It’s well known that a vegetarian or vegan diet has the potential to be healthy. We see proof of this every day, and we know that vegetable sources of protein, fat, and fiber are super healthy for us. Studies have shown that diets high in fiber mixed with plenty of healthy vegetables can improve your weight.
But, for some of us, falling into that cycle of gaining weight can still be a problem, even on a vegetarian or vegan diet. There are still several hidden traps to be wary of because these can still cause unwanted or unmeasured weight gain for many vegetarians and vegans.
• Ignoring or accidentally eating added Sugars
• Falling into the ease of processed foods rather than cooking your own foods
• An imbalance of your macros
• Distorting portion sizes
• Eating foods that are easy to eat too much
In our world of convenience, it’s much easier to grab a pre-prepped food from the frozen section, like that Michael Angelo’s Vegetarian Lasagna we all love so much. After all, it’s what? 45 minutes in the oven. It can’t be easier.
Just pull it out of the freezer when you get home, pop it in the oven, run to the bedroom and change into your sweats, get the kids through their homework, and maybe set the table. By then, your processed lasagna is ready. All you had to do was reach in the freezer.
There’s a problem though, and this covers at least three of the traps mentioned above. For one thing, did you happen to catch how many grams of added sugars there are in each serving? That number on your Nutrition Facts label isn’t the overall amount by the package. It’s by serving size.
Secondly, what kind of fats were added to that easy to cook meal? Are they healthy fats? Probably not.
Processed foods like frozen lasagnas, vegan ice cream, or vegetarian-friendly cakes often contain preservatives and fats to keep them stable during storage for longer periods of time. Just because something isn’t so detrimental to your health that it becomes a concern for the FDA doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
Finally, pasta, the likes of which these frozen processed foods are usually prepared with, are easy to eat in short time spans. Your body doesn’t have an immediate response to your fullness level when you eat carbs and burn glucose. There is a delayed reaction of anywhere from 20 minutes to half an hour. It takes less than that to overeat on foods like pasta.
Many processed foods like pasta are super easy to eat in large portions which partly plays into a distortion of portion sizes. The other part of understanding portions is understanding serving sizes and nutrition facts labels.
This is partially changing so that now foods have to include the total count of calories, fats, protein, and carbs in the whole package. In the meantime, however, it’s important to pay attention to your portion and serving sizes.
While we’re talking about Protein, Carbohydrates, Fats, and Calories, let’s talk about macro balances. This is probably the biggest trap for vegetarians. Understanding how many of your calories need to come from fat, protein, and carbs is important.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a glucose burning vegan, or maybe a Ketogenic Vegetarian, you have to know the macros for which you’re aiming, and then measure and balance out what you eat. Either way, eating too much protein is a good way to gain weight under the wrong conditions. So, if you’re a vegetarian relying on meat substitutes, or maybe beans, to get adequate complete proteins, you should track what you consume.
Basically, it’s just as easy to fall into bad and unhealthy eating habits as a vegetarian as it is in any other diet pattern. Your success will come down to understanding what you’re eating, how much you need to eat, and staying away from added sugars and preservatives in processed foods.