November 06, 2018
There are many reasons to switch over to a whole-food plant-based diet (WFPB). For one thing, WFPB and vegan meal options generally cost less; research shows vegetarians may save up to $750 more a year than their omnivore counterparts. Which makes sense when you consider that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the cost of beef is $3.71 per pound while the cost of beans is at $1.35 per pound. Or how about health? Studies have shown those who embrace a plant based diet require fewer medications and enjoy reduced risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and more. And lest we forget, plant-based diets are not only healthier for people, but also healthier for our planet — boosting human lifespans and cutting harmful emissions in the process.
But hey, let’s be honest here: Sometimes it’s just about losing weight.
And there’s nothing wrong with that if it relates to your healthier lifestyle goals! We all want to look and feel our best, and given that obesity contributes directly to an entire host of health concerns (even life threatening ones), dropping a few pounds — if you’re overweight — is an all-around good decision.
Unfortunately, losing weight can sometimes be a real hassle. The good news is that with the whole-food plant based diet, it doesn’t have to be.
Speaking purely from a cause/effect viewpoint, the mechanics involved in weight loss are pretty simple: As you eat, you take in calories which your body uses as a fuel source, burning them to release usable energy. When you take in more calories than your body can use, it stores the excess as fat deposits. Inversely, when you use more calories than you take in, your body begins to break down those fat deposits to use as fuel. There’s a bit more to it, of course, but the simple truth is that in order to lose weight naturally, you need to create a calorie deficit.
And that’s where a lot of dieters get hung up. After all, the general assumption is that if you’re going to be burning more calories than you consume, you’re going to have to start watching the numbers.
How many calories does your body use on its own on a daily basis? How many calories are you burning with additional exercise? How many calories are you consuming? It’s a lot to keep track of, and all it takes is one undocumented snack to throw all of your calculations out the window. To put it bluntly, it’s a pain. And, with the WFPB diet, it’s also completely unnecessary.
Plant-based foods are naturally more nutritionally dense than most non-vegan meal options. That means more vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients than you’d find in, say, a pork chop. But plant foods are also much lower in calories.
On top of that, the best natural sources of fiber are all plant-based. Why is this important? Because fiber helps us feel full. Higher fiber intake leads to fewer cravings and smaller meal portions, and that naturally results in weight loss.
And this is all without counting calories.
If doing math before each meal sounds less-than appetizing, the WFPB diet has you covered. By sticking with nutrient-dense, plant-based foods, you’ll never have to count another calorie again. So let’s get started.
There’s no need to count calories on the WFPB diet, but that doesn’t mean you should dive in without knowing what you’re doing. Transitioning to a nutritious plant-based diet takes some preparation, and a little guidance certainly helps. Here are a few tips to help ensure that you’re giving your body what it needs while you’re dropping the weight that it doesn’t:
If making too many drastic changes all at once sounds intimidating, you can take it slow. If you force yourself into something you’re not ready for, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up falling back into your old habits. Instead, transition gradually. Start by switching out two or three meals per week for healthy plant-based alternatives. As you get used to it, expand to include the rest of your weekly meals.
From there, you can begin weeding out the other processed and non plant-based ingredients that tend to find their way into your daily life. Research plant-based dairy alternatives and stop including animal milk and cheese on your shopping list. Then, switch over to cutting out eggs. As you take things one step at a time, you’ll give yourself a chance to adjust to your new dietary lifestyle, and that will make it easier to really commit to it.
With the exception of vitamin b12 (which we address in a previous blog post), you can get all of the nutrients your body needs from non-animal sources. That said, it takes some planning. For example, if you’re not eating meat then you’ll need some good plant-based sources of protein (such as nuts, edamame, chickpeas, and tempeh). Likewise, omega-3s, iron, calcium, and zinc are all available from plants. To get all these vital nutrients just ensure you’re eating a diverse plant-based.
Remember, it takes more plant-based foods to equal the calories in traditional American meals, so don’t jump the gun. Sure, if you're trying to lose weight fast, cutting out meals may seem like a logical solution. But the reality is that you’re going to need the nutrition to keep yourself healthy and happy. Besides, fiber-rich, plant-based meals will help you feel full, and go a long way towards helping you avoid unhealthy snacking. Starving yourself is not part of the WFPB diet; focus on healthy meal prep, and give your body the food it needs.
Carbs are bad, right? Well, no, actually; they’re not. Not intrinsically, anyway. In fact, carbs should be your main source of energy, and a plant-based diet meal plan for weight loss should reflect that. That said, not all carbs — or carb sources — are equal. Heavily refined/processed carbohydrates are basically empty calories that have been stripped of fiber and nutrients. Whole grains (and the whole carbs they contain) are just fine. In fact, it’s suggested that that the majority of your plant-based diet should come from whole carbs. Foods such as brown rice, rolled oats, quinoa, barley, and farro will help you get the whole carbs you need.
A lot of diets promote the use of oil in cooking as a better alternative to butter, which it absolutely is! The problem here is that better doesn’t necessarily mean good. Plant-based oils replace harmful saturated fats with less-harmful monounsaturated fat — which can still damage arteries and increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The WFPB diet isn’t about eating less-harmful foods; it’s about eating healthy foods. That means cutting out the oil, for a low-fat, plant-based diet that will help keep you happy and heart healthy. Besides, oil is incredibly high in calories, and even if you aren’t counting them, they still count. When cooking, replace oil with healthier options, and you’ll see the results in your health, and on your scale.
It seems pretty central to most diets that snacking is the enemy, but ask yourself this: Is snacking still wrong if you’re snacking on the right foods? If you find that you’re hungry, then by all means grab a little something, just make sure that it isn’t junk. Healthy nuts, fruits, and vegetables can curb your cravings, and help you remain committed to your plant-based diet.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to eat between meals, then make sure that you have high-quality, whole-food snacks on hand for when you need them. After all, a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts aren’t going to derail your diet, but a hunger-motivated junk-food binge definitely could.
Most people who switch to a plant-based diet meal plan for weight loss see results within weeks, but occasionally results aren’t as dramatic as dieters hope. If you’ve committed to the diet and you still aren’t losing weight, there are a few possible reasons why.
Have you stopped cooking with oil? Do you eat at home rather than regularly eating out? Are you incorporating enough leafy greens into your daily meals? If you answer ‘no’ to any of these questions, then you might have found the problem. Remember, everyone’s body is different. It may take some time, but if you’re following the WFPB diet faithfully, you will see results eventually.
There are many reason to adopt a whole-food plant-based diet — weight loss just happens to be one of the most popular. A diet rich in a variety of plant-based foods will have you shedding unwanted pounds in no time, and, as an added bonus, you’ll be improving your health, cutting your costs, and helping the environment.
So give the WFPB diet a try; other than unwanted body fat, what have you got to lose?
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