Posted on November 20 2021
The vegetarian diet has gained an extensive reputation in recent years. Traditional Indian cuisine has plenty of fresh herbs, vibrant spices, and exotic flavours. Diets and preferences do vary throughout India. But most people still follow a primarily plant-based diet in the subcontinent.
The traditional Indian diet stresses a high intake of plant-based foods. These include vegetables, fruits, grains and lentils.
Despite this, obesity is a rising concern among the Indian population. As a result, India has seen a surge in obesity and obesity-related chronic diseases. These are heart disease and diabetes, primarily with the growing availability of processed foods. If you do struggle with diabetes, watch the below video:
Apart from the environmental benefits, an ingenious vegetarian diet also reduces the risks of chronic diseases. It also improves gut health and supports weight loss.
What is a Vegetarian Diet?
In broad terms, a vegetarian diet is devoid of animal products, specifically meat. Though, most people might not choose to exclude products derived from animals like eggs, honey and dairy, since the animal is not killed directly in procuring the same.
More so, this is further complicated as some people might choose to eat animals that live in water bodies such as oceans but not land animals.
Types of Vegetarian Diets
Vegetarian diets vary in what foods they exclude and what they include. Following are the different types of vegetarian diets:
- Lacto-vegetarian: These diets exclude any animal-based products, but include animal derived products such as dairy. Foods that come under this are dairy products, like milk, grains, vegetables, fruits, honey, lentils etc.
- Ovo-vegetarian diets: Ovo-vegetarian diets are similar to lactose vegetarians, but also allow eggs.
- Lacto-Ovo vegetarian diets: These types of diets exclude meat, fish and poultry. However, they allow dairy products and eggs.
- Pescatarian diets: They exclude meat and poultry, but allow fish, eggs, dairy and plants.
- Vegan diets: This consists of purely plant-based foods and products. Vegans avoid eggs, meat, dairy, honey, seafood and meat.
- Semi-vegetarian diet: Some people follow a semi-vegetarian diet, known as a flexitarian diet. It is a plant-based diet, occasionally consuming animal-based products in small quantities.
Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet for Weight Loss
Plant-eaters tend to weigh less than meat-eaters. One study, the Diabetes Care study compared BMI between plant-based diets and animal-based diets. BMI is the ratio of height to weight and gives us an understanding of how obese a person is. A BMI over 25 is considered overweight, while that over 30 is considered obese. The average BMI for vegans was found to be 23.6, while for non-vegetarians, it was about 28.8.
Additionally, a 2016 report by NCBI found that switching to a vegetarian diet may help a person lose weight, at least in the short term. However, scientists need to carry out longer-term controlled studies to understand better.
Some more benefits of a vegetarian diet includes:
- Cholesterol: A systematic 2015 review establishes that a vegetarian diet helps lower cholesterol levels.
- Cancer: A data for nearly 70,000 people by PubMed Central found evidence that cancer incidence was low among vegetarians than non-vegetarians.
- Heart health: Authors of a 2014 Report by PLOS ONE found a lower risk of cardiovascular disease among people who followed a vegetarian diet in the Indian subcontinent. Studies in western countries produce similar results.
- Diabetes: According to a 2018 study, people following a vegetarian diet will less likely have type 2 diabetes. A key reason for this is a higher intake of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and less unhealthy fats.
However, these benefits will not automatically happen if a person adopts a purely plant based diet. So alongside a vegetarian diet, people need to make sure that they:
- Emphasize a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Limit the intake of processed foods and alcohol in their diet
- Avoid unhealthful fats and added salt and sugar
- Engage in a healthful lifestyle that includes plenty of exercises
- Avoid smoking
Foods To Avoid on a Vegetarian Diet for Weight Loss
Selecting processed, sugary, and high-calorie foods can sabotage weight loss efforts, irrespective of your diet choice.
Items such as candy, soda, and fried foods are not suitable for weight loss or health, though, they are vegetarian. When you overeat processed and sugary foods, it increases the risk of chronic diseases. For example, sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, fruit punch, and juices increase diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
For ideal health, minimize the following vegetarian foods or avoid them altogether:
- Sweetened beverages: Soda, fruit juice, sweetened tea, sweet lassi, sports drinks.
