When I tell people I’m a vegetarian, they often respond with remarks such as, “Wow, it must be easy to stay slim on a vegetarian diet!”
Wrong. Truth time: I gained ten pounds when I first changed to a vegan lifestyle (I have since modified it by going on a vegetarian food plan, because I missed the dairy so much!). Snacking on dried apricots mixed with pecans and almonds, lunching on huge hunks of whole wheat bread toped with enormous slabs of soy cheese, and dining on mounds of brown rice covered with olive oil and grated soy cheese, not to mention the generous servings of nondairy ice cream – well, so much for the slim life!
If stepping on your scale makes you whimper, it’s time for these just-for-you weight loss tips:
Beware of beverages bearing calories.
Perhaps you start out your day, for example, with a large mug of coffee flavored with sugary coffee syrup and a generous serving of chocolate soy milk. A mid-morning snack may consist of fruit juice and chocolate or vanilla-flavored soy protein mix whirred up in a blender. By lunch time, you feel ravenous and, assuming that since you’ve “only” had beverages so far that day, you dig into a big plateful of pasta. The problem: those seemingly innocent drinks can add up to half a day’s worth of calories!
Start your day with a good breakfast, such as a cut-up apple topped with a tablespoon of almond nut butter. Enjoy your organic coffee sweetened with Torani’s superb sugar-free white chocolate syrup or sugar-free Almond Roca – both are so delicious that you’ll find yourself double-checking the label to make sure they’re really calorie-free (yes, it’s true!). Torani even has a resident vegan, Scott Turner, who says that the only sugar-free flavors “that might be of concern to vegans are Sugar Free Chocolate and Sugar Free Hazelnut. The flavors that are free of any dairy components (or ingredients designed to emulate dairy components) are Sugar Free Almond, Sugar Free Almond Roca, Sugar Free Black Cherry, Sugar Free Caramel, Sugar Free Coconut, Sugar Free Coffee, Sugar Free English Toffee, Sugar Free French Vanilla, Sugar Free Irish Cream, Sugar Free Lemon, Sugar Free Lime, Sugar Free Mango, Sugar Free Orange, Sugar Free Peach, Sugar Free Peppermint, Sugar Free Raspberry, Sugar Free Strawberry, Sugar Free Vanilla, Sugar Free Vanilla Bean, Sugar Free Watermelon, and Sugar Free White Chocolate.”
Snack on a food that you can chew, such as baby carrots and low-fat soy cheese, rather than gulping down a caloric fruit drink. When you’re thirsty, learn to love water. If you hate “plain” water, try one of the new flavored zero-calorie waters, such as Fruit2OÃ?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½. Best flavors: strawberry, peach, and grape.
Watch out for the toppings on those veggies!
You think you’re being so virtuous by making a salad for lunch or dinner. A handful of iceberg lettuce, topped with potato salad, croutons, and a generous serving of salad dressing. Before you dive headfirst into that salad, though, consider this: Those innocent toppings can add up to more calories, carbohydrates, and saturated fat than a veggie burger topped with soy cheese.
Sandra Woodruff, MS, is a registered dietician in Tallahassee, Florida and the best-selling author of numerous books on nutrition, cooking, and healthy eating including The Good Carb Cookbook, Secrets of Good-Carb/Low-Carb Living, and The Complete Diabetes Prevention Plan. She maintains a consumer-oriented website, eatsmarttoday.com. “Made properly, a salad provides lots of volume for relatively few calories,” says Sandra encouragingly. The secret to success: “Enjoy generous portions of spinach, lettuce, and other salad veggies like carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, cucumber, radishes, peppers, and onions.” And, Sandra notes, skip those “fatty toppings like high-calorie dressings and fried croutons.”
To add variety, try using frozen or canned vegetables. For example, you can “add some corn and black beans to lend a Tex-Mex flair to salads, artichoke hearts and garbanzo beans for Mediterranean flair, and edamame for Asian salads. Frozen (lightly cooked) vegetable blends such as Birds Eye Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Snow Pea Pods or Baby Mixed Beans and Carrots also make delicious salads,” according to the registered dietician.
If you’re worried that frozen and veggies are not as healthy as fresh Vegetables, relax. “In 1998, the Food and Drug Administration compared the nutrient profiles of fresh, frozen, and canned produce. They concluded that frozen and canned vegetables are nutritionally comparable to the raw versions and would likely provide the same health benefits,” reports Sandra. In fact, in some cases, “frozen and canned vegetables contained higher levels of certain nutrients than fresh because fresh produce is vulnerable to nutrient losses under certain storage conditions.”
What’s a salad without the dressing? You can make your own, using mainly vinegar mixed with a tablespoon of good-for-you olive oil and herbs. Or choose your favorite flavor in a low-fat or fat-free brand. My personal favorite: Walden Farms salad dressing. Calorie-free, carb-free, sugar-free – and taste-full! My favorite Walden Farms flavors include the Thousand Island and Italian salad dressings.
Wishing for a topping of buttery croutons? Instead, try taking a butter-flavored popcorn or rice cake, breaking it up into small pieces, and sprinkling it on top of your salad. You get just as much crunch and flavor without the calories and saturated fat.
Don’t deprive yourself of desserts.
If you love ending your meal with a sweet, go for it! Just make sure that you choose carefully. For example, try Walden Farms wonderful calorie-free apple “butter” or strawberry jam on top of a bran cracker. You’ll enjoy the satisfaction of a sweet crunchy dessert guilt-free! Another treat: half a banana, topped with Walden Farms calorie-free chocolate or marshmallow dip, then frozen. How sweet it is!