Everyone has their own reasons for going vegan. Maybe you’re trying to cut down on your cholesterol, you want to protect the environment from the damage of the animal product industry, or you want a diet that doesn’t harm any animals in the process. Regardless of the reason, it becomes clear in a hurry that vegan foods aren’t always healthy foods.
There are plenty of vegan cakes, cookies, and deep-fried foods that can turn what sounded like a healthy diet into an adventure in waist expansion. In fact, many people find it difficult to lose weight while eating vegan because a key go-to for weight loss is lean proteins, and the most well-known sources for them are animal products.
You don’t have to choose between a vegan lifestyle and a healthy weight. Use these tips to lose weight on a vegan diet in a healthy, long-lasting way.
[Editor's Note: Before starting a new diet regime you should consult a qualified health professional].
Establish Your Starting Point and Your Goals
Whenever setting goals in life it's wise to determine your current position first and mapping out a realistic plan for achieving those goals. When it comes to weight loss this can be the difference between success and failure.
Determine Your Initial Weight and Body Fat
Start out by weighing yourself on a set of scales that you can always access (as there is often variability between machines). If you can, buy yourself a set that also measures body fat, muscle density and hydration (such as the RENPHO Smart Scales, available from Amazon).
Once you have measured yourself write it down and keep track of it (if you are using a smart scale, the data will be stored in the app).
As an indicator you can also determine your BMI, which the NHS uses as an indicator of healthy weight. Click here to learn how to calculate your BMI.
Work Out How Many Calories You Need
In order to lose weight you need to be in a 'calorie deficit'. This can only be achieved by consuming fewer calories than your body needs. So, how do you work that out? Click here to use our free calorie intake calculator.
Once you know how many calories your body needs to maintain its weight you will also know how to lose weight - by eating fewer calories than your body needs, however, it's important not to eat too few calories otherwise you will slow your metabolism down too much and you'll start to get increased cravings.
Avoid the Guesswork
A top challenge for vegans is that they struggle to think of foods that are vegan, nutritionally-balanced, and low-calorie. Sometimes you just don’t have the energy.
A meal replacement shake should be your go-to on those busy days when food preparation takes a back seat. This particular shake is backed with the nutrients you need including ever-elusive protein. It’s an easy thing to grab in between grocery trips or when you simply don’t have time to find and prepared a weight loss recipe.
Build Your Body
After going through all the work to lose weight, you want your results to last. You also don’t want to get partway to your goal and become unable to lose more weight. Part of the reason so many people plateau too soon or regain the weight they lose is that their metabolism drops when they lose weight.
When your body weighs less, it takes less energy (or fewer calories) to maintain its essential functions. Most people also lose muscle when they lose fat because they don’t have enough calorie intake to support that muscle mass. Muscle tissue burns calories even while resting, so the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will be.
What does all this mean for you? It means you can improve your weight loss success if you build muscle in the process. It’s one of the top ways to boost your metabolism so incorporate weight training workouts into your routine.
Boost Your Protein
Speaking of building muscle, your body can’t build muscle without the ingredients for new muscle tissue. Those ingredients are the amino acids from the protein you eat, so eating enough protein is critical for maintaining and building muscle.
In general, each day, aim for at least one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. If you weigh 150 pounds, for example, eat 150 grams of protein per day.
Of course, everyone thinks of lean protein as a challenging nutrient to find in a vegan diet, though there are more options than you might realise. Tofu, beans, lentils, quinoa, seitan, and pea protein are all terrific options. Plus supermarket shelves now feature plenty of vegan meat-replacements that are high in protein.
Set Up Preparation Sessions
While there are more options for weight loss-friendly vegan foods than most people realise, many of those foods require preparation. When you’re balancing work, family, and all the other chaos of daily life, you don’t always have half an hour to prepare a healthy snack or full meal.
That’s why food prepping is critical for vegans who want to lose weight. Set aside time each week to cook and package plenty of healthy foods you can grab from the fridge or toss into the oven when you need them. To support your metabolism while keeping you feeling full, go for low-calorie, high-protein vegan snacks.
