By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
When it comes to plant based weight loss, it helps to know what foods to eat. Here's your plant based food list for plant based diet weight loss, including vegetarian and vegan picks!
Following a flexitarian, vegetarian, or vegan diet for weight loss or good health? Know what to eat for plant-based diet weight loss and how to make delicious yet healthy vegetarian recipes and vegan meals.
That's right! Plant-based meals can be delicious and healthy and help you lose weight. Plus, being at a healthy weight can help lower your risk of certain diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Whether you're simply trying to eat healthier or have weight loss or other health goals in mind, plant-based eating can help. And you don't even have to give up eating meat, per se.
This is especially true when you mix up menu offerings to keep mealtime interesting yet still healthy. Try a vegan dessert recipe for Meatless Monday, or throw a vegetarian pizza in the oven on a busy weeknight.
Get your plant-based food list and protein sources sans meat right here! And don't worry, you can still eat fast food while working at losing weight or working to prevent weight gain.
Weight-Loss Food: Colorful Produce
The No. 1 food I'll tell you to eat on a whole-food, plant-based diet: produce. We’ve long known that eating all colors of the rainbow is important for a myriad of health benefits, including lowering risk of cardiovascular disease.
Now, a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows exactly how much of a health
impact this can have.
Iranian researchers studied 1,272 adults for three years, documenting how many daily servings of red/purple, yellow, green, orange and white fruits and veggies they ate. Then, the scientists looked at how intake affected subjects' health.
The findings: Eating more red/purple fruits and vegetables was linked with both a lower weight and less belly fat
For women, the people consuming red/purple fruits and vegetables were likely to have lower fasting blood sugar and total cholesterol levels. And eating orange produce was linked with lower cholesterol levels.
For men, the people who ate white produce were less likely to gain belly fat and have lower cholesterol levels, while the guys eating yellow produce had improved total and beneficial HDL cholesterol levels. Eating green produce was linked with lower triglyceride levels.
Ready to eat your colors and help your health? Get started:
- Green beans
- Green bell pepper
- Green cabbage
- Green chili pepper
- Green peas
- Leafy greens
Red & Purple Produce
- Date fruit
- Red bell pepper
- Red cabbage
- Red figs
- Red grapefruit
- Red grapes
- Red onion
- Red plum
- White cabbage
- Green grapes
- Yellow plum
One thing to note when it comes to eating your colors: You might be hard-wired to prefer red foods like red meat to green foods like spinach.
In a study in Scientific Reports, Italian and Australian researchers uncovered some really interesting info on food preference. It turns out that humans may naturally prefer red foods to green foods.
A possible reason? People perceive them to potentially have more calories than green ones.
In the study, 68 people rated images of food (like tomatoes), as well as non-food items such as a hammer or a nutcracker. Volunteers found the images of red foods to be more attractive than the green ones.
However, they also thought that the images of green foods had fewer calories than the red ones—even when calorie counts of foods shown were similar.
Study authors believe that this natural pull toward red foods is linked with our ancestors need to obtain higher-calorie foods when foraging. Simply think of it as a survival instinct—and next time you’re looking at the colors of your food choices, think about your ancestors!
Calories aside, getting a variety of colors of foods helps ensure you’re also getting an array of nutrients for a healthy body.
Check your food tracker or journal to make sure there are more than just red foods on there—and enjoy your green salad and spaghetti with marinara sauce. Just remember to track it.
Weight-Loss Food: Almonds
I’m a big fan of almonds. I eat them in my Greek yogurt and oatmeal, and I enjoy adding them to salads and stir-fries, too. The nuts have many health attributes.
They offer fiber, protein, and healthy fats, which might help you to feel full for longer between meals and help to keep your blood sugar levels stable. You may also stop eating sooner because of this feeling of satiation.
In 11 whole almonds, you get about 75 calories, 2.8 grams protein, 0.3 grams saturated fat, and 0.6 grams sugar.
And research in Food & Function shows that the nut may contribute less calories than thought. When scientists retested the calorie content of both un-roasted and roasted almonds, they found interesting results.
After processing by the body, whole un-roasted almonds resulted in 25% fewer calories being absorbed than previously thought, and roasted almonds had 17% to 19% fewer calories absorbed.
The study authors determined that the number of calories assigned to almonds before they’re eaten doesn’t take into account how the food is broken down and absorbed by the body. Chewing doesn't break down an almond’s cell walls, which means part of the cells remain unbroken and unabsorbed during the digestion process.
The calorie difference between un-roasted and roasted almonds is because the roasting process helps break down the nuts’ cell walls, which makes them easier to process by the body.
There was no calorie difference found for almond butter, as the almonds are broken down during processing. FYI that the research was funded by the Almond Board of California.
What to do with this information? For now, consider swapping a Tablespoon or two of natural almonds for the granola in your yogurt or the cheese on your salads—or having them instead of your typical pretzel snack. Also assess whether they impact your fullness level or weight loss.
Weight-Loss Food: Plant-Based Meat Alternatives
A No. 1 complaint I hear about eating vegetarian is the lack of protein options. But there are so many delicious and filling vegetarian picks out there! These include whole grains, legumes, and meat alternatives.
Many of these options are high in fiber and protein. I've seen so many client success stories of people eating this way and losing weight!
And when it comes to plant-based weight loss, replacing some or all of the meat in your diet with high-protein, plant-based foods can really help you meet your goals.
See the surprising ways my dietitian pals and I make meat swaps in this Food Network post and learn about the best protein for vegetarians. Then, make sure you've designed your kitchen for weight loss.
Weight-Loss Foods: Nuts and Seeds
Don't overlook tiny but mighty seeds when it comes to plant-based diet weight loss/ They're full of fiber and protein to help keep you fuller for longer. Get the scoop on cooking with seeds for weight loss and the new "it" seed in my blog post.
Also grab a meal plan template for weight loss! It's up to you if you want to be counting calories.
If you want even more plant-based recipes for weight loss, get dozens of options by checking out my recipes page.
This blog post was updated in June 2020. A version of this content originally appeared on WeightWatchers.com.
- A study in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
- Food Color is in the Eye of the Beholder: the Role of Human Trichromatic Vision in Food Evaluation, Scientific Reports
- Food Processing and Structure Impact the Metabolizable Energy of Almonds, Food & Function
- 10 Meat Alternatives Nutritionists Swear By, FoodNetwork.com
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What do you think about this list of the best foods for plant-based diet weight loss? Which plant-based snacks are already on your shopping list? What would you add to this list of plant-based foods? What are your go-to plant-based weight-loss recipes?
When you eat less animal products, do you also eat less processed foods? What are your thoughts on vegetarian diets?
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