So, you’re looking to shed off a few pounds (or kilos) and someone has told you about the secret to success: Vegan Diet for weight loss.
First off, was this someone Google? You know you should be doing more research right? Not to worry, I’ve got you covered. Let’s discuss if a vegan diet for weight loss really is the way to go for you.
Vegan Diet for Weight Loss
With so many people sharing the amazing results they gained once they switched to vegetarianism, there is no surprise that many people are looking to get into the diet themselves.
However, a vegan diet is more of a lifestyle than an actual diet, and to gain the real benefits of the diet, you need to know what you are doing. For example, eat too many refined carbs and you actually gain weight, eat too much highly processed foods and your health deteriorates.
Okay, before we get into the nitty-gritty stuff, let’s kick things off from the beginning.
What is vegan diet?
The vegan diet is a diet that excludes all animal products. It focuses only on plant-based foods and beverages.
However, there is a difference between being vegan and being a vegetarian;
Neither vegans nor vegetarians eat animals, but vegans also don’t eat animal by-products (products that may come from animals that are not the animals themselves, such as dairy and eggs).
What can you eat on a vegan diet?
You can eat anything as long as it’s not a living anything or came from a living thing. Here is a break down of the food groups you can eat on a vegan diet:
- Vegetables: In case you didn’t already guess so from its name. Vegetables are essential vegan food.
- Fruits: The vegan diet will allow you to re-discover the deliciousness of fruits, and your taste buds will love you for it.
- Grains: Yes, you can still eat bread, rice, pasta, and so on. There are many vegan recipes that will surprise you with creative uses of farro, barley, and other grains that didn’t exist on your grocery list before.
- Nuts and Seeds: Snacking is still a thing in vegan diets, but beware, it can be too easy to actually gain weight if you go too hard on the nuts.
- Legumes: This is where you will get your protein from.
- Tofu and Tomeph: No, Tofu is not boring, and you will learn to love it with time.
- Natural Sweeteners: Coconut sugar, maple syrup, and other natural sweeteners will make your life sweeter, but not honey, honey isn’t allowed.
Now that you know what to eat, you should also know what to eat, so that next time you make an order at a restaurant you don’t get the “Oh, I thought you were a vegan, this has cheese in it” comment from your friends.
What you can’t eat on a vegan diet
- Animal Proteins: Everything from beef to pork to fish. I’m sorry, but this also includes bacon. And yes, bacon gravy is off-limits as well.
- Animal by-products: Eggs, dairy, and cheese are off the table from now on. Next time you’re at a Starbucks, you will have to order something other than the latte.
- Honey: Um, it comes from bees, which is an animal, so…
- Animal Oils & fats: Fish oil is in so many places, so keep an eye out for it.
The first couple of weeks may take you some adjustments, but I promise you, it’s all worth it. Your taste buds will regain their natural state and will once again love the taste of fruits and vegetables after years of getting accustomed to fast food.
Try to replace as many of the non-vegan foods with well-balanced vegan alternatives and you will still get all the nutrition you need and still be eating healthier.
But nothing is all-good, everything in this world has its pros and cons, and the vegan diet is no exception.
Are you looking for another diet? Check out the keto diet here.
Vegan Diet Pros and Cons
Let’s put the vegan diet pros and cons in a table first then discuss them in more details below:
Reduced risk of serious illness
Wide variety of foods
Better for the environment
|More limited food choices|
Less social interactions
Possible nutrient deficiencies
Pros of Vegan Diets
Committing to a vegan diet (and a vegan lifestyle in general) will come with many benefits, some of which you will start appreciating sooner than others.
- Weight loss
Losing weight on a vegan diet, or any diet is not guaranteed. Just going on a new diet doesn’t cause your body to suddenly lose weight. Losing weight on a vegan diet comes from eliminating foods that are high in fat and calories and replacing them with foods have fewer calories and are, in general, better for your body.
Replacing your 2,000-calorie cheeseburger with a 500-calorie vegan lunch is what will bring you the results you want.
Losing weight on a vegan plan is relatively easy because the diet itself restricts you to healthy foods, and people have reported amazing results from sticking to a well-balanced vegan diet.