Focus on Fibre
Fibre is one of the most crucial nutrients for anyone who wants to lose weight, including vegans. Not only is it a nutrient many of us don’t get enough of in our usual diets, but it makes you feel full so it’s easier to eat less.
Here’s a happy coincidence: many of those high-protein vegan foods we mentioned above are also high in fibre. Beans and lentils should become your best friends. Many types of produce are also high in fibre, especially leafy greens and fruits. These should become a staple of your diet.
Get Creative in the Kitchen
At first glance, losing weight on a vegan diet sounds difficult, but that’s only because most people don’t know about the many available options. Many of us get stuck in a “recipe rut” cooking the same few dishes over and over, and those staples in your routine might not give you what you need to lose weight.
If that’s true for you, have fun discovering new recipes. Specifically, look for healthy vegan recipes or vegan recipes for weight loss. Enjoy experimenting with these new recipes and even make it a fun activity for the family.
Read Up on Nutrient Density
While choosing foods, a top factor for anyone to consider while losing weight is nutrient density. You want foods that pack the greatest amount of nutrients into the lowest number of calories. This way, you’re giving your body what it needs to support day-to-day health while lowering your calorie intake.
Here’s an easy trick for choosing produce: the richer and deeper the colour, the more nutrients it has. Kale and red peppers, for instance, are incredibly nutritious while iceberg lettuce and celery contain few nutrients.
Keep in mind that this can be challenging for proteins because many protein-rich vegan foods, like nuts and avocados, are high in calories. Sprinkle those into your diet on occasion but focus more on beans and legumes.
Get to Know Your Triggers
Losing weight isn’t rocket science – in broad strokes, we know we have to eat fewer calories than we burn. Much of the struggle comes down to overpowering our old habits and cravings.
Do some self-assessing and find out what situations tend to pique your cravings. You might crave unhealthy food more often when you drink alcohol, for example. Maybe there are certain restaurants where you just can’t resist ordering a high-calorie dish or there are particular people that make you crave unhealthy foods.
You don’t need to cut out those people or circumstances forever, but it may be best to avoid them during the early stages of your weight loss. You’re still trying to get the swing of things and struggling with cravings at that stage. Wait until you’re more ingrained into your new, healthier lifestyle and it will be easier to say “no” in those tempting situations.
Follow a Guided Fitness Programme
Losing weight isn’t just about slimming down your waistline. It’s about giving your body the gift of health, and that requires a balance between nutrition and fitness.
For many, the hardest part is knowing how to get started. That’s why it can help to try a guided fitness and nutrition programme designed specifically for vegans who want to lose weight.
It takes away all the guesswork so all you have to do is follow the programme and you’ll be on the right track. By the end of the programme, you’ll have learned the essential skills you need to keep it going until you hit your weight loss goal.
Many weight loss endeavours end in the first few weeks, and it’s no wonder why. At first, you may feel very deprived because you’re not giving in to your cravings and you’re eating less than you’re used to. You start thinking, “There’s no way I can do this for months or years,” and you fall off the wagon.
Here’s the good news: after the initial period, your body will adjust and it will get easier. When you get into the habit of eating healthier, your tastes change and your body begins craving healthy foods instead of unhealthy foods. If you’re already living a vegan lifestyle, chances are that you experienced this when you transitioned to a vegan diet.
The same goes for hunger, but it’s a different process. Our stomachs can expand greatly to fit larger amounts of food than we need. This happens because the muscle around our stomachs react when our stomachs are getting full, making room for expansion.
Researchers believe that as you lose weight, that reflexive relaxation happens less and less. When your stomach doesn’t have room to expand, you feel full after smaller amounts of food. When times get tough, remind yourself that if you just stick with it, this feeling too shall pass.
Losing Weight on a Vegan Diet
Living a vegan lifestyle and losing weight each carries benefits for your health, so when you combine them, it’s a recipe for a longer life with fewer health hurdles. You just have to get over that initial hurdle of losing weight and getting into the routine of a healthier vegan diet.
The tips above will help you get started, keep the streak going, and maintain your weight loss after you reach your goal weight. It all comes down to empowering yourself with the right knowledge and the right tools.
To help you get used to eating healthy vegan recipes we have developed over 100 delicious and healthy vegan recipes, that you can download today.