If you're trying to lose weight, a vegan diet is a healthy way to go. Not only can it help you drop those unwanted pounds, but it may also help improve your overall health by filling your diet with nutrient-dense foods. On a vegan diet, you'll be eating all plant foods and omitting animal foods and any foods containing animal products, such as milk and honey. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
It Starts With Calories
Even if all your calories are coming from healthy plant foods, if you're eating too many calories you won't lose weight. Determining calorie needs for weight loss requires some work.
First, you need to estimate how many calories you currently consume every day. To lose 1 pound a week, subtract 500 calories from your usual daily calorie intake; to lose 2 pounds a week, subtract 1,000 calories from your daily intake. Continue to monitor and track your calorie intake to help you stay on target.
Weight-loss calories usually range from 1,200 to 1,800 per day, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, depending on gender, body size and activity.
Fill Your Diet With the Right Foods
For weight loss, the vegan diet is filled with plant foods that are not only low in calories but also high in fiber, which helps you feel full longer.
Good foods to include on your vegan weight-loss diet include whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, quinoa and oats; legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and peas; and vegetables and fruit.
To limit your intake of empty calories, keep your intake of vegan treats such as rice milk ice cream or vegan cakes and cookies to less than 100 calories a day, suggests the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
Nutrients of Concern
When on a vegan diet for weight loss, it's important that you eat mostly whole foods and not processed foods to make sure you're getting all the nutrients your body needs for good health. Nutrients of special concern for vegans include calcium, iron, vitamin D and vitamin B-12.
To help meet your needs, include plant milks fortified with calcium and vitamin D, and eat leafy greens for iron and calcium. Legumes are also a good source of iron.
Vitamin B-12 is found primarily in animal foods, and unless a food is fortified with the vitamin or you're taking nutritional yeast, you may need to take a vitamin B-12 supplement while on your vegan weight-loss diet.
Sample Weight-Loss Plan
A healthy and balanced vegan breakfast might include 1 cup of cooked oatmeal topped with a sliced small banana with 1 cup of calcium-fortified soy milk. For lunch, you might enjoy a peanut butter sandwich made with two slices of whole-wheat bread with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and served with 2 cups of mixed greens topped with 2 tablespoons of low-fat salad dressing and a small apple.
For dinner, try 1 cup of brown rice mixed with 1/2 cup of lentils and 1/2 cup of peas, along with 1 cup of broccoli sauteed in 1 teaspoon of olive oil. A healthy snack might include one container of soy yogurt with five whole-grain crackers. This meal plan contains about 1,500 calories.