I am a vegetarian and I’m finding it very hard to lose weight and gain muscle as much of the food that is available to me is either very high in carbs or made of some sort of soy protein (which I know isn’t the best for weight loss). Do you have any pointers or tips to help me eat cleaner and lose weight?

– Sophia K.


As plants are mostly carbohydrate-based, you’re bound to eat a greater proportion of your calories from carbs as a vegetarian. There are plenty of higher protein and higher fat grains, legumes, and vegetables, though! Use quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, and cannellini beans in place of pasta and rice. Try a variety of nuts and raw or toasted seeds to complement an assortment of vegetables and seasonings. Incorporate avocado, olives, and coconut to fill out your meals and provide healthy fats and promote satiety.

If you’re looking for items premade with an alternative protein but are not finding non-soy options locally, you can always order such products online. To eat cleaner, you’ll need to prepare more of your own food from raw ingredients rather than shop for products. In the greater Toronto area there are some good health food stores in which you can find seeds, nuts and bulk grains and legumes.

Here are a couple of my favorite moderate carbohydrate vegetarian meals:

  • 1 C. homemade chia pudding made with pea protein milk, ½ C. mixed berries, 1 Tbsp flax seed, 1 Tbsp unsweetened coconut [approx. 330 calories, 21 gm fat, 34 gm carb, 16 gm protein]
  • 1 C. vegetarian chili (½ beans, ½ vegetables), 1 oz vegan cheese, 1/3 avocado, 1 C. homemade coleslaw [approx. 502 calories, 25 gm fat, 51 gm carb, 11 gm protein]

Read our answers to similar questions here: Gaining Muscle, Losing Belly Fat: Vegetarian Edition | Q+A and My Weight Loss Has Plateaued… Any Advice?

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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