Vegetarians eat plant-based diets that eliminate meat, poultry, fish, or other animal-derived foods.  There are several types of vegetarians, including:

  1. Lactovegetarians - include milk and milk products, but exclude meat, poultry, fish, seafood and eggs.
  2. Lacto-ovo-vegetarians - include milk, milk products, and eggs, but exclude meat, poultry, fish, and seafood .
  3. Vegans - exclude all animal-derived foods including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products.

One important benefit of vegetarian diets is weight control, mostly because well-balanced vegetarian diets are higher in fiber and lower in fat than the typical American diet.  Other benefits include decreased heart disease risk due to decreased intake of saturated fat and decreased cancer risk due to higher intake of fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals.

So eating a vegetarian diet may jump start your weight loss efforts, but there is no guarantee.  Like any eating plan, weight loss is only possible if you consume less calories than you burn.  Decreasing calorie intake and increasing exercise is the winning combination that enables you to achieve successful weight loss whether you follow a vegetarian diet or not.  However, since many animal products are high in fat and calories, choosing lower fat, higher fiber vegetarian sources of protein, such as beans, and eating more low calorie fruits and vegetables, can help you decrease your calorie intake, if you don't overeat your portions.

Lower fat vegetarian diets will include non-fat or 1% milk, low-fat cheese and yogurt, beans, small amounts of nuts, whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables.  Calorie pitfalls of vegetarian diets include high fat dairy products, fried foods, sweets, large portions of nuts, and overeating.

Here are some quick tips for jump starting your weight loss efforts:

  • Have your diet analyzed by a Registered Dietitian (RD). An RD will recommend the best calorie level and help you plan menus and set achievable goals. To find a Registered Dietitian in your area visit the American Dietetic Association's website at
  • Work with a personal trainer to help push you to the next level. Also, keep in mind that your body adjusts to your activity level, so mix up your exercise routine by trying something new or by increasing your intensity or length of time. Even short bursts of increased intensity during your workout can help you burn more calories. Also, remember to include strength training to build and maintain muscle.
  • Decrease portion sizes to shave off hundreds of calories daily. Consuming just 100 calories less daily than what you're burning results in 10 pounds of weight loss in a year.
  • Include high fiber, plant-based foods to become satisfied with fewer calories. High fiber foods include legumes/beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat regularly, including breakfast. Skipping meals is the enemy of weight loss.
  • Keep a food diary to evaluate your intake. Remember to pay attention to portion sizes as well as cooking methods.


  2. Understanding Nutrition by Ellie Whitney and Sharon Rady Rolfes, Thompson Wadsworth, 2005