Eating a plant-based -- even a mostly plant-based -- diet can help keep you thin, keep your cholesterol levels low, and may even help you live longer. This way of eating can also help lower your risk of developing several diseases, including some cancers. There are more than 7 million Americans who consider themselves vegetarian, but not all of them eat their fair share of vegetables [source: Watson]. And without a healthy, balanced diet, a vegetarian diet may not be any healthier than that of a meat eater. The problem is processed, high-fat and high-calorie foods.
Some vegetarians, especially those who are newly converted to the diet, rely on processed foods, such as fake meat products, carbs (think white rice and pasta), cheese and junk foods. And regardless of whether you eat meat or not, if you eat processed foods you add unnecessary salt, sugar and fats to your diet -- which also adds unwanted pounds and increases your risk of chronic illness.