We hear a lot about the vegan diet these days in the media, thanks to celebrities and even fast food companies jumping on the bandwagon. A lot of people think going vegan means instant weight loss, however, that’s not quite true. You don’t have to be on a vegan diet plan to lose weight, but if you become vegan for that purpose, then you’ve got to follow the diet in a healthy way.
Specifically, you want to focus on whole foods, plenty of fiber, and plant-based protein sources such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. It’s also equally as important to limit foods that aren’t filling, such as packaged snack foods and refined carbs. Examples of refined carbs are white bread and bagels. This is the Fitmate approach to losing weight on any type of diet, as these are the types of foods that fill you up on fewer calories.
Whether you choose to go vegan or not, focusing on filling foods like protein and fiber-rich carbohydrates to curb cravings is the most important factor in regards to weight loss success. This article is going to answer questions like; What is a vegan diet? And also what to eat on vegan diet plans. We’re going to show you how you can use the diet for weight loss effectively and sustainably.
What Is A Vegan Diet?
A vegan diet is a plant-based diet that involves completely avoiding animal products. Many people choose to follow it for health reasons, to promote animal rights, and to lose weight. While a vegan diet plan can be incredibly healthy, it also is easy to overdo it on foods that don’t fill you up, such as carbs low in fiber or processed vegan products. This means it will be harder to achieve a calorie deficit, as you’ll be more likely to overeat.
A calorie deficit is when you burn more calories than you take in, which is essential when it comes to weight loss. A vegan diet can contain plenty of essential nutrients for weight loss like protein and fiber if you combine different types of food to make a balanced meal.
For example, many vegetarian protein sources are not considered “complete proteins.” This simply means they do not provide all of the essential amino acids (protein-building blocks) necessary for optimal health on their own.
To bump up the protein content of your vegan meals, we recommend combining 2-3 vegan protein sources at each meal such as whole grains, legumes, and beans.
Combining protein and fiber at meals is key to staying full on a lower calorie diet, which naturally creates a calorie deficit that is easier to stick to.
Vegan Vs Vegetarian
A vegan diet is more restrictive compared to a vegetarian diet. For example, a vegetarian diet may exclude some animal products like meat and chicken, but allow fish, eggs, or dairy, while a vegan diet excludes all animal products.
On a vegan diet, you also have to avoid all ingredients that are derived from animals, such as honey or mayonnaise. There are 4 main types of vegetarian diets as the chart below details.
Some people today also follow a more flexible vegetarian diet called the flexitarian diet. This is primarily a plant-based diet but may include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy in small amounts or on occasion.
Both vegan and vegetarian diets can be highly nutritious if a solid plan is in place to build balanced meals. A good strategy for a vegan diet would be to ensure enough protein, fiber, and a moderate amount of healthy fats are included with each meal to satisfy hunger and help you lose weight.
Raw Vegan Vs Vegan
A raw vegan diet takes veganism a step further, where you are only allowed to eat minimally cooked or raw vegan foods. The thought behind the raw vegan diet is that raw foods are more nutritious and contain a higher amount of nutrients.
However, a raw vegan diet is unnecessarily restrictive and difficult to stick to. It also can put you at risk of nutrition deficiencies, and make it harder to get enough plant-based protein sources to support a healthy metabolism.
And if your diet is too low in calories and results in rapid weight loss, it’s more likely that the weight will come back on again and then some.
What Can You Eat On A Vegan Diet?
A vegan diet is 100% plant-based and excludes all animal ingredients. However, there are many yummy, nutritious foods you can still enjoy. The following is Fitmate’s list of vegan and non-vegan foods that you can use as a handy tool, if you’re wondering what to eat.
It can be easy to resort to eating a lot of bread and pasta on a vegan diet. While these are considered vegan food sources, they are not the best choices when it comes to weight loss.
The best vegan diet plan is one that prioritizes healthy foods like plant-based protein sources and fiber, and limits refined carbs like bread and pasta that don’t fill you up.
Vegan Protein Alternatives
There are plenty of whole food plant-based proteins on the vegan diet that come from fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and dairy alternatives.
Fruits, Vegetables, And Legumes
There are several fruits and vegetables that contain protein.
Nuts And Seeds
The following nuts and seeds are good vegan proteins:
The following grains are good plant-based protein sources. Some may not be familiar, but most are easy to find in your local grocery store.
There are several plant-based dairy alternatives, such as the following.
Some of these sources are higher in protein than others. If you’re looking for the closest dairy alternative in regards to protein, soy is the best option.
What Are The Benefits Of Veganism?
There are several health benefits to going vegan aside from weight loss.
If you focus on plenty of plant-based proteins, fruits, and vegetables, the vegan diet can be a surefire energy booster. Many vegan foods are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber that provide steady energy and can prevent those late afternoon slumps.
To enjoy this energy boost, it’s essential to eat plenty of plant-based proteins, fruits, and vegetables, rather than processed foods that don’t fill you up or raise your blood sugar.
Lower Risk Of Heart Disease
Vegan diets have also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. This is most likely due to the high fiber content of many plant foods, as well as the low saturated fat content of vegan diets.
Saturated fat is a risk factor for heart disease, so reducing the amount in your diet can lower your risk. Alternatively, a diet that includes a moderate amount of healthy fats such as olive oil, salmon, and avocados can protect your heart.
The key to achieving these heart health benefits is by eating plenty of vegetarian proteins, rather than a vegan diet filled with bread and refined pasta.
Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
Research has shown a vegan diet may improve blood sugar levels in those at risk or who have diabetes. The reason for this may be due to the amount of fiber in the diet, which has been shown to keep blood sugar levels steady.
