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Vegan Weight Loss: The 101 From a Vegan Dietitian

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You decided to become vegan for the animals, environment, or social justice issues, but also want to lose weight.

Will a vegan diet hurt or help?

What should I eat on a vegan weight loss plan?

What should I avoid for weight loss?

Learn all this and more in this comprehensive guide about losing weight on a vegan diet, written by a vegan Dietitian!

Disclaimer: Christine is a Registered Dietitian, however, she is not your personal Registered Dietitian. The information in this post is not meant to be specific advice for everyone trying to lose weight. Talk to your own Doctor and Dietitian about your weight loss goals to come up with an appropriate plan tailored to your unique situation. This post is not medical advice. See our Disclaimers for more details.

Trigger Warning: This post may be inappropriate for individuals with eating disorders, suspected of having an eating disorder, and/or have had an eating disorder. Please use discretion when consuming this and any other content on the internet.

*Consumer Notice: This post contains affiliate links that are marked in this manner : (affiliate link)”. If you click on these links and purchase, I earn a commission at no added cost to you.

Can I Use a Vegan Diet to Lose Weight?

It is possible to lose pounds on a variety of weight loss plans, including a vegan one.

Most dietary plans that result in a calorie deficit (taking in less calories than you you need through reduced food intake and/or exercise) will result in weight loss.

However, not all diet plans are appropriate or provide adequate nutrients. Also, some individuals may have a harder time losing weight, even with a calorie deficit.

That’s why we highly recommend you seek out a Registered Dietitian to assess your situation and help you map out your weight loss plan. Eatright.org has a helpful tool to find a Dietitian near you. Check it out here.

In Summary: Being vegan does not automatically equal weight loss! While you can lose weight on a vegan diet, it is certainly possible to lose weight on a variety of other diets. A Registered Dietitian can help you plan out healthy eating weight loss goals.

Are There Any Advantages to Vegan Weight Loss Plans?

Losing weight with a healthy vegan diet may have advantages. Lets look at the research, shall we?

Intending to Follow a Vegan Weight Loss Plan May Result in Greater Weight Loss

One study showed that a group of overweight post menopausal women assigned to a low fat vegan diet lost more weight (average of 3.1 kilograms after 2 years) as opposed to the National Cholesterol Education Program’s Diet (average of 0.8 kilograms after 2 years).

One major flaw of this study was that the vegan diet adherence criteria technically allowed for small amounts animal products, however, the study reports they were proscribed.

This is a major challenge with dietary studies, as dietary adherence for such an extended period is difficult for a variety of diets (not just vegan ones).

Another study (technically a meta-analysis or a study of studies) showed that on average, those following vegan diets (avoids all animal products) lost about 1 kilogram of weight compared to a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet (no meat, but includes eggs and dairy).

Its important to note that six out of the eight vegan diets used in this study were low fat, while the lacto-ovo vegetarian diets varied more greatly.

In summary, vegan weight loss diets may promote more total pounds lost as compared to a variety of other diets, however, we need much more research on this subject to make any conclusions.

Other Health Benefits

We know that vegetarians and vegans have a reduced risk of specific health conditions like obesity, heart disease, and hypertension.

The problem is, we don’t have a ton of studies comparing vegan weight loss diets to non vegan weight loss diets, and their effects on health.

We anticipate that whole food vegan weightloss diets would have some advantage over non vegan weight loss diets that are similar in calories, fat, and protein. This is based on the assumption that the vegan diet would include more whole fruits and vegetables (more opportunity for foods lower in calories and higher in fiber), and less saturated fat and cholesterol.

However, since many weight loss diets generally include more whole fruits and vegetables, this subject is a tricky one – a hypothesis at best. We need more research on fully plant based diets and weight loss to confirm.

8 Tips For Vegan Weight Loss

1. Learn About Your Calorie Needs

To maintain weight, adult women may need about 1600 to 2200 calories per day, while men need a bit more, about 2000 to 3200 calories per day.

These numbers are just estimates, and can vary based on factors such as:

  • Activity level
  • Height
  • Amount of muscle
  • Certain medical conditions

Cutting back on the calories you need to maintain your weight may result in weight loss.

Some dieters use an online calculator to get an estimate of baseline calories needs, using factors such as weight, age, activity, etc.

