Are you looking for Vegan Diet Plans to help you lose weight? There is a lot of information online about various vegan diets. Some diets work, but some don’t even last. In this article, we are going to talk about best vegan diets for weight loss that actually work.
WHAT IS A VEGAN DIET?
A vegan diet is one that contains foods that are not made from—or derived from —animals. It consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, tubers, legumes, herbs, salads, nuts, and seeds but this way of eating is much more than the sum of its parts. Yes, these plants can be eaten raw or cooked quite simply, or they can be turned into family favorites like lasagna and pizza, or turned into convenience foods like deep fried ‘chicken’ or indulgent cakes. All of these are vegan, but of course, not all are healthy.
WHAT IS A WHOLE FOOD PLANT-BASED DIET?
This prioritizes whole grains over refined grains, and fresh produce over processed foods. It limits sugar and, of course, contains no animal products at all. This may sound limiting but we think you would be surprised at the range of foods available. Pasta, burgers, burritos, curries and thousands more everyday dishes can be made from whole foods. Lots of people find that by starting with one small change, such as choosing brown rice instead of white, or soy milk instead of milk taken from cows, they can start along the path to a whole foods plant-based diet, building in good habits as they go.
There are many good reasons to adopt a vegan diet. It requires no factory farms or slaughterhouses and so spares billions of animals appalling suffering. It is kinder to the planet, as it needs less land and therefore removes one of the biggest drivers of deforestation. It reduces water and air pollution, and it emits far fewer climate-changing emissions than animal products. For all these reasons and more, Oxford University researchers conclude that being vegan is the “single biggest thing we can do” to help the planet.
Plus, a vegan diet is associated with many important health benefits including reduced rates of heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Pretty impressive, hey?
Like any dietary or lifestyle change, it can take a little time to adjust, and those early weeks require some label-reading, internet searching, and planning. But within a very short space of time—usually no more than three weeks—great new habits begin to oust the bad old ones. Many people find positive changes come really fast, including better sleep, clearer skin, and improved digestion.
CAN BEING VEGAN HELP WITH WEIGHT LOSS?
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition compared a whole food plant-based diet with the Mediterranean diet that is so commonly thought of as being optimal for weight loss. The study found that within 16 weeks:
- Participants lost an average of 6 kilograms (or about 13 pounds) on the vegan diet, compared with no mean change on the Mediterranean diet
- Participants lost 3.4 kg (about 7.5 pounds) more fat mass on the vegan diet
- The vegan diet decreased total and LDL cholesterol levels by 18.7 mg/dL and 15.3 mg/dL, respectively, while there were no significant cholesterol changes on the Mediterranean diet
HOW CAN VEGANS LOSE WEIGHT FASTER?
We don’t recommend fast weight loss, and in fact, we understand that dieting is a predictor of future weight gain. Besides, neither weight nor BMI accurately represent our health. For all these reasons, we prefer to focus on health and how we feel, instead of numbers on a set of scales. But for those who wish to lose some weight, there are a few ideas that can help.
Understanding the Concept of Calorie Density
Calorie density is a measure of how many calories are in a pound of food and can be used to guide our food choices if sustainable and healthful weight loss is our aim. Vegetables have fewer calories per pound while meat, cheese, and oil are all towards the top end of the scale. Says Jeff Novick, MS, RD: “This common sense approach to sound nutrition allows for lifelong weight management without hunger; more food for fewer calories, and is easy to understand and follow.”
The reason this approach works so well is that most people eat the same weight of food every day. That means they feel sated without the added calories.
Cutting Out Added Oil
Oil has the highest calorie density of any food. Adding oil to a meal always raises the overall calorie density so we might consider alternative ways to prepare a meal. Instead of roasting potatoes, for example, we could consider baking them. Instead of adding an oil-based dressing to salads, perhaps a squeeze of lemon would work well.