A 2018-clinical trial proved that plant-based diets are more effective for losing weight when compared to a control diet that includes animal protein. A 2017 study also proved that plant-based diets are more effective in the management and prevention of overweight and obesity.
(Find the resources at the end of the article)
- Reduced Risk of Serious illness
According to a 2015 study, vegan diets are more effective than other diets – even vegetarian ones – in reducing the risks of a number of major illnesses including type-2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.
Vegan diets also reduce the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and certain types of cancers. Most of these benefits are the results of the vegan diets being low in saturated fats.
- Wide variety of foods
Unlike other diets, the vegan diet actually allows you to eat plenty of foods. The diet does not limit you to certain micronutrients or foods that our ancestors ate thousands of years ago. You can basically eat everything the earth produces.
- Better for the environment
The environmental effects of the meat industry are no longer something that we, as humans, should allow. Livestock farming alone is producing 18% of the human-produced greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Other effects include land and water degradation, biodiversity loss, acid rain, deforestation, and coral reef degeneration.
This means that the meat industry is partially responsible for the recent fires in Australia, the floods in Africa, and other climate change-related disasters around the globe.
On the other hand, producing one pound of grain protein takes 100 times less water than producing one pound of animal protein. Let that sink in.
Cons of Vegan Diets
There are, of course, some cons to vegan diets. Anything that has its advantages and its disadvantages, so let’s explore those as well so you can be prepared.
- More limited food choices
No more cheeseburgers, no more ice cream, and no more lattes were what annoyed me the most when going vegan. You may miss other things, but there is no doubt about it; you are going to miss some foods.
However, there are some alternatives, veggie burgers are getting so good that most people can’t tell the difference, and these alternatives are always healthier. It’s like when you switch to light Mayo, in the words of the great Joey Tribbiani “You know what, it tastes the same and my pants fit better”.
- Less Social Interactions
Going out for burgers or beers is something that you should stop thinking about. And birthday cakes are not something you should even consider.
Choosing the vegan diet is choosing a certain diet that may, and probably will exclude you from certain social gatherings. Also, the stigma against vegans is still a very real thing, and will probably be for a while.
What should you do? Adapt. Go out with your friends and find options that work for you without making it the topic of the conversation. With time, they will just deal with it. Don’t buckle under peer pressure and you will be just fine.
- Possible Nutritional Deficiencies
When you eliminate any food group, you will inevitably have to deal with nutrient deficiencies, but some are diets are better than others, and vegan is one of the better ones out there.
Vegan diets are generally lacking in calcium and vitamin B-12. Calcium is important for bone formation and muscle correction, and vitamin B-12 is important for healthy nerve function and blood cell production, among other things.
A Vegan diet for weight loss must take into account these deficiencies, otherwise, you might suffer from a condition called pernicious anemia if you don’t.
For Calcium, you need to increase your intake of green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, pulses, and some dried fruits as they are all calcium-rich foods.
As for Vitamin B-12, you will need to take a supplement. B-12 is found in some veggie foods such as some seaweed and mushrooms, but supplements are a more useful source for Vitamin B-12.
Ummm, what about Protein? you must be asking now. Don’t worry, just because you’re going on a vegan diet for weight loss doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get the same exact protein intake.
Proteins are made up of amino acids, and while animal products contain all of them, plant-based foods have most of them.
If you’re going to be hitting the gym and lifting weights, a protein shake might be useful to get the same equivalent grams of protein, but the same can be said for any other diet, really. Just make sure to find the best vegetarian protein powder for you.
Vegan diets can also be low in vitamin D, but if you’re getting enough sunlight, this shouldn’t be a problem. If you’re not getting enough sunlight (hello, Londoners), you can supplement with maitake mushrooms and portobello mushrooms, both excellent vegan sources of vitamin D.
- Unrealistic Expectations
Okay, hear me out; vegan diets are not magic!
That’s one of the biggest cons of vegan diets. People just set out too high of expectations for what they will get out of it. The changes are often gradual and take time.
They are too slow for you to notice, but if you take a look at the changes in your life and your health every couple of months, you will see a difference. Change takes time, and a lifetime of unhealthy eating will not be fixed by a week on a vegan diet.