The best results have been seen in those who have healthier body weight and eat plenty of fiber from whole food sources like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
How Do You Switch To Veganism?
To ease the transition to veganism, it helps to make gradual changes and ensure you are getting your vitamins.
Make Small Changes Gradually
If you’re used to eating animal foods regularly, it may take some time to adjust to a vegan diet. Adopting new diet habits takes time, and the vegan diet has a few additional rules to consider.
It’s best to make changes gradually towards a vegan diet, such as tackling breakfast first. As you begin making the switch, it’s helpful to plan your meals to make sure they include a good protein and fiber source so that you stay full and satisfied.
Taking it day by day will make it easier to stick to, and may make it more likely to become a permanent habit (if that’s your goal).
Take Supplements For Vegans
Those following a vegan diet are at risk for a few nutrient deficiencies, such as the following.
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Omega-3 Fats (DHA)
- Iron (Most absorbable form comes in the form of meat)
Most of these nutrients are primarily found in animal products, making it difficult to get enough on a vegan diet. As you transition to a vegan diet, it’s important to get these levels checked to see if you need a supplement.
How To Lose Weight On A Vegan Diet
If your goal is to follow a vegan diet for weight loss, here are a few ways to tip the odds in your favor.
Maintain A Calorie Deficit
If you’re on a vegan diet but are overdoing it on calories, chances are you won’t see the scale changing. With a vegan diet or any weight loss diet for that matter, staying in a calorie deficit is essential.
To determine your daily calories to lose weight, you first have to calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which tells you how many calories you burn every day at rest. You then use that number to calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) which tells you how many calories you burn every day at rest and on activities.
Then, a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day is typically recommended to lose a pound a week. To easily adapt to a calorie deficit, it’s best to first focus on foods that fill you up, while simultaneously limiting foods that don’t. This will ensure the diet is sustainable and enjoyable to stick to long-term.
The best foods to fill you up are those high in protein and fiber. Foods that should be limited are processed snack foods and refined carbs like white bread and pasta, as these leave you feeling hungry. Regardless of which type of diet you are on, vegan or not, these are good rules to follow.
The other side of the calorie deficit equation is physical activity, which is one of 3 core areas of Fitmate’s weight loss program. A nutrition coach can help you determine your BMR and calorie needs for weight loss, to help you achieve your goals.
Limit Meat Substitutions
In regards to vegan protein sources, imitation meat substitutes are popular and can be convenient protein options. They should be used sparingly, however, as they can be high in additives, sodium, and saturated fat.
These include plant-based meat alternatives like the Beyond and Impossible burger, tofu, tempeh, frozen veggie burgers, and seitan.
The good news is there are plenty of higher quality plant-based proteins like beans, legumes, and whole grains that are just as easy to prepare.
Limit Vegan Junk Food
Just because a product is vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Limit packaged snacks and baked goods, as they lack essential nutrients like protein and fiber to keep you full.
They are also high in calories and added sugar that doesn’t fill you up, and so are not conducive to weight loss. Eating more of these foods will just leave you feeling hungry and craving more. When eating vegan, consume high-energy foods like those with protein such as beans and lentils.
Add More Healthy Fat
Including a moderate amount of healthy fats is another important component of the vegan diet. Fat often gets a bad rap, but some fats are healthy and necessary in the diet.
In addition, a little bit of healthy fat provides flavor and can help nip sugar cravings in the bud.
The following healthy fats should be included in moderation.
- Olive oil
- Fatty fish - salmon, sardines, mackerel
- Nuts and nut butters
- Chia and flaxseed
- Sunflower and pumpkin seeds
Work With A Health Coach
Following a vegan diet can feel overwhelming without the right support and guidance on where to start. A health coach can help you figure out the best foods to have on the vegan diet, and ensure you are including complete proteins with your meals.
A coach can also create a realistic vegan diet plan for weight loss by taking gradual steps. Our Fitmate health coaches are there with you to provide motivation and determine the best diet for you, whether that be a vegan, vegetarian, or something in between.
The Fitmate approach to weight loss is simple - focus on food and drinks that are filling, such as those high in protein and fiber. Following this same approach on a vegan diet will help bring the greatest weight loss results and help keep you full longer.
Working with a nutrition coach can help you achieve your weight loss goals while practicing veganism at the same time. They can also help you set exercise goals and address lifestyle factors that are hindering weight loss, such as stress or sleep challenges.
Take the Fitmate Quiz to start your journey today towards healthy, sustainable weight loss.
What is vegan vs. vegetarian?
A vegan diet is a strictly plant-based diet that excludes all animal products. A vegetarian diet may include some animal foods such as fish, eggs, or dairy, depending on the type of vegetarian diet.
What should a beginner vegan eat?
It’s recommended to focus on whole food vegetarian sources that are high in protein and fiber, such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. These foods are more filling and will make the transition to veganism easier.
What happens to your body when you go vegan?
You may see noticeable differences in how you look and feel after going vegan for a while. Some people experience greater changes depending on how different it is from their normal diet. Possible changes include weight loss, improved heart health, better blood sugar control, and reduced joint pain.
What are the negatives of a plant based diet?
There is the risk of nutrition deficiencies in certain vitamins like vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3 fats, and iron on a vegan diet, as most quality sources of these nutrients are in animal products. It also may take time to transition to a vegan diet, especially if you are typically a big meat eater. Lastly, if you don’t plan properly, it is easy to end up filling up on refined carbs that don’t satisfy hunger.