Controlling the Amount of Starch
Not all starchy foods are created equal. Refined carbohydrates have been stripped of much of what makes them so nutritious. If we switch out products made with white flour, for example —such as breads, bagels, pretzels, and pasta —and wherever possible choose the unrefined wholegrain versions, we’ll be doing our health a big favor. Plus, these are more filling, so we require less to feel sated.
Get Into Fiber-Rich Foods
Unrefined carbohydrates tend to be high-fiber foods, and fiber is great for our digestion. It is also associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. Fiber helps us feel fuller for longer and so reduces snacking. It is found in wholegrain pasta, breakfast cereals, and bread, as well as potato skins, pulses, and vegetables.
Avoiding Caloric Beverages
Sodas, beers, wines, and fruit juices all add significant calories without adding anything meaningful to our diets. You might find that water with a slice of cucumber, lemon or lime, or a handful of fresh mint, can be just as tasty and refreshing.
Cut Out Vegan Convenience Foods
Donuts and fries are not healthy just because they’re vegan but of course we don’t need an expert to tell us this. If we can reduce our reliance on these types of foods, our bodies will thank us for it.
Exercising (or As We Prefer to Call It, Joyful Movement)
One thing that can really help weight loss, according to Sandra Aamodt, author of Why Diets Make Us Fat, is exercise. Now, many of us have a bad relationship with exercise, and associate it with punishment, pain, boredom, or even bullying. No wonder, then, that we are reluctant to go back to it. But forget those old concepts of exercise, and instead think about any movement that brings you joy. What do you love to do? It could be dancing, swimming, wheelchair basketball. It could be a team sport such as rugby or basketball, or you may prefer hiking alone. Perhaps there is something you have always wanted to try, such as kayaking or kung fu or skateboarding. If you enjoy it, you will keep wanting to do it, and that is how we build sustainable and life-changing habits.
What are the best vegan weight loss plans?
Compare our top picks for the best vegan weight loss plans to choose the one best for you
Great for customization
Perhaps the biggest draw to WW, formerly Weight Watchers, for vegans is the freedom the diet plan gives you. Because it’s so customizable, you can apply almost any dietary restriction of food preferences to it. WW Freestyle works on the SmartPoints system, where each food is assigned a number of “points” based on its nutritional value. Foods that are higher in calories, fat and sugar contain more points, while healthier choices have fewer points, and lots of vegan foods have no points at all—which means you can eat as much as you want. WW works because it changes your lifestyle, not just a few meals. Plus, there is a vast social community, both online and off, for dieters to celebrate their weight loss, share recipes and support one another.
Our favorite for athletes
Beachbody’s Vegan 21 Day Fix
Beachbody’s Vegan 21 Day Fix Eating Plans provide you with a color-coded system of containers, a grocery list for a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, seeds, nuts, nut butters, plant-based protein, canned foods, vegan protein shakes and miscellaneous seasonings and condiments. With this vegan diet plan, breakfast is oatmeal with a banana and cinnamon with coconut oil or chia seeds. For lunch and dinner, you might make a bean and avocado tacos or a lentil wrap with quinoa and lemon tarragon vinaigrette. For snacking, options include celery with peanut butter or Tropical Strawberry Shakeology. This vegan meal prep plan is for those needing a 1,200–1,499 calorie range and is accessible through the Beachbody On Demand app.
Good for new vegans
Recommended for new vegans, Veganuary provides healthy, plant-based meal recipes that are designed to break your kitchen routines and inspire. You download printable recipes, and there’s extra space for you to add your own notes. There are gluten-free, nut-free and soya-free meal plan options, plus the Quick and Convenient Meal Plan for busy lifestyles, Love to Cook! Meal Plan for culinary creatives, Family Friendly Meal Plan with recipes that even your kids will like and Sport Nutrition Meal Plan for athletes. The What Real Vegans Eat Meal Plan is a specially curated collection of the Veganuary team’s favorite meals. Veganuary supplies some basic nutritional information for each recipe, but suggests you do your own research before enrolling in Veganuary meal plans.