- High-sugar foods: Candy, ice cream, cookies, rice pudding, pastries, cakes, sweetened yoghurt, high-sugar cereals, digestive biscuits.
- Sweeteners: Jaggery, sugar, honey, condensed milk.
- Sweetened sauces: Salad dressings with added sugar, ketchup, barbecue sauce, sweetened curries.
- High-fat foods: Fast food like McDonald's, french fries, chips, fried foods, bhujia.
- Refined grains: Products including white bread, white pasta, biscuits
- Trans fats: Margarine, vanaspati, fast food, and processed foods
- Refined oils: Canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil
What Vegetarian Foods Boost Weight Loss?
While processed foods can lead to weight gain, including nutritious foods will help with losing weight. Fibre rich foods are not only low in calories (2-3 calories per gram), but do not convert to body fat when consumed in excess. Fibre is only found in plants.
Besides that, they heal gut dysbiosis, help with hormonal balance and optimally breakdown glucose to avoid weight gain. Here is a list of foods that should fill most of your plate:
- Vegetables: Tomatoes, spinach, mustard greens, eggplant, okra, bitter melon, onions, cauliflower, cabbage, mushrooms.
- Fruits: Papaya, mango, pomegranate, guava, lychee, oranges, tamarind, apples, melon, pears, plums, bananas.
- Nuts & seeds: Cashews, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and watermelon seeds.
- Legumes: Mung beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, pulses, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
- Roots and tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, yams, etc.
- Whole grains: Brown rice, quinoa, basmati rice, corn, millet, buckwheat, barley, whole-grain bread, sorghum, amaranth.
- Dairy: Plant-based dairy foods.
- Herbs & spices: Garlic, cardamom, cumin, ginger, coriander, paprika, turmeric, basil, black pepper, garam masala, fenugreek.
- Healthy fats: Coconut milk, mustard oil, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, peanut oil.
- Protein sources: Tofu, legumes, nuts and seeds, and more.
Aim to fill your plate like this:
Planning a Healthy Vegetarian Diet
Choose a variety of healthy plant-based foods to get the most out of a vegetarian diet. Include foods such as whole fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, and whole grains.
Cut back on less healthy choices. For example, avoid fruit juices, sugar-sweetened beverages, and refined grains at the same time. If you need any help, consult a registered dietitian. They will assist you in creating a vegetarian plan that's perfect for you.
Aim to get the following food groups in to your diet daily:
Vegetables (specifically cruciferous and leafy greens)
5 cups a day
3 cups a day
Grains (mostly whole)
3 servings a day
Plant-based Dairy alternatives
3 cups a day
3 servings per day
30 grams per day
Additionally, pay special attention to the following nutrients:
- Calcium: Calcium helps in building strong teeth and bones. Dark green vegetables like turnip, collard greens, kale, and broccoli are good plant sources. Calcium-enriched fortified products like juices, soy milk, cereals, soy yoghurt, and tofu are also great additions. Avoid calcium supplements as they are linked to heart attacks.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D also plays a vital role in bone health. If you don't eat enough fortified foods and have limited sun exposure, you may need a vitamin D supplement, especially the ones derived from plants.
- Vitamin B-12: Vitamin B-12 is crucial for producing red blood cells and preventing anaemia. Since B12 is only made by microbes that live in the soil, if you do not spend enough time outdoors in activities like gardening, Vitamin b12 needs to be supplemented.
- Protein: Protein helps in maintaining healthy skin, muscles, bones, and organs. You will get adequate protein from plant-based foods. Plant protein sources include soy products, lentils, nuts, legumes, seeds, and whole grains. Watch this for more clarity on plant- proteins:
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are imperative for heart health. Hemp seeds, chia seeds, ground flaxseed and soybeans are good sources of essential fatty acids for a plant-based diet.
- Iron and zinc: Iron is a critical component of red blood cells. Plant sources of iron include beans, peas, cereals, lentils, and leafy green vegetables. One can also take whole-grain products and dry fruits. To help your body absorb iron, eat Vitamin C rich foods. Foods like strawberries, tomatoes, citrus fruits, cabbage and broccoli. Additionally, these are also iron-containing foods. Plant sources of zinc are legumes, whole grains, soy products, nuts and wheat germ. Zinc is a critical component of many enzymes. It plays a significant role in cell division and the formation of proteins.
