Vegetarianism does not have one definition with as many as five different types of eating habits which qualify as being a vegetarian. For most vegetarians, their diet is primarily made up of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, fish, and dairy products. Some vegetarians will also consume eggs or even poultry. Vegan is the strictest form of vegetarianism, their diet not only excludes all meat products but dairy products are also restricted, so basically no animal products are consumed. Due to the more limited food choices vegetarians have, it means they are required to get more creative with food to ensure their diets include enough nutrients and calories to fuel muscle growth and stay healthy.
What you eat isn’t the only factor vegetarians can look at when it comes to gaining weight. Your metabolism ensures that the calories you consume are burned and that the nutrients are processed by your body. Having a high metabolism can affect your ability to gain weight. One consideration would be to trick the body into slowing down your metabolism so that you are not burning as many calories. This is particularly useful for people with a fast metabolism to begin with. The trick is to eat a heavy meal late in the day. Consuming a high calorie meal late at night will help make sure that your body won’t be able to burn the calories off so quickly.
Protein is an important part of any weight gain diet. This is no exception for a vegetarian wanting to gain weight. Vegetarians need to make sure they get enough protein by consuming legumes, nuts and seeds in combination with whole grain breads and cereals, as well as soy products. Getting enough protein is such a critical component in repairing and building lean muscle.
Nuts such as almonds are the most healthful. They have the most mono-saturated fat and the least saturated fat. An ounce or so can be a good source of protein and healthy fats. Fresh roasted almonds can be a great substitute for bacon. If you roast or bake an ounce or so to the point where they are quite brown, but not burned, in an oven of about 375 degrees or a bit more – and serve hot, they taste crispy and slightly smoky – just like perfectly done bacon; but almonds don’t have the saturated animal fats and preservatives that bacon has; and the almonds don’t taste greasy or make a greasy mess!
Legumes like lentils and black eyed peas are the best. They tend to produce the least gas, have the lowest glycemic index and have the most soluble fiber. Both can be use for soups and stews; and, lentils can be used to make a great vegetarian chili. Any of these dishes can be made nonfat or with just a bit of olive oil when appropriate. They can be a good cold weather addition to breakfast.
Some people consider themselves semi-vegetarians and eat fish. Fish can be good one to three times a week. Salmon has by far the most healthful oil and is quite satisfying. Halibut is one of the lowest fat fishes and is also good. Tuna is good. And, if you know and like other kinds by all means try them occasionally.
It would be a good idea buying a well written raw diet cook book which provides information on tasty foods and cooking methods to help you in your quest for size. One such book I would recommend is The Raw Gourmet by Nomi Shannon, which provides good nutrition information on the raw food diet for the natural bodybuilder. It teaches you about what foods to eat, protein and carb content, tips in combining raw food dishes, facts to support raw food benefits, and how the body functions in conjunction with switching to this type of diet.
There is also a newly released product put together by master chef Michael DeSanti and well known trainer Jason Ferruggia who went vegan a few years ago and has thrived on the diet. The book is called the Plant Based Recipe Guide and it contains 134 recipe ideas for vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike, offering exciting new ways to prepare their meals and teaching them how to build muscle and burn fat eating strictly plant based foods. Nearly 100% of these plant based recipes are free of any animal products; although there are a few meals with eggs, but no dairy.
The weight lifting principles for gaining significant weight and muscle are no different for a vegetarian, so I won’t touch this topic in this post. I would advise you to check out the training articles elsewhere on this site for information regarding the training aspect of weight gain.