Our pick for young adults
22 Days Nutrition
The 22 Days Nutrition vegan meal plan was created with the idea that it takes 21 days to change your eating habits, and so by the 22nd day you’ve already improved your life. When you enroll in 22 Days’ Vegan Meal Planner, you get a customized plan to fit your lifestyle and continuous support for nutrition coaches. New recipes are added daily with nutritional information available for every meal. In some locations, grocery delivery is also available. The plan costs about $1.90 per week, not counting the cost of groceries. The 22 Days recipes are created to match almost any skillset, and they offer cooking technique videos for complete cooking novices.
Good for animal lovers
Available online for free, PETA’s two-week vegan meal plan is perfect for both long-time vegans and for someone who wants to go vegan but isn’t sure how to get started. You’ll find 14 days of unique, healthy, plant-based recipes that you can easily make at home: For breakfast, you might have a bagel with cashew cream and tomato lox or make a coconut berry chai parfait. Lunches and dinners are typically high-fiber, low-sugar soups, salads and sandwiches, though some recipes are more kitchen-intensive, like tempeh tequila taco sliders or Gimbap. Likewise, snacks recipes can be easy to follow, like popcorn with nutritional yeast, or a little more complicated, like spicy buffalo cauliflower “wings.”
VEGAN DIET FOR WEIGHT LOSS: FOCUS ON FILLING FIBER
“Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that we can’t digest and therefore the microbes in the gut feed off the fiber in order to grow and survive,” explains Hope. “As fiber isn’t digested further up in the digestive system like other foods, it takes longer to reach the gut and therefore keeps us fuller for longer too.”
For those trying to lose weight, eating fiber-rich, plant-based foods can help to sustain energy and keep you satiated for a longer period of time. And the great news is, fiber is largely found in plants which consist of a large part of a vegan diet.
“If you’re looking to lose weight you may wish to focus more on the lower energy fiber-rich plant foods such as beans, pulses, vegetables, fruits and wholegrains,” adds Hope. “However, don’t forget to incorporate nuts into the diet in moderate amounts as these are rich in healthy fats, which contribute to supporting brain health, joint health and hormone production among many other roles.”
A 2015 study(opens in new tab) found that eating 30g of fiber a day, without making any other dietary changes, could help with ‘significant weight loss.’
As well as boosting weight loss, fiber is great for the heart, gut health and digestion. However, most of us aren’t getting enough. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend women eat at least 25g of fiber each day, with men consuming around 36g.
VEGAN DIET FOR WEIGHT LOSS: AVOID PROCESSED VEGAN FOOD
“There’s a common misconception that because a food is labeled as vegan it automatically means it’s healthy,” says Hope. “However, this isn’t the case and vegan foods can also be loaded with saturated fats and sugars. Therefore, if you’re focusing on health and weight you’re far better off consuming a diet focused around plants and wholefoods.”
She adds that if you’re going vegan from eating an omnivorous diet, you should be aware of higher risk nutrient deficiencies that can occur from excluding animal products on a vegan diet. “It is possible to obtain most of your nutrients but you do need to be more aware where they’re coming from,” she says. There are also many supplements tailored specifically to vegans and vegetarians.
VEGAN DIET FOR WEIGHT LOSS: CHECK FOOD LABELS
As with any weight loss plan, food labels can be a useful indicator of how much you’re eating. However, the best foods to choose are often the ones without a label at all, as they’ll be the least processed.
Hope also adds that weight loss is unique for every individual and often requires a whole host of measures to be aligned. “This includes diet, exercise, stress and sleep,” she says. However, when you’re looking at dietary components and food labels, ideally you want to aim for lower sugar foods – those that contain less than 5g of sugar per 100g; low saturated fat foods – less than 1.5g per 100g; and higher fiber foods – more than 6g per 100g.”
Those following a vegan diet can often be lacking in certain nutrients for good health too, including vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D. Ensure you are eating a wide variety of foods, or supplementing where necessary.