Is vegetarianism a good way to lose weight? My vegetarian friends say they didn't really experience any weight loss when they stopped eating meat.
There isn't actually a "yes" or "no" answer here. If you eat more calories than you need you will gain weight, whether you eat meat or not. Weight loss is just as possible on a meat-based diet as a vegetarian diet and vice versa.
That said, research has shown people following a typical vegetarian diet consume, on average, around 500 fewer calories daily than their meat-eating counterparts. Interestingly, the research showed that they actually ate more food than non-vegetarians.
This can be attributed to the fact that healthy vegetarian diets are comprised mainly of complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are starchy, fiber-rich foods that are naturally low in fat and calories. Examples of complex carbs are legumes and other vegetables and whole grains.
Remember, every 3,500 calories cut equals one pound lost. If you do the math, it's easy to see that a 500 calorie-a-day deficit will lead to one pound of weight loss a week. Whether you're a veggie or a carnivore, a calorie cut is a calorie cut.
It's perfectly logical that some vegetarians don't lose any weight when they eliminate meat. Eliminating meat in and of itself doesn't necessarily lead to a calorie deficit since you replace it with other foods. This is especially true if the individual replaces meat with products like cheese or milk.
The trick to losing weight on a vegetarian diet -- and all diets -- is to plan your meals in advance, ensuring they include a good variety of fruit, vegetables and grains. Resorting to junk food simply because you haven't taken the time to plan a meal is a sure-fire way to set yourself up for failure. Not only will your weight-management efforts suffer, your general wellness will wane due to poor nutrition.
If you're looking for convenience, there are plenty of healthy vegetarian-friendly meals in grocery stores. Meals like Amy's frozen dinners are ready in minutes in your microwave. Veggie burgers by Boca or GardenBurger can also be microwaved, or for a "cooked-out" flavor, grilled. Try them as a burger with a bun and fixings, or, alongside other veggies as a replacement for a meat entree.
Another key is to be careful about preparation method of vegetable-based meals. My Southern mom served me fried squash and okra right and left when I briefly went veggie as a teen. (You can imagine where that got me!) Seek out vegetarian recipes that incorporate boiled, broiled, grilled, steamed or sauteed vegetables. If you're trying to lose weight, you'll want to avoid high-fat casseroles and fried veggies whenever possible.