compromise your progress and goals.
3. Read nutrition labels
Whether you're trying a plant-based for weight loss or simply to live a healthier life, reading nutrition labels will become a powerful tool in your journey to health. When reading nutrition labels of packaged products, look for minimal ingredients and things you recognize as real food. Beware of the fat and added sugar content of each product, and aim for foods with high fiber that will fill you up (and make it less likely that you will reach out for vegan chocolate after lunch).
Get up to speed on reading nutrition labels here.
4. Never shop on an empty stomach
Eat a healthy vegan snack before you shop! Studies show that hunger triggers concepts and behavioral knowledge associated with acquisition. In other words, it makes you buy things you don’t really need. And when you are hungry, you are less likely to make smart decisions when it comes to meals, which translates to a shopping cart full of vegan junk food. Plus point: avoiding shopping when hungry will save you a lot of money long-term.
5. Make a plan (and stick to it!)
When it comes to eating a plant-based diet for weight loss, a weekly meal plan is clutch. Plan your healthy weight loss meals, make a grocery list, head to the store, and stick to the plan. This way, you'll only buy exactly what you need, and you won't be stuck second-guessing your choices in the store.
6. Avoid processed and packaged foods
As a general rule of thumb when trying to lose weight but also trying to eat healthier, the best practice would be to avoid processed and packaged foods. The more bulk foods and fresh produce the better. More often than not, packaged foods contain harmful additives and preservatives to extend their shelf-life. They may extend the products’ shelf-life, but they shrink yours.
Make your plant-based diet for weight loss a success by remembering these simply grocery shopping hacks next time you head to the store:
- Shop the perimeter of the store where you will find fresh produce and bulk foods, and avoid the center aisles as they contain mostly processed foods that will hinder your progress.
- A vegan label on a product does not magically make it healthy. Beware of greenwashing, where buzzwords or packaging are intentionally used to mislead consumers into thinking a food is healthier than it truly is.
- Read nutrition labels carefully; look for minimal ingredients, avoid products high in sugar and fat, and aim for high fiber content.
- Never shop on an empty stomach as it can trigger unhealthy behavior.
- Make a weekly meal plan, a grocery list, and stick to it.
- In general, avoid processed and packaged foods, high in additives and preservatives.
- Need help losing weight? The MamaSezz Weight Loss Bundle is designed to help you look and feel your best (no calorie counting!).
Rafaela Michailidou is a Vegan Lifestyle Coach, and a freelance health and wellness content writer, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.