- Iodine: Iodine is a primary constituent of thyroid hormones. It helps in regulating the metabolism, growth and function of critical organs. One-fourth teaspoon of iodized salt a day can provide a significant amount of iodine in the diet.
Innovative Ways to Lose Weight
Other lifestyles changes can help lose weight. Adopting the following healthy habits will help you maintain a healthy weight. Watch this to understand more:
- Increase Activity: Try to increase the number of steps you take every day, even if you don't exercise formally. It is a humble way to burn more calories and get fit. To lose weight, aim for a goal of walking 7700 steps per day and work up to that goal over time.
- Practice Mindful Eating: Most people eat on the run or consume meals while distracted. Make it a point to focus on your meals and pay close attention to feelings of fullness and hunger. It is a great way to get more in tune with your body. In addition, eating slowly promotes weight loss by increasing feelings of fullness and decreasing hunger.
- Make Smart Choices: Well, eating healthy can become a challenge sometimes. Therefore, set goals ahead of time and try to stick to them. It will help you maintain your plan, even when you feel tempted to make an unhealthy food choice. Further, reminding yourself why you want to be healthier can also make you feel empowered.
Sample Vegetarian Dinner Ideas For Weight Loss:
Spiced red lentil and sweet potato soup:
Sweet potatoes are loaded with resistance starch. Resistance starches are 1- 2 calories for every gram! That's 1/4th the calories of proteins and sugar. But they act similar to how fibre acts in the body. Thus, filling you up for minimal calories.
Lentils/ pulses are food for the non- inflammatory good gut bacteria. They heal your gut and reduce insulin resistance. Ideally, you want to eat 2-3 servings of lentils per day. This is a perfect dinner recipe that is wholesome and healthy. Enjoy the same with brown rice or even daal.
Recipe from Rainbow Plant Life
Chickpea Tikka masala:
Did you know that by starting your day with a cup of chickpeas, most people end up eating 200 calories LESSER for the next meal (lunch). It is because the fibre in the chickpeas keeps you full and helps trigger the bodies natural satiety hormone.
This recipe is soothing and comforting for cold winter nights. Especially with a side of millet flour roti's like Bajra or Jowar. It is also tasty and healthy.
Recipe from Simple Veganista
Ideally you want to consume 50- 60 grams of leafy greens per day. These could be in the form of stir- fry's, soups, smoothies or salads. This recipe is a great add- on for a healthy dinner. Feel free to use absolutely any leafy green's for this recipe including Amaranth leaves, Dill leaves, Spinach, Mustard greens etc.
This dish is also best paired with vegetable sambhar and brown rice. Do not hesitate about eating rice for dinner. Brown rice is low in glycemic index and healthy. As long as you aim to have dinner three hours before going to bed, you will still lose weight. Grains contain B vitamins and are an essential addition to your daily diet. Aim for 3 servings of grains per day. This includes rice, wheat, millets, quinoa etc.
Recipe from Anto's Kitchen
Tofu and capsicum paratha:
Soy beans have been widely studies not only for their weight loss benefits, but also in helping reduce symptoms of PMS, help with irregular periods and reduce menopausal symptoms. Soy beans have also been proven to help prevent breast cancer. This is why, I highly recommend my clients to consume at least three servings of soy beans per week.
I also suggest you switch paneer for tofu. You get all the proteins and calcium from tofu without the cholesterol and growth hormones that are found in paneer. Tofu has zero cholesterol, unlike paneer and is nutritionally more dense than panner. This dish is my personal favourite. Watch out to use minimum oil while cooking though!
Recipe by Archana's Kitchen
Vegan Daal- Dhokli:
Can you ever go wrong with a classic! If you have not tried daal dholki with chopped onion's before, then you are missing out. This dish represents our cultural eating values, thus is healthy and tasty and a very small cost. Packed with whole wheat flour and lentils, this is a high protein dish and requires minimum ingredients to cook.
It is a sure staple in our family every week and brings the family together to sit around one pot and share a meal. I highly recommend you try it.
Recipe from First Timer Cook.
