The Ultimate Vegan Weight Loss Guide
There are many weight loss plans to choose from, and can be confusing when deciding which plan is best for you. A successful weight loss strategy includes multiple aspects that you need to consider. Do you want to lose weight quickly? Are you struggling to keep the weight off after the diet is over? Do you get discouraged quickly? The list can be long. Below is a quick overview of this article for your convenience:
- Why choose a vegan weight loss plan?
- 5 Benefits of a Vegan Weight Loss Plan
- How to change to a vegan diet for weight loss – 6 Steps
- 15 changes to consider when easing into a healthy vegan weight loss diet
- Do I need vegan weight loss supplements?
- What if I don’t lose weight on a vegan diet?
Why choose a vegan weight loss plan?
You have to choose a weight loss plan that is achievable, sustainable, and ultimately lifestyle changing. If the change is only short term, or too hard to do, you might get discouraged and give up.
On the other side, if you see quick weight loss and you have reached your weight loss goal, you might find yourself on a roller coaster of weight gain and loss to keep your goal weight.
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5 Benefits Of A Vegan Weight Loss Plan
#1 Vegans are the only diet group with an average BMI
Why does this matter? Because on average a vegan is not overweight, which means it is easy to maintain healthy weight on a plant based diet.
“… High protein and low fibre intakes were the factors most strongly associated with increasing BMI.” (source)
The reason it is harder to become overweight on a vegan diet is because of calorie density. Below is an image showing 500 calories of vegetables compared to 500 calories of starches, meat, cheese, and oil. As you see, you can fill your whole stomach with 500 calories of vegetables compared to 500 calories of meat that would only fill 1/3 of your stomach.
This means that you naturally eat less calories following a well planned vegan diet and it is harder to overeat as well.
#2 The vegan diet is the healthiest diet
The vegan diet is indicated as the most healthy diet concerning body weight, nutritional intake, and nutritional quality (source). If you choose a healthy lifestyle, you will automatically lose weight, but even more so increase the quality of your life long term and avoid preventable diseases (for example diabetes):
When a vegan was compared to the diabetes diet suggested by the American Diabetes Association, both diets led to weight loss and health improvements BUT (source):
- Diabetes medication was decreased 0.96 percentage points in the vegan group and 0.56 points in the ADA group
- Body weight decreased 6.5 kg in the vegan group and 3.1 kg in the ADA group
- Among those who did not change lipid-lowering medications, LDL cholesterol fell 21.2% in the vegan group and 10.7% in the ADA group
#3 The vegan diet performs well for fat loss
“In a recent study, restricting dietary fat led to body fat loss at a rate 68 percent higher than cutting the same number of carbohydrate calories when adults with obesity ate strictly controlled diets.” (source)
This means if you follow a low carb diet, you will still lose weight, but a lot of the weight loss takes place as water weight loss, or muscle mass. This might be an option if you only want to lose weight quickly, but if you are really serious about long term fat loss, go with the vegan diet and enjoy the (complex) carbs!
#4 Carbs are healthy after all
Many individuals who want to lose weight jump to the conclusion that they need to avoid carbs. But there are carbs in fruits and vegetables that should not be avoided. Here’s the thing: There are complex carbs and simple carbs; you can’t put them into the same category.
Complex carbs are carbs that are surrounded by fiber, which causes the food to break down slower, so it won’t spike insulin levels like simple carbs. Rather, it fuels your body with lasting energy. Think whole wheat, whole grains, etc.
Simple carbs don’t contain any fiber, break down quickly, and have similar effects as sugar. Most often these simple carbs are mixed with lots of fat (like in donuts).
If you stick to whole foods (brown rice, whole grains, whole fruits and veggies) your diet will be high in fiber. More than 90% of Americans do not eat the recommended amount of fiber (source). This is bad news, because there is proof that fiber reduces the risk of colon cancer (source), breast cancer (source), diabetes (source), heart disease (source), obesity (source), and stroke (source). It helps control cholesterol (source) and blood sugar levels (source).
