People commit to veganism for a whole assortment of reasons. For some, it’s for better health. For others, it’s to shape a more liveable, sustainable future. One great side effect, no matter the reason for veganism, is weight loss. Veganism often means more vegetables and high fibre foods, things that are usually the basis of diets that aim to promote weight loss.
But what does a healthy vegan diet look like? After all, junk food vegans exist; vegans can eat foods that are technically completely free of animal products, but these foods can still be highly processed and high in things like salt and preservatives. Curving junk food and focusing on whole foods have proven to correlate with weight loss. What’s that exactly?
Below, we’ll dissect what it means to eat a healthy vegan diet that will coincidentally help you shed some unwanted pounds.
What is a Healthy Vegan Diet?
Vegans come in all shapes and forms, which means that even though vegans all have the same aim—that is, to eliminate animal products from their diet completely—how they approach their vegan diet may differ.
Veganism is more accessible than ever before. Many companies offer faux meat, non-dairy cheeses, and more. Though more natural versions of these things exist (for example, dairy-free, plant-based cheeses from Vancouver-based company Blue Heron uses wholly natural ingredients), these products are often highly processed. Take Oreos: these beloved cookies may be fully vegan, but there’s definitely nothing natural about them
Even fast food companies like KFC and Burger King have made the jump to plant-based, utilizing Beyond Meat vegan burger meats, crumbles and sausages. This is, at the end of the day, great news, since it means that veganism is becoming more available and accessible to all people. But it also means that there are fewer reasons for vegans to cook nutritious meals made solely of whole foods.
All of this is to say that just because someone is vegan, it does not necessarily mean that he or she is healthy.
A healthy diet, whether vegan or not, is one that’s composed of whole foods. This means minimally processed fresh fruits, vegetables, proteins, and whole grains. It’s replacing all those quick fixes, however convenient, with food that you make or has been freshly made. Gardein’s black bean burger patties are phenomenal in a pinch, but making your own black bean burger patties actually doesn’t take that much more time.
To eat a healthy vegan diet, aim for one that focuses on fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Can You Lose Weight Going Vegan?
The short answer to whether or not you can lose weight by going vegan is yes, but as we explored above, it comes down to what your vegan diet looks like. This means that while many see an initial weight loss when they adopt a vegan diet, there is no guarantee that you will lose weight.
Studies, thankfully, do support the idea that vegan diets lead to weight loss. A 2016 study from Harvard University shows that, over the course of 18 weeks, vegetarian dieters lost more weight than non-vegetarians, and vegan dieters lost the most weight, losing five pounds more than non-vegetarians. But, again, the vegan diet must be a healthy one that focuses on whole, unprocessed foods.
What Foods Should I Eat to Lose Weight on a Vegan Diet?
When eating a whole food, plant-based diet, weight loss can happen fairly fast, especially if you’re switching from a diet that’s mostly meat and junk food.
High-nutrient foods that are also low in calories—like spinach, kale, mushrooms, tomatoes, berries, apples, beans, peas, lentils, almonds, and tofu—are all great to incorporate into your diet. These high-nutrient, low-calorie foods that are also vegan better allow you to be in a calorie deficit (which we’ll explain below).
How Do I Make Sure I’m Losing Weight on a Vegan Diet?
When it comes to weight loss, how you’re cooking those high-nutrient ingredients is important. Deep-frying, for example, is less healthy and high in calories. Though fats are important for any diet, limiting oil can help aid weight loss. Cooking methods like steaming, braising, baking, roasting, and grilling are great ways to make the most of calorie-dense ingredients.
Meal prepping has proven to be a sure-fire way to not only ensure that you stick to a vegan diet, but it’ll also help stave off those junk food cravings since you’ll always have prepared meals on hand. Here’s how to nail vegan meal planning.
Learning how to read labels properly is a key part of sticking to a vegan diet. Some foods may boast being all natural, but oftentimes, preservatives, sugars, and other ingredients you want to avoid are snuck in.
