How To Lose Weight On A Vegan Diet? The Ultimate Guide In 2023
Are you considering the switch to a vegan diet for weight loss? It might be worthwhile. Following a plant-based diet for weight loss can have significant results, but only when adhered to properly. Many vegans don’t lose weight at all, often due to some misconceptions about the diet and a lack of understanding and education on how to follow it properly.
Just because something is vegan doesn’t automatically make it healthy. There is a vast difference between a whole food plant-based vegan diet and a bread and pasta vegan diet. While one offers a broad nutrient profile and a higher chance of staying within their daily caloric limits, the other often results in overeating and is at higher risk of nutritional deficiencies (these can be combatted with an excellent vegan multivitamin and some greens powders).
Can You Lose Weight On A Vegan Diet?
People who follow a vegan diet are more likely to lose body weight than those who follow a Western non-vegan diet, but it is not guaranteed. Your previous dietary habits and the changes you make once you switch to veganism play a large part in determining the amount of weight lost (if any).
Many processed vegan foods are just as bad as non-vegan junk food, and swapping one junk-heavy diet for another isn’t going to slim your waistline. If your move to veganism involves a decrease in high-calorie, low-density junk to nutrient-dense foods and high-fiber plant-based foods, then the odds are in your favor. If your move to veganism means cutting out all animal products and sticking to pasta and potatoes, then no.
Recent findings presented at the European Congress on Obesity concluded that “adhering to a vegan diet for at least 12 weeks may result in clinically meaningful weight loss”. The most likely reason for this is a combination of increased fiber intake and reduced fat intake, which lowers daily calorie intake by increasing satiety (the feeling of fullness) and delaying gastric emptying (your food takes longer to leave your stomach).
How To Lose Weight On A Plant-Based Diet
There are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to the best way to lose weight on a vegan diet. It’s easy to think that a vegan diet would be automatically low in calories. Still, some vegan products are very calorie dense or high in refined sugars and oils (think vegan desserts and packaged vegan potato chips and crisps).
Why are they in there? Simply put, they make the food taste better. So how can we make sure we are following a plant-based diet the healthy way? Here are some simple guidelines to follow, which are also relevant if you are wondering how to lose weight on a vegetarian diet.
Maintain A Caloric Deficit
The most important thing to remember is that you need to be in a caloric deficit to not gain weight. If your diet is higher in calories than what you are using, you will put weight on; if it is lower in calories than what you are using, you will lose weight. Or at least that is how it works in theory, but many factors come into play, such as our resting metabolic rate or our lifestyles. On average, 60% – 70% of your calories are used on your resting metabolic rate, 25% on your day-to-day lifestyle (house chores, standing, sitting, etc.), and only about 5% on exercise.
This means that exercise is not the best way to get into a caloric deficit, but diet is.
Eat Plenty Of Fiber
High-fiber foods are usually plant foods such as fruit and vegetables. It helps with feeling full and keeps our bowels regular. Bacteria in our digestive systems turn fiber into short-chain fatty acids which help us to regulate our appetite.
Fiber has no calories and sits in the stomach longer than foods that are low in fiber, which helps you to feel fuller for longer and not overeat. It also can prevent some fats from being digested and instead bind and excrete them, lowering your daily uptake of calories. Twenty-eight grams of fiber per day is recommended, and deficiency is common.
Foods that are high in water content have a similar effect on satiety, as they take longer to chew and eat, which helps to regulate our appetite.
Moderate Sugary Drinks
Fruit juice is delicious, and it is vegan. It is also extremely high in sugar which won’t help you with losing weight. Juicing also removes the fiber component of the fruit, which means a concentrated hit of quickly absorbed sugar, and a possible rise and crash of blood sugar levels.
Fresh fruit juice is fine in moderation, but if you are trying to lose weight, it is better to stick with water and save the fruit for a whole-food snack. As for other flavored beverages, such as soft drinks and sports drinks? Those are empty calories to be avoided entirely.
Be Particular About Your Oils
Oils are very high in calories. Just one tablespoon of coconut oil can have up to 120 calories. It is worthwhile to stop and think before using your oil, “Do I really need this to stir fry my vegetables?” A little water or broth might be just fine to use in most cases.