Middle-aged people that ate 3-5 servings of whole grains per day (compared to individuals to don’t eat whole grains, or rarely), had a ~26% lower risk of type 2 diabetes, ~21% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and less weight gain (study here).
#5 Best diet for a lifestyle change
There are many reasons you want to change your lifestyle instead of just doing a weight loss challenge or a few months of fad dieting. If you diet for a while, then go back to old eating habits, you simply pack on the weight again unless you keep this diet style. For example, if you do weight watchers you might have to keep counting points afterwards to keep your optimal weight.
If you, for example, do the Keto diet, you will lose weight (water weight) first, but what happens after the diet ends? What is your eating style going to be?
So you have to ask yourself what lifestyle you can sustain in the long run. Do you also experience health issues? Then pick a diet that will promote healing in your area of concern.
The vegan diet comes with so many health benefits. It can even prevent and reverse diseases. Once you understand all the health benefits a vegan diet provides you will also understand that animal products are not a necessary food anymore. Eating animal products is simply not worth it and not required as a source of nutrition for your body.
Once you try a vegan meal plan and feel how much energy you have, how good your stomach feels, and how easy it can be to lose weight, your relationship to fruits and veggies drastically changes. You will enjoy them, and want to eat them more often, and that is when you realize you’ve made a lifestyle change. It becomes your normal food that simply cannot go without. You will also notice that you lose weight without counting calories or trying too hard.
How to change to a vegan diet for weight loss?
Depending on your current eating habits, you will have differing experiences and periods of time making the switch. If you are already vegetarian, it should be very easy for you to switch. If you are a meat lover, you will have some good challenges ahead of you. You don’t have to go in cold turkey, you can take one step at a time (see steps further down).
Switching to a vegan diet for weight loss might be different than just starting a vegan diet. You see, on a vegan diet you can also be unhealthy, or eat too much, or not balance out your food groups the right way. So besides cutting out meat, cheese, milk, eggs, fish, and so on, there is more to a healthy vegan weight loss plan. But don’t worry, I got you covered!
6 Steps to create a healthy vegan diet plan for weight loss
#1 Cut out added sugar
In the image below you will see the label of ketchup. You can see in the box: Total Sugars 4g. Under ingredients you will find “organic sugar”. This means that the sugar was added. If you take some other tomato product you might find total sugar of 1g-4g, but no sugar is found in the ingredient list. This means there was no sugar added and the sugar is naturally available in the tomatoes.
The natural sugar also contains fiber, which will lower the insulin spike compared to added sugar. So you always want to make sure there is no added sugar in the things you buy. This will already cut out so much processed food that is filled with unhealthy ingredients and unnecessary calories. The amount of added sugar in your diet per day should be no more than 25g, but obviously try to get it to 0g as much as possible.
#2 Take it easy with the oils
There are 2 reasons to avoid cooking with oil. Oil is not a whole food which means it is processed and lacks fiber. It is highly concentrated and therefore a small amount adds lots of calories that are simply not necessary. I know many say oil is healthy, but consuming a whole food is always healthier.
The second reason to avoid cooking with oil is that many oils are high in omega 6 fatty acids, which is bad when your omega 3 to 6 ratio is thrown off. An optimal ratio of omega 3:6 is 1:4. Many processed foods contain cheap oils that increase omega 6, and if we don’t eat enough omega 3 (nuts and seeds) it could cause inflammation in the body. Check out all oil free vegan recipes HERE.
#3 Eat whole grains and complex carbs
Yes, you read that right! You can eat carbs and lose weight. A vegan weight loss meal plan can be high in carbs (over 300g) and still be low calorie. The key is to only consume whole grain carbs from whole foods that contain fiber, like potatoes, brown rice, oats, quinoa, and more. Cut out all bread, white rice and pasta, prepackaged food, snacks, chips, and so on.
