People often associate a vegetarian diet with health, but eliminating most animal products can present some serious health challenges. The greatest benefits are experienced when processed foods are replaced with nutrient-dense whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and nuts. No matter what type of diet you follow, the tips below can help upgrade your daily nutrition for better health and weight loss results.
1. Eat Whole Foods
Stop counting calories and start focusing on nutrients. Choose whole foods and products made from whole foods over anything processed or refined. The less processed food is, the better. Also, avoid mock meats like Tofurky and faux fats like margarine. These products are often loaded with GMOs, man-made fats and other harmful ingredients. Eat real food, not a chemistry experiment.
2. Choose Quality Ingredients
Opt for the highest quality organic and GMO-free ingredients you can afford. Read produce PLU stickers. Choose organic foods with 5 numbers on the label and start with 9, such as 92345. Avoid GMO PLU stickers that have 5 numbers on the label and start with 8, such as 82345. The Dirty Dozen foods to avoid include apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines, grapes, sweet bell pepper, potato, blueberries, lettuce, kale, and collards. Also, avoid non-organic soy and products made from soy.
3. Read Food Labels
Read food labels looking for minimal ingredients and a sugar content of fewer than 5 grams per serving. Avoid refined sugars, flour, words you can’t pronounce, and anything “low-fat,” “fat-free,” or “sugar-free.” Beware hidden soy ingredients such as textured soy protein (TSP), textured vegetable protein (TVP), soy protein isolate, bean flour, bean curd, bean protein concentrate, hydrolyzed vegetable/soy protein, etc.
4. Balance Blood Sugar
Plan balanced meals consisting of quality protein, natural fats, and non-starchy veg. Keep sugar and starch in check as they affect blood sugar the most and can hinder fat loss efforts. Add cinnamon to meals and snacks to help slow carb digestion by up to 29%.
5. Start With Protein
Start each meal with high-quality protein to increase metabolism and provide high satiation. Vary your protein sources to prevent amino acid deficiencies. Good proteins include eggs, fish, seafood, fermented soy (natto, tempeh, stinky tofu), cottage cheese, yogurt, kefir, whey, sprouted plant protein (brown rice, pea, cranberry, or hemp) nuts, and nut butter. Beware excess soy as it can lead to high estrogen, low testosterone, poor thyroid function, infertility, weight gain, nutrient deficiencies, and other health issues.
6. Befriend Natural Fats
Natural fats are your best friend for optimal health and fat loss as they have zero effect on blood glucose levels, decrease cravings, promote satiation, and increase nutrient absorption. Good fats include unrefined coconut and red palm oil, pastured butter and ghee, extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, olives and grass-fed raw milk cheese. Avoid man-made fats and those high in inflammatory omega-6s like soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil.
7. Choose Better Carbs
Ditch the “pastatarian” mentality and think outside the box. Avoid refined carbs and focus on “slow” carbs or carbs with a low glycemic load that releases energy slowly into the bloodstream. Slow carbs include nuts, seeds, and non-starchy veg. A great way to eat more slow carbs is to choose greens over grains. Most people eat twice as many refined grains as they do greens. Eating more veg is a great way to increase fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. A glucometer can be helpful for determining specific carb amounts.
8. Go Gluten-Free
Many people benefit from going gluten-free, not just because of the gluten, but because foods that contain gluten also often contain high amounts of glyphosate. Going grain-free can be helpful as well. Swaps grains for non-starchy veggies, potatoes, sweet potatoes, fruits, legumes, taro, cassava, tigernuts, etc.
9. Prep Food Properly
Many plants foods are high in anti nutrients such as phytic acid, enzyme inhibitors, tannins, etc. Prepare plant foods properly via soaking, sprouting, fermenting, etc. to increase nutrient absorption, prevent nutrient deficiencies, and improve digestion. Read this blog post for more info.
10. Customize Your Nutrition
Contact Cate to learn specific foods to include and get a customized supplement protocol.
15 Vegetarian Foods To Include
- Almonds — healthier alternative to peanuts and good source of protein, vitamin E, and fat
- Avocados — rich in healthy fats, fiber and potassium
- Eggs — good source of protein, choline, and sulfur-rich amino acids
- Chia seeds and flax seeds — good source of fiber and omega-3s
- Coconut oil — excellent for fat loss, immunity, and metabolism
- Grass-fed butter or ghee — great source of fat-soluble vitamins and butyric acid
- Grass-fed raw milk cheese — good source of calcium
- Leafy green veggies — good sources of fiber, phytochemical and vitamins
- Maca — rich in B-12, magnesium, and calcium
- Pumpkin seeds — good source of zinc
- Sardines — great source of protein, B-12, and omega-3s
- Sea salt — supports adrenals and helps with digestion of vegetables
- Walnuts — good source of tryptophan and omega-3s
- Whey — rich in glutathione, the mother of all antioxidants
- Wild salmon — good source of protein, antioxidants and omega-3s
- Dr. Mercola Soy Articles
- Mark’s Daily Apple – 17 Primal Tips for Vegans and Vegetarians
- Mark’s Daily Apple – Soy Scrutiny
- Chris Kresser – Why You Should Think Twice About Vegetarian and Vegan Diets
- Weston Price – Soy Alert, Myths and Truths About Soy, FAQ on Soy
- Dr. Josh Axe – Is Soy Bad For You?
- The Whole Soy Story by Dr. Kayyla Daniel
- The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith