Lose Weight on Veg Diet: Cut the Cheese

Calories in cheese and cheese in processed foods explain weight gain on vegetarian diet

Cut The Cheese

A while back we received a letter from a reader who was asking about vegetarian weight loss.  She had experienced unexplained weight gain on her new veggie diet instead of the usual weight loss. Why do some vegetarians experience weight gain instead of healthy weight loss on a vegetarian diet?

Eating less meat and more fruits and vegetables normally allows for weight loss but some vegetarians experience weight gain.  And the core reason is more calories.  Where do these extra calories come from?  Interestingly enough, they come mainly from more dairy, specifically cheese and butter.

The letter reminded me of when I first went vegetarian. Yep! I started eating a lot more cheese and butter—to the point where my cholesterol went through the roof.  I was concerned about getting enough protein.  But I didn’t know back then what I know now about protein.

So let’s talk about cheese and we’ll cover butter another time. It’s not true that vegetarians need to eat cheese to get enough protein, but many new vegetarians think it is.

According to the USDA’s Agriculture Fact Book, in the 1950’s, the average U.S. consumer ate just 7.7 pounds of cheese per year.  In 2004, the average American packed away 31.3 pounds of cheese, a 300% increase. Thirty-one pounds may not sound too bad, but that’s over 52,500 calories and 4000 grams of fat. Once past the lips, this can turn into an extra 15 pounds on the hips.

So are consumers sitting around eating big wedges of cheese? Some are, but two-thirds of cheese is found in processed foods, such as frozen pizzas, sauces, instant pasta meals, bagel spreads, breads, and packaged snack foods. Often, we don’t even know that there’s cheese in our food.


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This is actually good news for those who are willing to cut the cheese.  Following a cheese-free diet encourages us to eat more natural and minimally processed foods – like vegetables. This means less chemicals, saturated fats, and hydrogenated oils; three major health hazards in our diets.

Thanks to a growing natural foods market, and the online information explosion, a cheese-less diet has become even easier.

Visit GoDairyFree.org for food label guidance, cheese-free product suggestions, non-dairy recipes, and substitution ideas.

Get a copy of Dairy Free Made Easy by Alisa Fleming.

For vegetarian weight loss, try eliminating cheese from your diet. Savvy Vegetarian has many delicious dairy-free recipes such as Cream of asparagus and spinach soup and Cashew Cream.

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