Information from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, www.pcrm.org
Three weeks on a low-fat vegan diet gets you on the road to your healthy weight goal
Of the many ways to lose weight, one stands out as by far the most healthful. When you build your meals from a generous array of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans — that is, healthy vegetarian choices — weight loss is remarkably easy. And along with it come major improvements in cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and many other aspects of health. The message is simple: Cut out the foods that are high in fat and devoid of fiber, and increase the foods that are low in fat and full of fiber. This low-fat, vegan diet approach is safe and easy — once you get the hang of it.
Getting started can seem a bit daunting. It is often hard to imagine doing anything — be it a diet, new exercise regimen, or any other new, healthy habit — forever. Try this: Follow the diet approach outlined here for just three weeks. That will give you enough time to adjust to new flavors and will also allow you to start significant weight loss and see other positive health changes. Participants in the Physicians Committee’s weight loss study who switched to a vegan diet reported improvements in digestion and regularity and many also said they just felt better overall.
The best way to do this approach is to follow the diet completely for three weeks. This means no sneaking ranch dressing onto your salad, adding egg whites to muffin batter, or having a bit of chicken with dinner. Only by doing the diet all the way will you be able to reap all the benefits and avoid lapses that can lead to weight gain.
So let’s get started! Choose the day when you would like to start the diet. Weigh yourself before you start and keep track of your weight during the three weeks. Also, keep a record of what you are eating. Keeping a food record and a journal of how you feel while you’re on the diet will help you monitor your progress. For a more comprehensive guide to get you started, along with a three-week menu plan, go to www.pcrm.org/health/health-topics/a-guide-to-healthy-weight-loss. We have outlined the basics below.
Low-Fat Weight Loss Vegan Diet
Overall Principles: Choose foods from plant sources. Avoid all animal products and saturated fat, and keep vegetable oils to a bare minimum.
Focus on the “New Four Food Groups”
The New Four Food Groups — grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruit — can provide you with all the nutrients you need. To meet your nutrient needs, select 8 servings of grains, 3 servings of legumes, at least 4 servings of vegetables, and 3 servings of fruit daily. It’s important to vary the foods you choose within the food groups, because not only is “variety the spice of life” it helps you to cover all your nutritional bases. The food guide chart will provide you with about 1500 calories.
Information on Condiments and Beverages
- For salad dressings and condiments, use the non-fat varieties, such as fat-free Italian dressing for salads and mustard for sandwiches.
- Coffee and tea are fine, but make sure to use non-fat, non-dairy creamers and sweeteners.
- Alcoholic beverages can be used occasionally. Avoid creamy beverages such as White Russians and Bailey’s Irish Cream.
- Sugar may be used occasionally.
- Nuts, seeds, avocadoes, olives, peanut butter, chocolate (non-dairy), and full-fat soy products such as tofu, tempeh, and soy cheese, come from plant foods, but are too high in fat to be conducive to weight loss. These foods may be used in modest amounts on rare occasions.
Foods to Avoid
- Meats, poultry, fish, eggs (both whites and yolks), and all dairy products (regular and non-fat), including milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, cream, sour cream, and butter.
- Added oils, such as margarine, salad dressings, mayonnaise, and cooking oils.
- Fried foods, such as potato chips, French fries, onion rings, tempura, and donuts.
A Word About…
Protein: Plant foods have plenty of protein. The recommended amount of protein in the diet is 10-12 percent of calories. Most vegetables, legumes, and grains contain this amount or more. Excellent protein sources include beans or lentils (especially in combination with rice or other grains) and meat analogues, such as veggie burgers.
Calcium: Plant-based sources of calcium are widely available. Good sources of calcium include broccoli, kale, collards, mustard greens, beans, figs, fortified orange juice, fortified cereal, and fortified, non-fat soy- or rice milks.
Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products and fortified foods, such as many breakfast cereals and soymilks. To ensure an adequate intake on this diet, you should take a common multivitamin or a B12 supplement of 5 mcg per day.
Now that you know what foods to eat and what nutrients to look out for, it’s time to get started on your 3 weeks on a low-fat vegan diet. When you see the success after 3 weeks, you might just find that you like it and will decide to continue to make these healthy changes a part of your life. Good luck!
For more information, please visit the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s website at www.pcrm.org. Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.
Photo credit: istarif/iStock
Food Group: Grains
A serving equals about 80 calories
6 of your 8 servings should be from whole grain sources like wheat bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, bran cereal, and oatmeal.
You should get 8 servings a day. A serving is ½ cup cooked grain, like oatmeal or pasta, 1 oz. of dry cereal (usually ¾ cup to 1 cup), one slice of bread, or half a pita bread or tortilla. Most bagels are actually four servings. Eight servings may sound like a lot, but 1 cup of oatmeal for breakfast, a sandwich with two slices of bread for lunch, and a bowl of pasta made with 1½ cups of spaghetti with a slice of French bread meets your 8-serving goal.
Food Group: Legumes
A serving equals about 100 calories
Have at least 1 cup of beans every day.
You should have 3 servings from the legume group each day. A serving is a half-cup of cooked beans, ½ cup low-fat bean spread, 1 cup low-fat soymilk, or 1 oz. of veggie meat substitute.
Food Group: Vegetables
A serving equals 35-50 calories
At least one serving should be a raw vegetable like salad or carrot sticks and one should be a dark leafy green vegetable like kale or broccoli.
You should aim for at least 4 servings of vegetables each day. This means ½ cup cooked or 1 cup raw. As long as the vegetable isn’t topped with a fatty dressing or sauce, you can eat as many servings as you want from this group. At least 1 of your vegetable servings should be calcium-rich, dark leafy greens, such as broccoli, kale, or collards.
Food Group: Fruit
A serving equals 80 calories
Limit fruit juices and eat whole pieces of fruit instead.
Aim for 3 servings of fruit each day. A serving is ½ cup chopped or one small piece of fruit. Aim for low-calorie, high-nutrition fruits like strawberries, kiwis, mangoes, blueberries, peaches, plums, oranges, gFoodrapefruit, and raspberries.
Food Group: Sweets
One sweet serving has no more than 1 gram of fat and equals 100 cal.
You should have no more than 1 sweets serving per day. Your sweets should be fat free. Try fruit if you are craving sweets. Other low-fat ideas include a bowl of sweetened whole grain cereal with low-fat soymilk, a soymilk/fruit smoothie, or sautéed bananas or apples (in water and a bit of maple syrup) with a little cinnamon.