Many cultures have had a plant based diet for centuries, and it has recently come into fashion in other parts of the world including the United States. Many studies have linked an increase in vegetables, fruits, and legumes to a healthier heart, cardiovascular system, and overall higher energy levels.
Of course, there are many factors that go into those studies, but we like applying some of the ideas to help us create a healthier lifestyle.
Can I lose weight eating plant based? Yes, you can lose weight if you switch to a plant based diet. Eating exclusively plant based foods might also help you lose weight while maintaining a healthy balanced diet.
However, true weight loss is only achievable by reducing the number of calories consumed on a daily basis versus the caloric output. So if you are still eating increased calories of plant based foods than you will not lose any weight.
Furthermore, switching might bring more benefits than just losing weight. Many people who switch to a plant based diet report having more energy from the increased amounts of essential vitamins and minerals found in plants.
If you don’t want to switch to a completely plant based diet, try increasing the total amount of plant based foods and decreasing the amount of non-plant based foods to see how you feel. In general, it takes time to transition to a plant based diet, so we recommend starting with 5 servings of vegetables each day and gradually transition upwards.
This article discusses plant based diets and losing weight. Answered below are frequently asked questions about weight loss eating a plant based diet.
Before beginning any weight loss regimen or shift in diet, it is recommended to discuss with a dietician or doctor. A professional physician will better understand your specific case and be able to give your precise feedback.
What is the weight that can be lost when on a plant-based diet?
Switching to a whole-food, plant-based diet can result in safely losing excess weight each week. Some people have reported losing much more weight, but there can be other contributing factors such as avoiding overeating of simple carbohydrates and sugars.
We believe you can lose substantial weight if you maintain a plant based diet, without sacrificing any essential nutrients.
For example, a few studies have shown that people who followed a plant-based diet lost more weight than omnivores in similar calorie cutting diets. The results may vary, but we think calorie cutting was the biggest component to weight loss, versus having one diet be plant based.
Plant-based diets are high in fiber, which helps you feel full for longer without adding calories. Aim for 40 grams of fiber each day, which is easy to achieve if you center the plate with veggies, fruits, whole grains, and legumes.
Average weight loss on plant-based diet
People who switch to a plant based diet can lose substantial weight. In a study researchers found that participants put on a plant based diet for a month lost on average 10 pounds compare to 7.5 pounds for omnivore dieters.
There are many factors that go into studies like these and we recommend aiming for a healthy weight loss of 1 pound per week. This is definitely achievable on a plant based diet.
Why can’t I lose weight on a plant-based diet?
A whole food plant-based diet can help you lose weight safely, but if you’re not experiencing results, there might be a few reasons related to the new food choices.
Maybe you continue to eat large amounts of oils, dressings, or sugars? Or perhaps you are overeating as you get hungry more often throughout the day?
Here are some other ideas to consider if you aren’t losing weight on a plant based diet.
Some primary reasons why you are not losing weight:
Eating too much oils, dressings, or sugars
Excess oil may be the culprit if the scale isn’t moving or you are gaining weight on a plant based diet. While fats, like oils, are essential, it might be possible that you are eating more fat than you previously had due to taste preferences or meal choices.
For example an appetizer of bread and olive oil might be a tasty plant-based treat, but eating too many slices can add lots of simple carbs and excess fat calories without the necessary nutrition for sustenance.
Increased sugar intake might also be to blame as sweetened foods are often plant based and “fit” the diet. Dressings and sauces might also fall into this category too as they can secretly have lots of added sugar.
Take a closer look at added sugars in condiments, sauces, and dressings you might be eating on a regular basis. Along with oils, these are all calorie dense foods with fewer nutrients than vegetables, fruits, or nuts.
Eating these might also give you a sensation of hunger more quickly than eating a plate full of nutrient dense vegetables and leafy greens.
Increase leafy greens and vegetables in your diet
Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and swiss chard are low in calories and abundant in nutrients. In some ways they are the macronutrient opposite to oils, dressings, and sugars.
These leafy greens are also high in fiber, which aids in the slow digestion of food and the absorption of nutrients. They can leave you feeling full for longer since they physically take up room in your stomach and digestive tract causing a sensation of fullness.
