Not all vegetarians and vegans are slim and healthy, contrary to prevalent preconceived notions on plant-based diets. White rice and salted potato chips are vegan, but they are definitely not healthy, so a vegan who keeps stuffing herself with overly-processed, nutritionally-depleted, and calorie-dense vegan foods will end up sick and overweight just like anyone on the standard American diet (SAD). What if you want to lose a few pounds without jumping off the vegetarian or vegan diet you’re currently on? Would you be able to do this on a popular home delivery commercial weight loss program such as Nutrisystem?
What Nutrisystem has for vegetarians and vegans
Nutrisystem really does offer a vegetarian menu for those who avoid animal flesh and its derivatives but are okay with eggs and dairy. You don’t have to beg or make a special request for it because it’s really included in their meal plan options.
They don’t have a separate menu for vegans though. Nutrisystem, however, can teach you to transition to a healthy vegan diet once you’re done with the program if you are considering going vegan for life.
Breakfast: Twenty-one of Nutrisystem‘s breakfast options are vegetarian. Only six of them are vegan, namely Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal, Sweetened O’s Cereal, Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal, NutriFlakes Cereal, Whole Grain O’s Cereal, and Harvest Nut Bar. Just add soy milk instead of non-fat milk to the oatmeal and cereal to make them vegan.
Lunch: Eleven of their lunch offerings are vegetarian and only two are vegan (Black Bean and Rice and Split Pea Soup).
Dinner: Of their ten vegetarian dinner options only one is vegan (Vegetarian Chili) if you don’t add any cheese to it.
Desserts: All of Nutrisystem’s 28 desserts and 4 protein shakes are vegetarian. None of them is vegan.
Can you go 100% vegan on Nutrisystem?
While Nutrisystem gives you the freedom to create your own menu, you cannot keep on alternating Split Pea Soup and Black Bean Rice for lunch for the next 28 days, or eat Vegetarian Chili straight for 4 weeks if you want to go vegan on the program. You cannot have any Nutrisystem dessert either, unless you are willing to consider the Harvest Nut Bar as dessert apart from it being a breakfast item. Only a long-term, dedicated vegan who needs to release some weight can put up with the scanty meal choices, provided that she gives away the protein shakes and takes some high-quality supplements apart from the compulsory B12 as an insurance policy. There are a number of vegans who have eaten the exact same salad or meal everyday for years and they did not end up with protein deficiency (as some of them are athletic and quite ripped), so doing it for just 28 days ought not to be a problem to a committed vegan, unless Nutrisystem refuses a customized vegetarian plan that asks for 28 orders of Vegetarian Chili.
Can you go veganish on Nutrisystem?
Okay, so it’s a bit hard to go completely vegan on Nutrisystem. But can you at least be veganish while on the program?
Yes, and quite easily too, thanks to the mandatory inclusion of fresh foods from their grocery guide. It’s the grocery add-ons that have a lot of great vegan options. This is the part of the Nutrisystem program where you can go full-on vegan without any trouble.
All of the items in their SmartCarbs selection are vegan except for the 6 types of bread and 1 roll, which may contain eggs and/or dairy depending on the brand that you’re buying. Vegan breads are available of course; you’d just have to know where to buy them.
Of their 57 PowerFuels, 24 are vegan (27 if you can find a vegan fake crab, eat soy yogurt instead of dairy-based yogurt, and use a purely plant-based protein powder i.e. one that does not contain both soy and whey). Not bad at all!
All of the options in the list of Vegetables are vegan. 33 of their Extras are vegan (35 if you use a regular vegan salad dressing and/or a low-fat one).
For the committed vegan, it’s the strategic choices of fresh grocery foods that can tremendously tip the repetitiousness and monotony of a severely limited vegan Nutrisystem menu.
What’s commendable about Nutrisystem’s grocery guide?
What I particularly like about their list is the inclusion of a lot of negative-calorie raw items such as raw carrots, cabbage, cucumber, celery, spinach, lettuce, apple, blueberries, grapefruit, cantaloupe, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, and radish.
What’s so great about negative-calorie foods?
Well they just happen to require more calories to metabolize than the number of calories they actually contain, which means that you create a caloric deficit when you eat them. A cumulative deficit of 3,500 calories results in a 1-pound weight loss!
Raw vs. Cooked
Raw vegetables are also lower in calories compared to their cooked counterparts. It is for this reason that Nutrisystem counts both ½ cup of cooked carrots and 1 cup of raw carrots as one serving.
Raw fruits and vegetables are also more nutritious in a number of ways:
Heat cooks out vitamin C in raw cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach etc, so it’s very good that Nutrisystem gives you the option to consume fruits and veggies raw. Vitamin C is very important for weight loss because it speeds up a slow metabolism.
B vitamins, essential in the conversion of food to energy, are also decreased when foods containing them are cooked.
Raw fruits and vegetables, whether dried or fresh, also contain cellulase, the enzyme that digests fiber. The human body cannot produce cellulase, so uncooked plant foods have the cellulase advantage over pasteurized fruits and vegetables.
The verdict: The vegetarian menu plan is a great option for someone who’s been on the SAD for too long. Nutrisystem can also help junk, overweight vegetarians and vegans make healthier plant-based choices. The grocery guide can help any woman (vegan, vegetarian, or omni) to lose more weight quickly if she sticks to the fresh and raw grocery food options. Is the veg Nutrisystem plan worth a try? And is it worth your $$$? Yes to both questions.