Finally, it’s important to consider portion size when it comes to weight loss. Eating thousands of calories, even if you’re only eating vegan whole foods, would likely still lead to weight gain. Remember: weight loss is all about calorie deficit, which means that you are consuming fewer calories than you’re using. At the end of the day, your total calories consumed should be lower than the calories you’ve burned.
What Are Some Healthy Vegan Recipes?
Any recipe that highlights whole foods is a great place to start your vegan weight loss journey, but here are some of our favourites!
Mint & Basil Griddled Peach Salad
From BBC Good Food
Utilizing fresh herbs, this refreshing salad perfectly balances the creaminess of avocado, the heartiness of quinoa, and the juiciness of fresh peaches. It’ll be a recipe you’ll want to revisit over and over.
Veggie & Hummus Sandwich
From Eating Well
Who says healthy vegan eating needs to take a lot of time? This Veggie & Hummus Sandwich from Eating Well takes advantage of premade hummus and requires only minutes of prep time. It’s perfect in a pinch!
Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells
From Love & Lemons
Some days, you just need something comforting. Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells is perfect for those rainy days, utilizing vegan spinach “ricotta” that’s actually made of tofu.
Black Bean & Sweet Potato Quesadillas
From Forks Over Knives
Savoury, filling, and protein-packed, these Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadillas from Forks Over Knives make for the perfect weeknight dinner.
From Nora Cooks
Look, lasagna doesn’t have to have meat to be good. There are a number of vegan lasagna recipes out there, but this one from Nora Cooks really is one of the best ones out there. Like the Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells, this vegan lasagna features tofu-cashew ricotta, as well as a marinara made of red lentils. Each serving has 26 grams of protein per serving, keeping you full for longer.
From Feasting at Home
Skip the Indian takeout: this Chickpea Biryani from Feasting at Home is a great way to fill that craving. Another bonus? This recipe is gluten-free.
Sesame Soba Noodles
From Love & Lemons
This recipe from Love & Lemons is another quick weeknight recipe. Soba noodles are a great staple to have as it takes no time to cook, and is an incredibly versatile base. This recipe features a tangy dressing, and you can sub out any of the vegetables in it for your favourites.
Slow Cooker Mediterranean Diet Stew
From Eating Well
The Mediterranean diet is known to be good for your health, and this recipe from Eating Well uses a slow cooker so you can focus on other things instead of standing in front of a stove.
Roasted Cauliflower Tacos
From Minimalist Baker
Tacos should be a part of every dinnertime arsenal. These roasted cauliflower ones are simple to make and will only take you 30 minutes. Paired with a spicy romesco-esque sauce, this recipe will definitely become a weekly dinner.
From BBC Good Food
You can’t go wrong with pasta, and bolognese is a classic. Not only is this recipe quick and healthy, but it’s also satisfying, filling, and chock full of vegetables.
Something to Note…
Healthy weight loss is attainable, but it’s crucial to ensure that you are eating enough to promote healthy bones and muscles. For example, if you work out but fail to eat enough protein, you’re not allowing your muscle tissues to repair and build.
The goal here is not to partake in crash diets; that’s not what veganism is about. Though eating very few calories may lead to weight loss, it’s not sustainable as it will likely lead to binge-eating, and may ultimately damage your body instead. It is possible to lose weight and not put strain on your body, while still maintaining a nutritious and fulfilling diet.
As well, simply eating vegan may not be enough for weight loss. It is just as important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which includes staying active and practicing self care for good mental health.
Losing weight through veganism is totally possible. A vegan diet that limits vegan junk food and focuses on healthy, minimally-processed ingredients has shown to be beneficial in weight loss, as well as weight maintenance. But remember: it’s important to eat enough in order to keep your body healthy and ensure that weight loss can be maintained.
Do you have any tips or recipes for losing weight through veganism? Let us know in the comments section below!