In our experience, we’re usually fuller longer after eating a tasty salad full of greens and vegetables. We do enjoy adding a little oil or dressing, but always keep it on the side so we can measure for ourselves, especially if it is not homemade and we don’t know what is in it.
Dining out too frequently
Most restaurants, including vegan or plant based restaurants use varying amounts of salt, sugar, and oil in their preparation.
To put it another way, restaurant meals tend to be higher in calories and fat than those prepared at home, especially fried and sweetened foods.
Increased alcohol consumption
Alcohol adds calories no matter what type of beverage. Beer is substantially heavier than wine, and both have more calories than hard alcohols like vodka, whisky or tequila.
If you enjoy an adult beverage, make sure you consume in moderation, both for the alcohol as well as the calories!
Why am I gaining weight on a plant-based diet?
Many vegan alternatives (quinoa, lentils and beans) have more carbohydrates than protein. If you are simply eating more calories than you were before, you might be gaining weight from the excess caloric consumption.
There are many reasons why you could be gaining weight on a plant based diet. Consider some of the following reasons:
- Eating lots of processed foods that contain more salts, fats, or sugars. Junk food is still junk food, even if it is plant based.
- Overeating certain foods and total calorie intake is higher than it was previously. Often plant based foods are marketed as “healthier,” so we are less restrictive with eating.
- Aren’t eating enough! Eating too little can cause metabolism to process foods differently and the body might think it is preparing for upcoming starvation.
- Consuming “empty” calories that are less nutritious like juices, smoothies, vegan lates, or alcohol. These can add hundreds of calories to daily totals and contribute to weight gain.
- Indulging in far too many vegan desserts!
- Aren’t getting enough essential nutrients. Switching diets can often create specific deficiencies as people switch singular items that don’t have the same nutritional profile.
- Hidden food sensitivities. Gluten, soy, maize, tomatoes, nuts, and seeds are all frequent dietary sensitivity that can cause bloating or hormonal weight gain.
- Eating foods that are affecting your body chemistry differently and potentially causing hormonal imbalances. Eating too much soy has been linked to higher levels of estrogen in all people and can be affecting you
- Lack of healthy gut flora, you might be deficient of the proper good bacteria your body needs to break down plant foods. It takes time to transition to plant based diet, so allow your body time to culture the necessary beneficial bacteria.
How do you lose belly fat on a plant-base diet?
You can lose belly fat by restricting calories in your diet, and planning a proper balance diet consisting of wholesome plant based foods.
We feel that increasing the consumption of these whole foods in conjunction with less caloric intake will help you lose belly fat.
Here are some of our favorite recommendations for a plant based diet:
- Veggies: kale, Swiss chard, spinach, collard greens, asparagus, sweet potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers
- Whole grains: quinoa, brown rice, farro, whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat bread
- Fruits: avocado, blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, grapes, apples, bananas, oranges, grapefruit
- Nuts: walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, cashews
- Beans: lentils, black, red, split peas, pinto, black-eyed, fav and lima
- Seeds: flaxseed, hemp seeds, chia seeds
What to restrict or avoid?
- Processed animal meats
- All animal products
- Refined grains
- Sweetened beverages
- Fried foods
Weight Loss and Plant Based Diet: Conclusion
It is possible to lose significant weight on a plant based diet without sacrificing your health. However, weight loss centers around total intake versus daily output, so if you are eating more than you burn on a daily basis then you will not lose weight.
Plants offer the full range of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, and in our opinion are often preferable to non-plant based options. You can obtain all the necessary macro- and micronutrients needed from plant foods, however a regimented diet must be followed in order to stay in balance with your body’s needs.
If you switch to a plant based diet make sure you aren’t adding lots of calorie dense, but nutrient poor foods like oils, dressings, sugars, or alcohol. No matter if it is plant based or not, junk food is still unhealthy and it is important to minimize fried and overly sweetened foods.
It is very possible to lose weight from eating a plant based diet, but it starts with minimizing calorie input versus energy output. In fact, many people report feeling better and having higher energy levels after switching to a plant based diet.