Can’t Exercise? Eat What You Want, As Long as It’s a Plant

Eat Until You’re Full? Yes, You Can

Maintaining a healthy weight is a massive challenge for anyone living in the U.S. today, and it becomes even harder to do when you cannot engage in rigorous exercise. This is the situation for many people who have mobility challenges, who are more at risk for the problems caused by weight issues.

Being overweight and obesity carry numerous implications for poor health – increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, sleep disorders, as well as poor energy levels.

Achieving a healthy weight is so difficult in the modern food environment: The excess of calorie-dense food and processed food makes it almost impossible not to overeat. The stomach is capable of holding roughly 500 calories of food, if we’re talking about whole, plant-based foods.

As we increase the amount of animal foods or processed foods (processed food has usually had the fiber stripped) eating until our stomach is full means a LOT more than 500 calories. This is how the modern food environment leads people to overeat – we always have way too much food available to eat. In a natural environment, these conditions would have been rare (or might have never existed, such as sugar and oil).

To find out how many calories are in the foods you are eating, visit the USDA Nutrient Database. Take a look at the calorie content of some of these various foods:

FoodVolume/PortionCalorie Content
Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, Legumes
Red Leaf Lettuce 1 cup, shredded 4 kcal
Kale, cooked 1 cup 36 kcal
Apple 1 cup, chopped 65 kcal
Butternut Squash, baked 1 cup 82 kcal
Banana 1 cup, sliced 134 kcal
Brown Rice, cooked 1 cup 218 kcal
Quinoa, cooked 1 cup 222 kcal
Black Beans, cooked 1 cup 227 kcal
Chickpeas, cooked 1 cup 269 kcal
Animal and Processed Foods
Bacon 225g ~ 1 cup 416 kcal
Ground Beef 8oz ~ 1 cup 530 kcal
Cheese 1 cup, melted 983 kcal
White Sugar 1 cup 774 kcal
Oil 1 cup 1980 kcal

Do you have to give up all animal food and all processed food?

Everyone must make a personal choice for themselves, but scientific research indicates that the closer we adopt a whole food, plant-based diet, the more our risk for all chronic disease drops, too. We don’t have evidence that a 100% plant-based diet is necessary. Conveniently though, if you do eat a whole food, plant-based diet, you will naturally get the right amounts of all protein, fat, carbohydrates, and micronutrients you need without even trying (with the possible exception of Vitamin B12).

Everyone must make a personal choice for themselves, but scientific research indicates that the closer we adopt a whole food, plant-based diet, the more our risk for all chronic disease drops, too. We don’t have evidence that a 100% plant-based diet is necessary. Conveniently though, if you do eat a whole food, plant-based diet, you will naturally get the right amounts of all protein, fat, carbohydrates, and micronutrients you need without even trying (with the possible exception of Vitamin B12).

People who are not physically active will have much less leeway to eat calorie-dense food without gaining weight than people who are mobile or athletic.

The more you stick to whole, plant-based foods with only small amounts of nuts and seeds, the greater chance you’ll have at achieving your ideal weight. What counts as a whole, plant food? Anything that came out of the ground and wasn’t changed by the food industry. These food items will contain generous amounts of fiber that will fill your stomach.

This is why eating a whole food, plant-based diet allows you to eat until you are full every time without counting calories or worrying about portion size! You can go back to what feels natural – eating when you’re hungry and stopping when your stomach is full of food.

Micaela Karlsen, M.S.P.H., received her master's degree in human nutrition and public health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and has a B.A. in psychology from Cornell University. She formerly served as executive director of the T. Colin Campbell Foundation and is a contributor to the New York Times bestseller Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health. Micaela maintains the informational website PlantBasedResearch.org