According to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, individuals who follow a vegan diet for approximately 18 weeks shed, on average, four pounds more than those who follow animal-based diets. While this fact is great for anyone looking to lose weight, conversion to a plant-based regimen and weight loss are not always synonymous.
Many who switch to a vegan diet for weight-loss reasons often find themselves filling the meatless void with an array of plant-based processed food. Luckily, a veg diet is so much more than packaged food that just happens to be animal-free, especially for those looking to lose weight. By following these six tips, you’ll fit into your favorite pair of jeans in no time, all while doing good for animals and the environment.
1. Review the vegan food pyramid
The foundation of the vegan food pyramid is greens and vegetables followed by fruit and whole grains. This is an updated version of MyPyramid—the food guide that replaced the Food Guide Pyramid in 2005—which emphasized grains, bread, cereal, and pasta as the foundation of a good nutritional regimen. Although the vegan food pyramid serves as a guide, caloric intake and portion control are key factors for any healthy weight-loss program.
2. Eat greens
The versatility of spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, and zucchini makes dark leafy greens a wonderful addition to any meal. These foods are ideal for weight loss because they are the “most nutrient-dense healthy items” and “are extremely low in calorie and high in fiber,” says Lisa Odenweller, CEO of Santa Monica-based superfood café Beaming. The high-fiber content keeps you satiated throughout the day while helping you avoid unhealthy snacking. Other high-fiber options include fruit (be mindful of the sugar content) and raw tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, and cashews), which are packed with protein and fiber and can help lower cholesterol.
3. Up your protein
Consumption of protein-rich food is vital in many weight-loss programs because protein fills you up faster; thus, you need less food to be satisfied. According to Stephanie Goldfinger of vegetarian website Cooking for Luv, proteins are available in many forms, which makes them convenient to incorporate into meals because they can be eaten raw or cooked quickly. Protein powders are ideal for a grab-and-go breakfast or mid-day smoothie, while other plant-based proteins such as tempeh, beans, lentils, quinoa, and oats are versatile and can serve as the main component of a veggie burrito, salad, or stir-fry.
4. Limit processed soy
Soy products can be the easiest and most convenient “go-to” items when transitioning to a vegan diet. Soy isn’t necessarily unhealthy, but it is imperative that attention be paid to the amount of processed products in a meal plan. For instance, a tofu scramble for breakfast, soy veggie burger for lunch, and pad Thai with tofu for dinner is excessive. Instead, choose vegan cheese made with nuts, a black bean burger, or a pad Thai with vegetables and tempeh for whole-food versions of your favorite foods.
5. Prepare healthy meals
Meal planning is a vital component to ensure proper nutrition and weight loss, and, thankfully, supermarkets now sell pre-packaged vegetables that are table-ready in minutes. Examples of fast-and-easy dishes include quinoa bowls with tempeh; a mixed stir-fry blend of broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms; eggplant cutlets with marinara sauce, vegan cheese, and basil; and soba noodles with greens. If these meals are beyond your scope, meal delivery services such as HelloFresh and meal-planning services such as PlateJoy provide easy-to-follow recipes that are pre-measured and dietitian-approved.
6. Get exercise and stay hydrated
Healthy meals, water, and exercise are key components for any successful weight-loss program. People should engage in 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly in order to burn calories and lose weight. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a form of cardiovascular interval training focusing on alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. To achieve maximum results, HIIT should be practiced three times a week and supplemented with jogging or hiking, says Jorge Cruise, trainer and author of Tiny and Full. And don’t forget to stay hydrated! Drinking a minimum of 64 ounces of water daily keeps your body cleansed, which improves fitness and overall health.
Jarone Ashkenazi is a freelance writer who covers relationships, food, and sports.