Oil is usually always present in high amounts in processed vegan treats, too, so check the labels rather than wreaking havoc on your weight loss efforts. Look for the term hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated and avoid products with these terms on the label.
When you do use oil, stick with healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil.
Avoid Refined Sugar
Another sneaky addition to packaged vegan treats is refined or added sugar. While naturally occurring sugars are okay as part of the whole high-fiber fruit, refined sugar just adds empty calories. Check your labels, and if you are feeling snacky, maybe grab some whole fruit instead.
Supplement With Vegan Fat Burners
Vegan fat burners are built to suppress appetite and increase metabolism using thermogenesis. This means burning more calories during that 60 – 70% of metabolic resting time and also during your workout, making it more likely that you will achieve a caloric deficit. Check out our comprehensive review of the best vegan fat burners on the market.
How Long Does It Take To Lose Weight On A Vegan Diet?
Studies have shown that some participants on vegan diets lost up to 7.5% of their body weight after six months, with improvements in body mass index, total cholesterol, and low-density lipoproteins or LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). The level of weight loss and the time it takes to lose weight will vary greatly depending on what you were eating before implementing the vegan diet and how much of a caloric deficit you are in and able to maintain. Still, a safe and healthy level is to aim for 1-2 pounds per week.
Vegan Diet Meal Plan Promotes Weight Loss
A vegan diet meal plan that promotes weight loss should focus on maintaining a caloric deficit first and foremost. This is best done by eating foods in their whole, unprocessed form (whole foods) and avoiding highly processed foods with too much sugar and oil.
A vegan diet meal plan with these areas of focus can also help with compliance, as you won’t be feeling hungry all the time, as fiber is very filling. If your shopping list seems a little boring and bland, add flavor using lots of herbs and spices, such as paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dried herbs, spice blends, or vegetable stocks. Vegan doesn’t have to be boring, and while it can take some planning and preparation, there are plenty of delicious vegan foods and dishes that even the meat eaters in your life might enjoy.
Make sure your meals include lots of fiber, minimal oils, and good quality vegan protein like beans and legumes. A balance of these things will likely keep you fuller for longer and prevent overeating afterward.
It is possible to lose weight quickly on a vegan diet if you are switching from a high-calorie, highly-processed western food diet to a whole-food plant-based diet. However, if you are overeating and ingesting more calories than you are using, regardless of what it is, you are probably going to experience weight gain.
The key to a healthy vegan diet to promote weight loss is to lower your caloric intake, stick to high-fiber whole foods, and avoid processed food and drink that may be high in refined sugar and oil; a whole lot of calories with not a whole lot of nutrition.
+ 7 sources
Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here
- McCall, B. (2022). Vegan Diet Helps Shed Pounds but Doesn’t Dint Diabetes. [online] Medscape. Available at: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/973575?reg=1#vp_1
- Garnet Health. (2016). Basal Metabolic Rate Calculator. [online] Available at: https://www.garnethealth.org/news/basal-metabolic-rate-calculator#:~:text=Your%20BMR%20defines%20your%20basal,The%20beating%20of%20our%20heart
- Cani, P.D., Joly, E., Horsmans, Y. and Delzenne, N.M. (2005). Oligofructose promotes satiety in healthy human: a pilot study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, [online] 60(5), pp.567–572. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602350.
- Benini, L., Castellani, G., Brighenti, F., Heaton, K.W., Brentegani, M.T., Casiraghi, M.C., Sembenini, C., Pellegrini, N., Fioretta, A. and Minniti, G. (1995). Gastric emptying of a solid meal is accelerated by the removal of dietary fibre naturally present in food. Gut, [online] 36(6), pp.825–830. doi:10.1136/gut.36.6.825.
- Usda.gov. (2023). AskUSDA. [online] Available at: https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/How-much-dietary-fiber-should-I-eat
- Spetter, M.S., Mars, M., Viergever, M.A., de Graaf, C. and Smeets, P.A.M. (2014). Taste matters – effects of bypassing oral stimulation on hormone and appetite responses. Physiology & Behavior, [online] 137, pp.9–17. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.06.021.
- Najjar and Feresin (2019). Plant-Based Diets in the Reduction of Body Fat: Physiological Effects and Biochemical Insights. Nutrients, [online] 11(11), p.2712. doi:10.3390/nu11112712.