Now this dish is tricky as you can easily make it unhealthy by adding too much oil or deep frying the patty. But I like to just pan roast the patty with less than a spray of oil and use no oil's at all to make the ragda.
But overall, if you can make small tweaks like using sweet potato for the patty and skipping the sev, this is a perfect dinner option. It has essential proteins from the green peas, resistance starch from the potatoes and yet delicious. I also like to pair this with a cruciferous vegetable soup to make it more whole some.
Recipe by Cook with Manali.
Bajra vegetable Khichdi:
A nice one pot meal that contains gains, lentils and vegetables. All food groups covered for very low calories. This meal is nourishment in a bowl. The best part, it tastes delicious! I would skip adding Ghee though, since it is a lot of cholesterol, but besides that, this dish is as perfect as can be.
It makes for a perfect dinner option as it is filling and triggers the release of tryptophan, bodies natural sleep hormone. Thus, assures a restful night's sleep. Make sure to load in as many vegetables as possible, and even add in a handful of leafy greens to make it even more nutritious.
Recipe by Enhance your Palate.
Vegan Palak Tofu:
This minimum hassle recipe is oozing of nourishment. Leafy greens help with lowering blood pressure, delay the absorption of fatty acids and are packed with micro nutrients. This traditional dish gets a healthy Ruch by adding tofu instead of cottage cheese. Thus, even more nutrition and no fats/ cholesterol.
While I enjoy these with rage roti's, you have have the same with a side of amaranth millets, brown rice or even whole wheat phulka's. Make sure to not overcook the gravy so it retains the green colour and does not turn black.
Recipe by Instant Veg.
Can we appreciate how simple this dish is but yet covered all essential food groups for fat loss? I would pair this with a vegetable soup and cup of fresh cut fruits though since the dish does not have any vegetables. I would also skip the ghee or add a little bit of vegan ghee instead.
But besides that, this dish is as perfect as can be. it is nourishing and low in calories. Besides that, it contains lentils, essential for gut health and fat loss. Resistance starch from the oats is a good addition to this meal too!
Recipe by Madhu's Everyday Indian.
Quinoa and Brown Rice Adai:
An amazing alternative to traditional white rice dosa! I love adding this to my weekly menu simple because it is easy to prepare and the bater stays fine in the fridge for 2-3 days, thus, making it an excellent breakfast option later. Best enjoyed with a cup of vegetable sambhar and tambuli or mint chutney.
Adding brown rice and quinoa instead of white rice is an easy healthy twist and you will barely notice the difference in taste.
A Weight-loss Friendly Shopping List
It is vital to have ingredients on hand to prepare nutritious meals and snacks at home for weight loss. Therefore, make sure to stock your refrigerator and pantry with healthy foods. Further, it will motivate you to test your cooking skills and try some new recipes.
Research states that people who cook more meals at home tend to have better overall diet quality. They also have less body fat and a healthier weight than those who eat meals at home infrequently.
Here are some healthy items you can add to your shopping list:
- Vegetables: Greens, cauliflower, herbs, carrots, peppers, garlic, eggplant
- Leafy greens: Kale, spinach, rocket leaves, brahmi, amaranth leaves, Swiss chard etc.
- Fruits: Apples, strawberries, mango, papaya, banana, grapes
- Frozen produce: Mixed vegetables and frozen fruits
- Grains: Oats, millet, quinoa, whole-grain bread, brown rice
- Legumes: Lentils, pulses, beans
- Nuts: Almonds, pistachios, cashews
- Seeds: Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, lotus seeds
- Condiments: Sea salt, pepper, turmeric, ginger, paprika, cinnamon
- Starchy vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnip, pumpkin, corn
- Proteins: Tofu, plant-based dairy products, legumes, hummus
- Healthy fats: Olive oil, unsweetened coconut, coconut oil, ghee, sesame oil, avocado, peanut butter.
- Beverages: Green tea, coffee, sparkling water, Darjeeling tea
Following a vegetarian Indian diet is a great way to shed those extra weight. It helps you cut back on sugary foods and beverages, increase your fibre intake, and eat more vegetables and fruits.
Along with a healthy vegetarian diet, add regular exercise to your regimen to boost your health and aid in weight loss.
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