However, these are only estimates. You are a human, not a number! And going on an extremely low calorie diet has consequences as well. So its best to speak to a Registered Dietitian about your specific situation. He/she can help you determine a calorie level that can support healthy weight loss for you.

2. Know and Eat Your Nutrients

Nutrients vegans may need to pay more attention to including (listed in post text)

Consumer Notice: This section contains affiliate links that are marked in this manner : (affiliate link)”. If you click on these links and purchase, I earn a commission at no added cost to you.

Weight loss diets often involve eating less calories. This can be problematic because it’s often perceived as less opportunity to meet your nutrient needs.

That’s why it’s so important to know what nutrients vegans need to pay special attention to, and how to get them through food and supplements as needed.

Some of those nutrients may include (disclaimer: talk to your doctor about your specific nutrient needs):

And if you were thinking, do vegans really need to pay attention to nutrients? The answer is yes! Some nutrients are more abundant in animal products, and if you are a new vegan or never learned about nutrients of concern on a vegan diet, its especially important.

Luckily, we’ve covered vegan specific nutrition in our comprehensive post: Vegan for Beginners! It’s a must read for any vegan who wants to eat with nutrition in mind. Check it out here.

And if you need help determining if you are meeting your nutrient needs on a fully plant based diet, talking to your own Registered Dietitian would be ideal.

One more point for this tip: You might also find nutrition tracking apps like Cronometer (affiliate link*) helpful. Cronometer is my go to nutrient tracking app because it has a huge food data base, space to enter your own recipes, and in depth nutrient details.

Its a great tool to log your healthy meals, so make sure you check out Cronometer (affiliate link*), and let us know if you found it useful!

3. Focus on Whole Foods

Choosing whole, plant based foods as opposed to highly processed ones can result in less calories. This is because many processed foods add extra calories in the form of fat or sugar.

As an extra bonus, whole plant based foods, like sweet potatoes, bok choy, and oranges, retain all of their natural fiber. Fiber can keep you satiated so you don’t feel like reaching for empty calorie foods (foods that have lots of calories, with low to no nutritional value)

Here is a list of whole vegan foods and their fiber content– just so you get an idea of the fiber packed powerhouses whole foods can provide!

  • Lentils, 1 cup, boiled (16 grams of fiber)
  • Black beans, 1 cup, canned (10 grams of fiber)
  • Green peas, 1 cup, boiled (9 grams of fiber)
  • Raspberries, 1 cup (8 grams of fiber)
  • Quinoa, 1 cup cooked (5 grams of fiber)
  • Oatmeal, Instant, 1 cup, cooked (5 grams of fiber)
  • Broccoli, 1 cup, boiled, chopped (5 grams of fiber)
  • Apple, 1 medium, with skin (3 grams of fiber)
  • Almonds, 1 ounce, (3.5 grams of fiber)
  • Carrot, 1 medium, raw (1.5 grams of fiber)

4. Pay Attention To Your Portions, Especially High Fat Foods

You can learn more about portion sizes at Myplate.gov. The number you need will vary based on your your gender and age, and again, is most helpful with the guidance of your own Registered Dietitian.

But why should you consider not going overboard on vegan fats like peanut butter? Because fats pack a lot of calories in a small quantity. This means it can be easy to get more calories than you need, especially if you are eating mindlessly.

Now, lets set some things straight: Whole food vegan sources of fats, like nuts, seeds, and avocados provide many beneficial nutrients, some of which can be harder to obtain on a vegan diet. For instance, ALA (a type of omega 3 fatty acid) is an essential fat (meaning we need to obtain them through diet).

Check out the section on Omega-3 Fatty Acids in our article about giving up fish to learn ways to get this essential fat.

In summary, we don’t want to eliminate whole food sources of fats, just be mindful of them.

Graphic showing examples of vegan fat serving sizes for 1 serving.

5. Make Your Grains Whole

Why is it important to go for the whole grain? Because, just like we learned in tip #3, whole foods typically contain more fiber (that satiating factor that helps keep you full) than their refined counterparts!

Since feeling full is a huge component of weight loss success, try to make your grains whole most of the time.

How do you spot whole grains? Often, when the word “Whole” comes before the grain, you can rely on it being a whole grain.
Here are some examples to look for listed first in the ingredients list (this is not a comprehensive list):

  • Whole oats or oat groats
  • Whole wheat
  • Whole corn
  • Whole rye or rye berries
  • Wild rice
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet

6. Make Water Your Beverage of Choice

Did you know that our bodies are made of up to about 60% water? That’s a lot, and shows the importance of this beverage.

