Going vegetarian can boost your health in many ways, including lowering your blood pressure and cutting your cancer risk. But if you do it the wrong way, you might find that it's simply a recipe for weight gain. Make sure you follow these going vegetarian dos and don'ts to get all the benefits without the extra pounds.

Don't Give In to Carb Cravings

Cutting animal proteins out of your diet can leave you feeling hungry and unsatisfied. Many vegetarians mistakenly turn to carbs like bread, rice and pasta to fill up. Inundating your body with carbs will send your blood sugar shooting up and down, zapping your energy, and increase your cortisol levels, which can cause you to develop belly fat.

Don't Reach for Frozen Meals

Packaged, pre-prepared vegetarian or vegan meals often seem like a convenient meal option, but take a look at the nutritional information before stocking up. These meals are often loaded with calories, fat, sugar, salt, artificial flavors and preservatives. One popular frozen vegetarian pad Thai, for example, has more calories than a fast food bacon double cheeseburger, and more sodium than four and a half small orders of fast food French fries. Vegan baked goods and ice creams often contain more calories (and just as much sugar) as their non-vegan counterparts.

Don't Go Crazy with Cheese

Cheese can be a great source of protein for people who aren't getting any protein from animal sources, but if you eat too much or pick the wrong ones, you'll gain weight fast. Some cheddar cheeses, for example, have four times the calories and nine times the fat of skinless chicken breast, when compared ounce-for-ounce. In addition, cheese is often high in salt, which can make you hold onto excess water.

Do Eat More Plant-Based Protein

Get at least 46 grams of plant-based protein a day to keep your energy high, your immune system healthy and your stomach satisfied. Incorporate more of these great sources into your diet: lentils, legumes, quinoa, Greek yogurt, hemp seeds and almonds.

Do Pick the Right Prepackaged Foods, and Freshen Them Up

Don't let pre-packaged foods sneak extra calories into your diet. Be careful to eat no more than three packaged meals a week. If they contain any kind of grain, make sure it's a whole grain to keep your insulin and blood sugar from spiking. Finally, add a cup of fresh vegetables to any pre-packaged meal.

Do Eat Better Cheeses

Opt for healthier cheeses like goat cheese, feta and gruyere. Grating cheese on top of your meals instead of chowing down on whole chunks is also an easy way to limit how much cheese you consume.


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