People who go on a vegan diet for a couple of weeks and don’t see the results they want, they revert back to their old lives. What happens then is that they regain any weight they have lost while they were on their vegan diet.
A vegan diet for weight loss plan should go one for a couple of months. You can’t simply google “vegan diet for weight loss in a month” and expect to lose 20 pounds in a month.
If you do, it’s really unhealthy, and you will regain this weight once you’re off the diet, and you will get off the diet because you’re taking things too hard in a too short period of time.
Ser realistic expectations, be patient and be sure that it’s all worth it at the end.
5 Tips for Losing Weight on a Vegan Diet
Here are some important tips for losing weight on a vegan diet that will help you shed off those extra pounds and keep them from coming back.
- Learn about the Vegan Food Pyramid
- Beware of processed foods
- Meal Prep is crucial
- Get Moving
- Stay Hydrated
The Vegan Food Pyramid
The Vegan food pyramid is a food guide that replaced the food guide pyramid back in 2005. The pyramid serves as a guide, but it doesn’t take into account other factors for weight loss such as calorie intake and portion controls.
You might think that this is pretty obvious, but it’s actually a very easy trap. When transitioning to a vegan diet, you will be tempted by many processed foods as an easy go-to option. The most tempting will be processed soy.
You must pay attention to the amounts of processed products in your meals. For example, your soy veggie burger and tofu scrambles have processed soy in them, and you probably should keep them to a minimum.
Planning and preparing your meals ahead of time is a key component to actually sticking to the diet and getting the results you desire.
Get your meal plans ready and prepare healthy vegan meals ahead of time. Even cooking light for a couple of hours will get you your meals for the whole week.
Can you hit the gym four days a week? Do it. 3? Do it. You can only go to the gym for 1 day every week? Do it. Walk every day for at least 30 minutes. Take frequent breaks and walk around the office.
Losing weight is mostly about the diet, but you should also be taking any chance you get to move your body and get some exercise.
You don’t need a gym membership, expensive gear, or a gym buddy. You don’t need anything to start working out but your will. Go search YouTube for exercises you can do at home. Don’t let anything stop you from getting even 30 minutes of exercise daily.
For those looking for the optimum results, try hitting the gym at least three days a week and/or engage in 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity. Also, try HIIT (High-Intensity Interval training).
Drink water. You don’t need 8 glasses per day but listen to your body. Drink fresh water whenever you feel yourself getting a bit thirsty.Don’t listen to those gurus telling you how much water you should drink every day, but don’t be Jake Peralta and forget to drink for days.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some questions people who are looking to get on a vegan diet for weight loss may have and their brief and direct answers:
Do I need Protein Powders with vegan diets?
Going on a vegan diet for weight loss makes people worry they’re going to miss on protein and lose all their muscle mass. That’s not true. You don’t need protein powders with a vegan diet, vegan meals can provide you with your protein requirements. However, adding a vegan protein powder to your diet can have its benefits, especially if you’re training to build muscle.
Can Vegans drink almond milk?
Yes, you can drink almond milk when on a vegan diet for weight loss. an 8-ounce glass is equivalent to 4 almonds mixed with water and supplemented nutrients.
Can Vegans eat Chocolate?
Yes! You can eat chocolate. In fact, chocolate is basically a plant-based food since it comes from cacao beans.
Resources & References
Kahleova, H., Fleeman, R., Hlozkova, A. et al. A plant-based diet in overweight individuals in a 16-week randomized clinical trial: metabolic benefits of plant protein. Nutr & Diabetes 8, 58 (2018) doi:10.1038/s41387-018-0067-4
Turner-McGrievy G, Mandes T, Crimarco A. A plant-based diet for overweight and obesity prevention and treatment. J Geriatr Cardiol. 2017;14(5):369–374. doi:10.11909/j.issn.1671-5411.2017.05.002
Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change – Marco Springmann, H. Charles J. Godfray, Mike Rayner, and Peter Scarborough
Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment – David Pimentel, Marcia Pimentel – The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 78, Issue 3, September 2003, Pages 660S–663S