Sure, foods contribute as well – such as fruits and veggies with a high water content. But if your opting for a drink on your weight loss plan, make room for water, especially as you may be consuming more fiber.

This beverage is calorie free, hydrating, and often free! Its even possible to confuse dehydration with hunger. So make sure you drink enough regardless if you are trying to lose weight or not.

How much water do you need? Well, this will depend on a lot of factors, such as your activity, any medical conditions you have, and your gender. Talk to your doctor or Registered Dietitian about your needs, especially if you have a condition that requires fluid restriction.

In general, an article by Eatright.org suggests about 11.5 cups per day for women, and about 15.5 cups for men (of note: this suggestions include fluids from all beverages and food consumed).

7. Avoid Empty Calories

What are empty calories? Excess calories that provide little nutritional value. Vegan examples of empty calories include sugary soda, vegan candy, processed vegan doughnuts, etc.

If you have a caloric goal, make those calories count! Fill up your tank with nutrient dense, whole plant based foods and avoid empty calories.

8. Practice Mindful Eating

Dictionary.com defines mindful eating as “the practice of eating with the express purpose of savoring every flavor, aroma, and texture of food, as usually accomplished through aesthetic appreciation of the food and slow, contemplative ingestion:”

Some ways to practice mindful eating inlcude:

  • Eliminating distractions at meals
  • Taking time to savor the meal slowly
  • Engaging all of your senses while eating (taste, smell, mouthfeel, etc)
  • Paying attention to your hunger and fullness signals

If your lifestyle seems to always be “go, go, go” you might be a distracted eater.

Take the time to slow down and appreciate the vegan meal you took such great care to make. This could help you prevent mindless munching.

Vegan Weight Loss Plan: A One Day Diary Example

Disclaimer: This diary example is JUST an example. It is not meant to tell you specifically what to eat and not to eat. Find a Registered Dietitian near you to discus your diet needs and meal plans. Always talk to your doctor before adding any supplements.

Consumer Notice: This section contains affiliate links that are marked in this manner : (affiliate link)”. If you click on these links and purchase, I earn a commission at no added cost to you.

Now that you have learned several tips about going on a diet as a vegan, what do vegan diets for weight loss actually look like?

I am so glad you asked! Lets take a glimpse at one fictional dieters meal plan for one day:

*The following is assessed using Cronometer (affiliate link*) generated on 12/1/21.

Profile: Female, 31 years old, 5 foot 4 inches, 180 pounds

BMI (Body Mass Index): 30.7 (classified as obese)

Activity level: Moderately Active

Weight Maintenance Calories : 2279 calories per day

Weight Loss Goal of 1 pound per week (-499 calories per day) = 1780 calories per day

Supplements: Takes a multivitamin containing vitamin B12, iodine, choline, and vitamin D as per her doctors recommendations.

Breakfast: Hearty Oatmeal Bowl ~528 calories

Lunch: Chickpea Salad Sandwich, Salad, and Banana “Nice Cream” with Chocolate
~695 calories

  • Whole wheat bread, store-bought, 2 medium slices
  • Garbanzo beans (chickpeas), canned, drained, and rinsed, half a cup.
  • Tahini, 1 tablespoon
  • Spices
  • Dill pickle, chopped, one spear
  • Salad: 2 cups mixed lettuce greens, 5 cherry tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of raw sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup raw cucumber, chopped, 4 slices of avocado.
  • Banana “Nice Cream” with a Chocolate drizzle: 1 frozen small banana, blended. 1/2 ounce of Beyond Good Salted Caramel Chocolate Bar, melted and drizzled on.

Dinner: Tofu Broccoli Stir-fry ~547 calories

  • Stir-fry: 3.5 ounces 365 Everyday Value extra firm organic tofu, 1 cup fresh broccoli, cooked, 1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce, store bought, 1/2 ounce raw peanuts.
  • Quinoa, 1 cup cooked
  • Mango, 1/2 cup.

Did this article answer your questions about vegan diets to lose weight?
I sure hope so!
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Did you find this content helpful? Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments below, and have a plant-astic day!

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1 thought on “Vegan Weight Loss: The 101 From a Vegan Dietitian”

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