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Countless people have found life-changing weight loss can be achieved sustainably and healthily on a plant-based diet. Some of their stories are so powerful, they will move you to tears. These incredible transformations from debilitating sickness to glowing health show just what can be achieved, and should give hope and inspiration to others going through similarly difficult times.
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 junk food like deep fried ‘chicken’ or indulgent cakes. All of these are vegan, but not all are healthy.
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, obesity, 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 – better sleep, clearer skin and improved digestion are all commonly reported.
Can Being Vegan Help With Weight Loss?
Absolutely it can. Studies show that vegetarians tend to be slimmer than meat-eaters, while vegans appear to have the lowest Body Mass Index of all. One review of the scientific evidence concluded: “Based on the available evidence, however, PBDs [plant-based diets] should be considered a viable option for patients who are interested in losing weight and improving dietary quality consistent with chronic disease prevention and treatment.”
A study recently 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?
Rapid weight loss is not always healthy but vegans wishing to see results quicker might like to consider the following:
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 for sustainable and healthful weight loss. 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. Win-win.
Cutting Out Added Oil
Oil is fat and has the highest calorie density of any food. Adding fat to a meal always raises the overall calorie density so consider alternative ways to prepare your meal. Instead of roasting potatoes, for example, consider baking them. Instead of adding an oil-based dressing to salads, consider a squeeze of lemon.
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, so look out products made with white flour – such as breads, bagels, pretzels, and pasta – and wherever possible choose the unrefined wholegrain versions.
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 cereal 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 diet. The less we consume the better.
Cut Out Vegan Junk 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. Weight loss is easiest and healthiest with a high-fiber whole food plant-based diet.
Weight loss can often be more rapid if we are able to increase our physical activity. That could be anything from dancing to rugby to wheelchair basketball. Anything that elevates your heart rate can help.
How Much Weight Can You Lose On A Vegan Diet?
There is no equation when it comes to weight loss. No one can say: if you do x and y you will lose a stone in weight. But, in the plant-based diet study cited above, participants did lose an average of 14 pounds over 16 weeks while still eating the same portion sizes as before. Of course, this is an average and some people would have lost less weight, others more. And you are different to all of them. And it is possible to lose more by adding in exercise, reducing the portions or sticking with the program beyond 16 weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions
We know you have questions! Let’s start with these …
Will I Feel Hungry?
By choosing foods that fill you up without the added calories, you shouldn’t feel hunger. When considering your plate, load up with vegetables, fruits, potatoes, beans and rice, and keep foods with higher calorie density to a minimum.
Will I Spend Lots Of Money?
You shouldn’t. Research commissioned by Veganuary in the UK found that plant-based meals eaten at home cost around 40 percent less than meat/fish-based meals.
Will I Eat Just Veggies And Fruits?
No! It’s not just plates of salads and fruits. You’ll make fresh soups, smoothies and stews, bean burgers and curries, risottos, falafel, burritos, pancakes and hundreds of other things you love – all just made plant-based.
Will I Need To Learn How To Cook?
That would be helpful but there are many recipes that require very little culinary skill and that can be made quickly. Search out one-pot meals for simplicity.
Vegan Grocery List For Weight Loss
- Vegetables. There are 300,000 edible plants in the world. Load up with as many as you can find! Asparagus, beets, calabrese, daikon, eggplant, fennel, ginger, heart of palm, iceberg lettuce, Jerusalem artichoke, kale, leeks, mangetout, nori, okra, plantain … you get the picture.
- Fruits. And it’s the same with fruits. Instead of reaching for the usual ones that tend to sit uneaten in the fruit bowl, pick up something new. They don’t have to be fresh. Frozen berries make great smoothies, and can be defrosted and teamed with vegan apple pancakes or yogurts.
- Legumes. Anything from fresh French beans to canned garbanzo beans to dried lentils, there is a wealth of tasty, nutritious options to try. They’re great to add to soups, salads, curries and bakes. And don’t forget soy products – soy is a bean so is full of protein and very versatile, Try tofu, tempeh, edamame beans, soy milk and soy yogurt.
- Grains. Rice is nice, but have you tried couscous, quinoa, freekeh, millet and farro? And don’t forget oats which make a nutritious and filling breakfast. Plus there are lots of products made from grains like wholegrain bread and pasta.
- Herbs and spices are our friends. Full of flavour, they can turn a Monday night super-basic dish into a real crowd-pleaser.
- Vegetable stock. Really adds depth of flavour to dishes.
- Healthy fats. We need some fat in our diets so choose healthy fats like avocados, seeds, nuts and nut butters but use them in moderation if weight loss is your ultimate aim.
7-day Vegan Diet Plan For Weight Loss Fast
Breakfast: Oatmeal with fresh fruit
Lunch: Baked sweet potato with hummus and fresh vegetables
Dinner: Bean burger with salad
Breakfast: Half an avocado on wholegrain toast with tomatoes
Lunch: Garbanzo bean salad, loaded with green leaves, salad vegetables and zinged with lemon zest
Dinner: Roasted cauliflower with garlic and pine nuts, and drizzled in tahini, served with a grain
Breakfast: Vegan apple pancakes with berries
Lunch : Mexican quinoa salad
Dinner : Shepherd’s pie, made with brown lentils and topped with sweet potato mash
Breakfast: Oatmeal with fresh fruit
Lunch: Three bean soup with wholegrain bread
Dinner: Falafel with tahini-lime sauce and fresh mixed salad
Breakfast: Smoothie, using up any fruits and vegetables you have, and a tablespoon of nut butter
Lunch: Wholewheat tortilla packed with mashed black beans (seasoned with cumin, salt and lime) and arugula
Dinner: Lentil chilli with wholegrain rice
Breakfast: Peanut butter and banana on toast
Lunch: Miso soup with tofu and scallions
Dinner: Buddha Bowl – your choice of cooked and raw vegetables, tofu, and grains, with a peanut sauce
Breakfast: Tofu scramble made with bell peppers, green onions, tomatoes and herbs
Lunch: Tomato and red lentil soup
Dinner: Thai green curry with tofu and Asian vegetables
Eating a whole food plant-based diet has been shown to help with healthy and sustainable weight loss, while also reducing the risk of the diseases and conditions associated with obesity, such as cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
And it’s not about deprivation! You can enjoy many of your favorite foods made vegan, eat the same portion sizes, and feel full as the weight comes off.Try Vegan