#3 Drink water and tea (no soda)
Following tip #1 and tip #3 will already eliminate sodas from your diet. Make sure to avoid juices and packaged sweet teas as well. I would also avoid drinks with chemical sweetener.
The WHO recommends drinking “between 2.0 and 2.7 liters (8 to 11 cups) of water a day for women, and 2.5 to 3.7 liters (10 to 15 cups) a day for men.”(source). This includes teas, as black tea (caffeinated) will not dehydrate you (watch video). Therefore, teas are great for weight loss and some of them taste sweet naturally.
#4 Follow the vegan food pyramid for weight loss
The vegan food pyramid for weight loss will help you eat the right amount from each food group. Generally, you consume mostly vegetables and fruits, leaving out oils, sugar, and processed foods.
For lunch and dinner fill half of your plate with vegetables, include 3/4 cup legumes, and 1/2 cup whole grains.
In summary, the vegan food pyramid will help you to fill your stomach without adding too many calories so that you still lose weight, but don’t have to starve and don’t run a nutritional deficiency. This will also help you create a long term healthy lifestyle and you can learn more HERE.
#5 Meal Plan
Meal planning is your best friend when starting a healthy weight loss diet. Once your meal plan is set you can get the groceries you need and be ready for the week. There is no excuse to grab fast food because you know exactly what to cook for that day. Meal planning will save you time during the week since you don’t have to find new recipes, or try to come up with new food ideas. It can also save you money if you only buy items you need for the week and, if done properly, your food waste will be minimized.
There are many health benefits from exercising regularly and a few include: improved mental health, reduced stress, better sleep, cancer prevention and lower blood pressure, boosted immunity function and prolonged life. A study found that walking 150 minutes per week lowers mortality risk by 7% and walking 300 minutes a week drops mortality by 14% (source).
You can also workout moderately instead (cardio, dancing, swimming,…), but if you are a beginner it is a great idea to start walking daily. As I mentioned above, you want to create a healthy lifestyle. So getting into a routine of daily walking/exercising will not only help you lose weight but will also become a habit with lifelong benefits.
If this seems overwhelming to you, start by taking a few steps in front of your house and increase the length you walk daily. This will help you improve without overwhelming you. Write down how far you walk to see your progress for more motivation.
Having a hard time changing your diet?
If you have established unhealthy eating habits it will take a while to change them. The key is to make one small switch at a time. For example, change your breakfast from eggs, white toast, and bacon, to a healthy oat bowl with nuts, seeds, berries, and almond milk. Once you become acclimated you can make the next switch. If this seems too hard at first, try another switch you can make from the list below.
Don’t look at the huge mountain in front of you, rather celebrate the small habit changes you are making. Do this on your own time. Some changes might be easy while others take weeks. If you feel like you are struggling, take a step back and pick another switch you could work on. What matters most is that you keep progressing. Don’t stop! You will be successful as long as you stay consistent.
15 changes to consider when easing into a healthy vegan weight loss diet
- Switch white grains (bread, cereal, pasta) with whole grains (brown rice, quinoa)
- Cut out bread from your diet (unless it is a whole wheat bread without oil and sugar)
- Ditch the cow milk and use almond milk (unsweetened)
- Cut out energy drinks/sweet teas and replace with water, herbal teas, or fruit infused waters
- Avoid meat, fish, and eggs and fill your protein section of the plate with beans, lentils, peas
- Switch to a power breakfast with whole oats, nuts, seeds, berries
- Start snacking on veggies with hummus dip in between
- If you want that sweet dessert, grab a sweet fruit instead
- Ditch the coffee sweetener and buy quality coffee to enjoy it black
- Stop going out to eat for a while (they add too much salt, sugar, fat) and cook at home (or at least reduce going out)
- Instead of cooking with oil start cooking with water (water-fry/steam)
- Eat close to nature: Don’t eat processed items like oils, sugar, juices, but rather eat whole food
- Start reading labels and leave everything out that contains added sugar
- Cut out all pre-packaged and processed foods
- Work on your dinner plate: 2 cups veggies, 3/4 cup beans, 1/2 cup cooked whole grains. If you have a hard time with this, switch to these ratios gradually by adding more veggies each time until you reach the 1/2 plate
Some foods will taste boring to you at first. This is because your taste buds are used to an overload of sugar, salt, and fat. You might think vegan food is boring at first, but stick to it and find ways to create better tastes. Your taste buds will adjust and fruits will taste super sweet. Over time, you won’t even have much of a sweet craving!
