Vegetarians typically consume fewer calories than non-vegetarians, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. The agencies define a vegetarian as someone who abstains from meat, poultry, and seafood. Vegans eat no meat but also abstain from animal by-products, such as dairy, honey, and eggs. Despite not eating these calorie-rich foods, vegan options sometimes have more calories than non-vegan alternatives
Nutrients and Calories
There are approximately 9 calories in one gram of fat, 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate and 4 calories in one gram of protein. As a result, the amount of fat that you consume has a significant impact on your daily caloric intake. Without traditionally high-fat foods, such as meat, eggs and dairy, vegan options potentially could offer significantly lower caloric values.
The Dietary Guidelines list beans and peas, nuts and seeds and processed soy products as suitable replacements for meat and eggs. That does not mean these vegan options always are lower in calories. For example, a 58-gram serving of chicken breast contains 114 calories, while a 28.4-gram serving of almonds contains 163 calories. And an 85-gram, 5 percent-fat hamburger patty provides 116 calories, compared with a 70-gram veggie burger patty’s 124 calories.
There is little difference in the caloric content of dairy and vegan dairy alternatives. For example, a cup of 1 percent milk contains 102 calories, compared with 100 calories for a cup of plain soy milk. A 227-gram container of plain soy yogurt has 150 calories, slightly more than the 143 calories in a same-sized container of plain, low-fat yogurt. Vegetable oils are a common vegan replacement for margarine and butter. With 120 calories in a tablespoon of vegetable oil, 102 in a tablespoon of butter and 101 in a tablespoon of margarine, the vegan option is higher in calories.
The amount of calories in vegan options is largely determined by whether or not meat and dairy alternatives are used. Following the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines, the caloric content of a balanced, healthful non-vegan diet differs little from that of a vegan diet. The high-fat content of some vegan alternatives, such as vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, delivers in a greater number of calories than in non-vegan foods. However, given the near-absence of unhealthy trans and saturated fats from vegan foods, these high-fat, high-calorie foods may be more healthful than their non-vegan alternatives.
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