Last week superstar Beyonce and her personal trainer revealed how his advice to eat one vegan meal a day has helped Ms. Knowles to shed all of her 60 pounds of post pregnancy weight.
The Genetix Program has been touting the weight loss and health benefits of going vegetarian, even
part-time, for several years now. Genetix counselors often recommend that their clients eat at least three vegetarian plant-based meals a week, including the all popular vegetarian Mondays.
One Oxford University study of nearly 38,000 adults found that meat-eaters had the highest BMIs for
their ages and vegans the lowest, with vegetarians and semi-vegetarians in between; and there are
several explanations for this trend.
People who eat a plant-based vegetarian meal tend to have higher amounts of antioxidants and fiber,
which are both tied to weight loss, and researchers have seen an increase in calorie burn after vegan
meals. But in order to reap the benefits, you need to do vegan right. In other words, a diet of processed vegan donuts and fake meat isn’t going to transform you into Beyonce.
Here are five steps for building nutritionally balanced plant-based meals that will slim and satisfy:
1. Start with fruits and vegetables
3 our of 4 Americans fall short of the recommended daily minimum of two fruit and three vegetable per day. When produce serves as the foundation of a plant-based meal, it’s easy to fill that gap, or exceed the target, and this alone can help shrink your fat cells.
Recently University of Florida researchers developed an index that ranks the phytochemical index, or PI score of meals, which is essentially a measure of antioxidant consumption. A vegan diet (excluding liquor and refined sugars) could have a perfect score of 100, whereas a typical American diet, heavy in animal and processed foods and low in produce, would score below 20. Scientists found that even when two groups consumed the same number of daily calories, those with higher PI scores had smaller waist measurements, and lower body fat percentages. In other words, the quality of your calories counts–a lot.
That said, by going veg, you’ll likely slash calories. For example, a snack of eight cheese cubes and eight club crackers provides 260 calories, compared to 165 in a dozen baby carrots and a quarter cup of hummus.
2. Add a whole grain
Whole grains are linked not only to a lower risk of not only obesity, but a number of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In one study researchers randomly assigned volunteers into one of two groups. The first was asked to consume whole grains exclusively, and the second was instructed to select only refined grains. Over 12 weeks, both groups were advised to exercise and follow identical diets.
At the end of the study, body weight decreased in both groups–between 8 to 11 pounds on average. But the whole grain group lost more belly inches, and experienced nearly a 40 percent drop in a blood marker for inflammation, a known trigger of aging and disease. In a plant-based meal, a small serving of whole grain provides bonus antioxidants, additional fiber, and slow-burning carbs that keep blood sugar and insulin levels regulated. Great choices include oats, barley, quinoa, corn, and brown, red, and black rice.
3. Pick your protein
Protein speeds up your metabolism and while simultaneously improving muscle mass, so it is important to include a source in every meal. Just trade meat, poultry or seafood for a small scoop of beans or lentils in a taco salad, stir fry, or whole grain pasta primavera.
4. Don’t forget the fat
Vegetarian sources of fat are critical for weight control because they add the satisfaction factor to each meal. Fats delay stomach emptying, and they’re needed to absorb antioxidants, which hitch a ride as fats are shuttled from the digestive tract into the bloodstream. There are many delectable plant-based options, including nuts, seeds, and natural nut butters, ripe avocado, Mediterranean olives, and a variety of plant oils, from extra virgin olive oil to sesame, sunflower, and coconut oil.
5. Season it up
Including herbs and spices in each meal is a fantastic way to add aroma and flavor without sodium or sugar, and studies show that these plant-based ingredients pack a powerful weight loss punch. Natural seasonings like cinnamon, ginger, garlic, and crushed red pepper have been shown to boost calorie burning, improve satiety, and they’re much more potent in antioxidants than even fruits and veggies. In one Penn State University study, consuming two tablespoons of herbs and spices within a meal, specifically rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, garlic powder and paprika, resulted in higher blood antioxidant levels and a 30 percent reduction in blood fats compared to subjects who ate the same meals without seasonings.
I call this meal building approach the ’5 piece puzzle,’ and there are dozens of delicious ways to solve it. Vegan meals that incorporate each key component include:
• Asian veggies stir fried with fresh grated ginger and chili pepper over a bed of wild rice topped with
edamame and sliced almonds
• Mediterranean veggies sautéed in extra virgin olive oil with garlic, tossed with fresh basil, whole grain penne and cannellini beans
• Fresh greens tossed with cilantro and lime seasoned pico de gallo, topped with black beans, roasted corn, and fresh avocado
• Sound yummy? More vegetarian options can add some variety and excitement to your meal portfolio, and by using the puzzle, you won’t be stuck with a simple salad.
Many of our clients are amazed at the lack of hunger and boundless energy they experience after vegan meals, and feel inspired to experiment with their own plant-based puzzle combinations, even if they don’t want to become vegan.