Imagine a life without uncontrollable cravings. It is possible!
Do I need vegan weight loss supplements?
There is one specific supplement every vegan should take: B12. This is because B12 is a bacteria that animals naturally consume by eating from the fields. Because everything is so sterilized (water, plants) we can’t get B12 from food. Therefore, it is best to take 2500 mcg of B12 once a week.
Then there are 2 more supplements that you can consider adding to your diet: Vitamin D and Omega 3. It is best to get your vitamin D from the sun, but I understand not everyone can do this. These 2 supplements are not really vegan specific and you can have a deficiency either way. Please read the optimum nutrition recommendation guide for more info.
What about weight loss specific supplements?
There are many weight loss supplements out there and some are also targeted at vegans. If you follow a well-planned vegan diet you will not need any more supplements than those mentioned above.
You also won’t need to get vegan protein powder. If you check out the vegan weight loss pyramid, you will see that you get over 60g of protein per day which is sufficient. Once you are on a normal (2200 calorie) vegan meal plan you can get 90g of protein per day from eating plants! There are many vegan bodybuilders out there that build muscles without shakes.
I am saying this because I get bombarded by ads telling me what pills, patches, and shakes I need to consume in order to lose weight, have energy, and be healthy. Truth is, you can get ALL your nutrients by simply eating your fruits and veggies. This is the most budget friendly way to have energy all day, lose weight, and be healthy.
How do I know this?
I tracked my vegan diet with cronometer for free and have over 100% of my daily value for each mineral and vitamin. On top of that, I got my blood test done after 6 months on the vegan diet and my results were perfect, not to mention I have improved energy levels and my gut is healthy!
So don’t buy the supplements and save your $$.
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What if I don’t lose weight on a vegan diet?
If you don’t lose weight on a vegan diet, please go back and check all 15 changes to consider above. You might consume food with hidden added sugar or the ratio of your dinner plate is off. Small mistakes can have a big impact on your weight loss success so be sure to re-evaluate and use the example meal plan to eat according to the vegan food pyramid for weight loss.
If you follow the meal plan and still don’t see any weight loss within one week, you need to decrease the amount of calories you eat per day by 200-300 calories, or start adding exercise at least 3 times per week. I suggest adding exercise to your lifestyle instead of cutting back more than 1700 calories per day. You can simply do this by walking around your neighborhood or on a treadmill. Also try light cardio workouts.
Helpful Weight Loss Resources:
Cronometer.com: This is a free tool that will help you track your food intake and calories. Cronometer also shows you all the vitamins and minerals you consume which is great to make sure there are no deficiencies.
At Home Workouts: Cardio workouts and light weight training are great to lose body fat, burn more calories, and feel better all together. If you don’t know where to start I personally enjoy the workouts from Beachbody. I stream their workouts and simply pick the one for my needs. I have been doing their workouts for years now and it is the easiest way to include fitness into a busy lifestyle. For cardio workouts I suggest Hip Hop Abs (dancing), 21 Day Fix (for anyone), or YouV2 (beginner, or elderly).
Plant Based Meal Planner: If you want to save time meal planning and don’t want to miss out on the benefits of a healthy meal plan, check out this meal planning service by Forks over Knives. You can also see some recipes I made from the meal planner and the cost per serving in this review.
The vegan quick start guide: This guide will give you easy recipes under 30 minutes to start a vegan diet without feeling overwhelmed. All recipes are low fat and budget friendly. The guide contains a example meal plan with a rundown of the nutritional value plus many health and weight loss/muscle gain tips.