Plant-based diets have never been more popular or easier than they are today– but education around nutrition is still the key to maximizing your diet and results when trying to lose weight.
Today we’re going to look at how to lose weight on a plant based diet, what it takes, and the keys to boosting your weight loss results from eating a plant-based meals.
Stick with us to learn how to turn your plant based diet up a notch and enjoy the benefits of a diet that celebrates plant foods!
Calories Are Still Important
The first place to start when trying to lose weight is understanding calories.
They’re a measure of energy and not something to be scared of. The amount of calories you consume is just a measure of the energy value of your food throughout the day.
Excess energy is stored as fat for use later – so you want to use that fat to fuel your body. That’s how weight loss happens. However, this means eating less energy than you use on a daily/weekly basis, which means eating fewer calories than your ‘maintenance’ amount (also known as TDEE).
Here’s a quick rule of thumb for dieting:
- Calories (energy balance) determine changes in your weight
- Nutrient choice and lifestyle determine health and what your weight is made of.
This applies to every diet, and plant-based diets are no exception. Fortunately, they’re really strong on the latter: plant-based diets tend to be really strong in nutrient density because fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamins and minerals.
The calorie balance, however, is still something to pay attention to. You don’t just lose weight by eating a plant-based diet – it’s not that simple. You still need to follow the energy balance that you’d need in any other diet.
A whole-food plant-based diet can definitely help with your calorie intake, however, since whole plant foods tend to be lower in calories. However, there are plenty of vegan junk foods and you still need to watch out for eating more calories than you’re using.
Exercise and mindful calorie consumption are all it takes to lose weight – even on a plant-based diet. You can lose weight by eating less than you use, which gives you two options:
- Eat less: consume less calories by changing food choices and quantities
- Move more: increased activity – either casual or structured exercise – increases calorie use
Obviously, the best solution is both. Increasing activity levels helps you control your body composition and improve health, while adjusting your food choices and quantities can help to control your weight.
Remember not to go to extremes with both, however: eating very little and being very active is unhealthy. Fuel the body, and remember that how much you should eat is always relative to how much energy you’re using. Healthy weight loss comes from a modest weekly calorie deficit!
Macronutrients Determine Your Body Composition
Prioritize your Proteins
Proteins are the building blocks of tissues in the body, especially muscles, bones, and connective tissues. This nutrient group is the most metabolically-active, and is most closely associated with weight loss and sating hunger.
Protein should be a priority in your diet for both these reasons: healthy tissue repair and regular metabolic wellbeing. These two add up in terms of fat loss, but also muscle gain and long-term weight control.
A whole-food plant-based diet won’t give you problems with protein if you follow the simple rules: eat from a variety of protein sources. Amino acids can be limited in individual plant foods but, when combined, they’re pretty effective for a complete amino acid.
The result of this is an overall high-quality diet with plenty of protein and vitamins/minerals. This is going to be a strong theme!
Choose Good Carbohydrates
Diets for vegans such and vegetarians like plant-based diets do carbs well, because all the best carbohydrates are already plant-based. Foods like whole grains and beans/legumes are amazing nutrition sources with top quality fiber which helps you feel full throughout the day. They are also loaded with vitamins and mineral contents which also play an important role when It comes to weight loss.
Developing good carb habits is easy with a plant-based diet if you focus on whole foods. These foods offer a staple approach to dieting for fat loss since they tend to be nutrient-dense but calorie-sparse. The result is good food, feeling full, and being able to lose weight.
Obviously, if you’re over-eating, you’re still going to gain weight or struggle to lose it. Carbs are important – especially if you’re exercising a lot – so keep your eye on them. Smart choices are the place to start!
Quality Fats for Health
Healthy dietary fats are not as important as protein, and you won’t be eating as many of them as carbohydrates. They’re more limited in plant sed diets, though the most popular kinds – such as coconut and avocado, nuts, and seeds – are more common.
These are the main food sources we recommend when focusing on your nutrition and weight loss. These whole-food plant-based fats are high quality and tend to help with preventing heart disease and maximizing your overall health. The one we’ve not mentioned yet, olive oil, should also be mentioned since it’s heart-healthy and provides great polyunsaturated fats, which also help you lose weight.
Micronutrients are Key for Health and Well-being
Micronutrients are the ones you probably don’t hear about – they’re not quite as important as your macronutrients on a day-to-day basis. However, they include the major categories of vitamins and minerals which are important for health and wellbeing.
These aren’t as closely tied to weight loss as macronutrients like protein, but they can be relevant. Mostly, the game is to avoid deficiency: you want to make sure you have plenty of the key nutrients in your diet.
This brings us on to one of the most important factors in a plant-based diet: variety. You need to consume a wide variety of plant-based foods because they’re going to need to overlap to provide a complete nutritional profile.
You want to make sure you’re not missing out on any of the nutrients that omnivores get from animal products, which means being deliberate about food choices. Compounds like iron and vitamin D should also be sought out for their health benefits.
Micronutrients are great for health and some can prevent stalling when trying to lose weight, but these are mostly simple to avoid with effective variety in your food choices. Make sure you’re not undereating, get plenty of variety, and prioritize whole grains/legumes when you’re eating carbs.
Specific Plant-Based Practices and Challenges
Always Focus on Variety!
If it’s not been made clear above, variety is the key to the best plant-based diet. It offers solutions to many of the problems plant-based diets face, and it is great for your relationship with food and cooking!
Effective pre-planning and a wide variety of staple meals will provide the variety of nutrients you need for a better plant-based diet.
Fiber is Crucially Important
Getting plenty of fiber is one of the benefits of plant-based diets and – unless your doctor is telling you that you need to consume less – you’re probably going to benefit from fiber. It’s found in many plant-based foods and offers profound health benefits from the metabolism to the digestive system.
Focusing on whole foods – and variety – will do most of this for you. Fiber from a plant-based diet will also help you feel full for longer, which helps prevent unnecessary snacking throughout the day making it one of many reasons you can lose weight and stay healthy.
Good quality vegan supplements are going to be really useful for covering weaker points in a plant-based diet. They can’t fix a bad diet, but they can help a good one get better. Especially if you’re focusing on the things that you’re going to need for health and metabolism.
Crucial focuses should be things you might be lower in that are primarily found in animal products:
- Vitamin D (everyone should be taking vitamin
- D, really)Vitamin B (always useful)
- Heme iron (if you can find a vegan version)
- Iodine (usually found in seafood or seaweed)
These are some of the most important supplements, and can be added to your diet. You can’t rely on them to cover holes in your diet, but they can be really useful and will help you make sure you’re not overlooking any crucial components.
Adding fiber supplements with low carbs can also be a great way to stay full longer and suppress craving throughout the day. The result is eating fewer calories and follow through with your diet!
Losing weight on a plant-based diet is the same as any other diet, but it does come with unique perks and drawbacks. These don’t stop you losing weight – they just take a little forward-thinking.
Effective calorie control is easy if you stick to whole plant-based foods. Avoiding junk alone will do a ton of the work for you, and after that, it’s all about high-quality food choices and getting a good variety in your diet.
You can add nutritional supplementation if you want to get the most out of your plant based diet outside of whole foods, but the fundamentals alone will do tons of work for you. Keep your diet varied, make sure you enjoy it and can stick to it, and always build one good habit at a time!