This post is part of my ongoing Reader Questions Series.
I just found you on Pinterest and love the recipes. My husband and I are interested in transitioning to a plant-based diet but my main concern is the number of grains and starchy vegetables. I tend to do better with a low-carb diet and found when I ate oatmeal every day I would gain weight. I’m afraid that I wouldn’t have the weight loss experience that I hear other plant-based eaters experience. Can you shed some light on this for me please? Greatly appreciate your help.
Plant-Based Cooking Answers:
I’m excited you’re interested in trying a plant-based diet and I understand your concerns, however, eating whole grains has been associated with living longer. One meta-analysis published in BMJ looking at 45 studies concluded whole grains can help you live longer by reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, respiratory disease, and infectious diseases.
Of course, carbs include more than whole grains. Good carbohydrates also include fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
If you make sure to eat plenty of whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, plant protein, and good fats like avocado, nuts, and seeds it will keep you from gaining weight. Let’s dive in for more detail and answer the question, will carbs make you fat?
Eat Whole Intact Grains
You’ll especially want to include whole intact grains. They take the longest to digest and help you feel fuller. Whole intact grains contain the germ and bran and have not been processed. Refined grains are missing these and have very little nutrition nor the ability to boost your gut bacteria.
In addition, intact grains will help to stabilize your blood sugar and you’re less likely to have spikes and then drops which tend to make us hungry.
As for bread, look for stone-ground bread and a fiber ratio of 5 to 1, according to Dr. Michael Greger from nutritionfacts.org. Be sure to check out his video which gives more details about this fiber to ratio rule.
And remember, you don’t need as many whole grains as you might think… just three servings a day.
Include Non-Starchy Vegetables
Also, include lots of non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, tomatoes, radishes, celery, onions, garlic, cucumbers, carrots, and beets. Starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, peas, and squashes contain more carbohydrates and calories.
There’s plenty of ways to eat non-starchy vegetables, but one easy way is to make a big raw salad every day topped with a few nuts or a dressing made with nuts such as my Ranch Dressing.
This will also help you feel fuller longer.
Eat Whole Forms of Fat
Eating whole forms of fats also naturally makes us feel fuller longer much like intact grains do. You’ll want to refrain from using oils, however, as they have very little nutrition and 120 calories per tablespoon. Instead include fat from nuts, seeds, and avocado.
Add Some Protein
You can add some protein to your salad in the form of beans/legumes, tofu, or tempeh, or try making something with vital wheat protein which is the protein portion of wheat. It’s called seitan when it’s made into a meat substitute.
If you’re just starting you could use store-bought sausages or other seitan offerings but, as you may know, they will be less healthy because most have added oils. One brand that doesn’t is the No Evil Foods brand.
There are higher protein choices for breakfast like tofu scramble or even bean tacos. 🙂
Here’s a few recipes to get you going:
What About Oatmeal
I know what you mean about oatmeal. Since there’s only 158 calories in a cup of cooked oatmeal, I often feel hungry not long after eating so I try to stick with steel-cut oats with plenty of berries, a few nuts, and seeds, and even plant yogurt.
Or you could even try whole intact oat groats.
Here’s Shiloh Farms organic brand from Amazon you might like. There’s also a very filling BROL hot breakfast cereal recipe that Dr. Greger loves. It includes three whole intact grains– barley, rice, oats, plus lentils…BROL.
Let’s not forget about fruits. While some fruit is higher on the glycemic index, whole fruit, not fruit juices, is a powerhouse of nutrition and surprisingly won’t spike your blood sugar. unless perhaps if you’re already diabetic.
That’s a longer discussion but, if you’re interested, you’ll glean a lot from this article, Fruit for Diabetes, Is it Actually OK to Eat?
Other Questions Regarding Hunger and Weight Gain
- Reader Question: Always Hungry on a Plant-Based Diet this covers most of what I’ve mentioned in the email with a couple more links.
- Reader Questions: Help! I’ve Been Gaining Weight on a Plant-Based Diet
I definitely think it’s worth it to give eating a whole-food, plant-based diet a chance! I hope this helps and best of luck with your transition.
Do You Have a Question?
These questions are a part of my ongoing series from my readers about eating a plant-based diet. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a question that you’d like answered. I answer every question personally. If you feel stuck or are struggling with something or feel overwhelmed, I’d love to help you!
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this is crazy email but its kind of cute Thank you
I LOVE PLANT BASED FOODS AND I’M TRYING because I had a cough for a long time. And the doctor I went to said yes to plant based foods. I take medicine for my thyroid and are there any tips you can give me so I can lose weight? Also can you eat occasionally some potatoes, corn and squash? I am trying to lose weight so I will feel good about myself so if there’s any suggestions please let me know.
Hi Joan, Yes you can definitely eat potatoes, corn, and squash, but the non-starchy vegetables have fewer calories and carbs. Make sure to include protein-rich foods like lentils, beans, tofu, tempeh, and not too many high-fat foods like avocados, nuts, and seeds. Some are fine, of course. Eat intact grains and not refine grains (no white rice or white bread, for example). Eat a big filling green salad every day with lots of additional veg like carrot, celery, bell pepper, or red onion with the addition of some beans or steamed yams on top and a tasty dressing. And, check out my article here that has other tips like keeping a food diary and weighing yourself daily. And, finally up your exercise daily without overdoing it so that you become overly hungry. I hope that helps and good luck.