A vegan diet for healthy weight loss? Sounds like another fad diet you may think. But could a vegan diet be an effective way to lose weight and keep it off?
For anyone wanting to embrace a vegan lifestyle, it’s good timing because there’s numerous recipes and vegan substitutes for almost any animal based product on the market. But does this mean a vegan lifestyle is healthier or will lead to sustainable weight loss? Just because you don’t eat animal products doesn’t mean that what you do eat is healthy.
A vegan who lives on processed foods is no healthier than an omnivore (meat and plant based diet) that lives on processed food. Any unbalanced diet can both lead to deficiencies, poor health and end a weight loss plan before it even begins.
A healthy balanced vegan diet however can be very beneficial. The American Dietetic Association states that ‘appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases’.
Research also shows that vegetarians appear to have lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes than non-vegetarians.
But what about weight loss? A recent study: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141106101732.htm showed that those who followed a vegan diet over 6 month period lost more weight than those following an omnivore diet.
Why? It’s likely because well-balanced vegan diets tend to be high in plant-based foods e.g. fruit, vegetables, legumes and grains, displacing highly processed foods with unwanted calories. Note: A healthy well-balanced calorie controlled omnivore diet can also do this.
Vegan Weight Loss Plan
Achieving a healthy vegan diet takes planning. If you’re someone who doesn’t have time or the desire to plan meals properly or try new foods, then going vegan isn’t for you.
If you’re planning to go vegan to lose weight but only intend on living on green salads, you’ll probably go hungry, get deficient and wind up giving up.
If not well-planned, deficiencies in nutrients such as protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, iodine and omega 3 fatty acids can occur. So before you begin, it’s essential that you do your research on vegan alternative food sources for nutrients like protein, iron, calcium, vitamin B12 normally found in animal products. A registered dietitian can help you get started if you need some help.
What can you eat?
Well believe it or not, there’s numerous food options available and some of the protein or dairy vegan alternatives may be things you’ve never tried before. Be adventurous and try new foods and recipes. Here is a 4 day healthy vegan weight loss menu that you could follow.
|Meal Occasion||Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Day 4|
|Breakfast||½ – ¾ cup soy yoghurt* + 2 tbsp seeds (e.g. chia, flaxseeds) + strawberries||Scrambled silken tofu* with vegetables + a grain toast||Breakfast smoothie (refer below for recipe idea)||½ cup muesli + ½ – 1 cup non-dairy milk*|
|Morning tea||1 orange||½ cup soy yoghurt* + 2 tbsp chia seeds + chopped almonds||½ small avocado made into a dip + vegetable sticks||2-3 grain crackers + 20-40g soy cheese* + sliced tomato|
|Lunch||Steamed broccoli, bok chuy, cauliflower, green beans + grilled tempeh in a lemon garlic dressing||Sweet potato, baby spinach, carrot, cucumber, tomato & chickpea salad + balsamic dressing||Left overs: Baked tofu* & roasted vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, onion, tomatoes)||Grilled vegetables + grilled tempeh|
|Afternoon tea||10-15 almonds + 1 cup vegetables sticks||1 bananaCup of cherry tomatoes||1 orange1 cup vegetables sticks||4 dried apricots + 30g almonds|
|Dinner||Curried vegetables & tofu+ ½ cup cooked brown or basmati rice||Baked tofu* & roasted vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, onion, tomatoes)||Lentil & vegetable patties & a salad with lemon garlic dressing||Tofu & vegetable stir-fry + ½ cup cooked quinoa|
|After dinner||Cup of tea||1 apple||Cup of tea10 almonds||Strawberries|
*Choose a calcium-fortified variety
Breakfast smoothie recipe idea: Blend 1 cup non-dairy milk*, 2 tbsp oats, 1 fruit, 2 tbsp chia seeds seeds, stevia, ice, optional: vegan protein powder in a blender until smooth, add additional cold water if too thick.
Tips for staying on track
Here’s some tips to stay on track while losing weight on or a adapting a vegan diet
– Replace protein normally coming from meat & meat alternatives with vegan protein options such as tofu, tempeh, sietan, legumes e.g. chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans
– Experiment with different recipes especially if you’re not accustomed to vegan proteins.
– Plan meals ahead so that you always have healthy options available
– Keep portion sizes small and eat 5-6 small meals each day
– Ensure you get adequate amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals especially iron and calcium, include calcium-fortified substitutes e.g. calcium fortified non-dairy milk, yoghurt, cheese and tofu.
A healthy vegan weight loss plan can get you into healthy habits and shed some unwanted kilos too. But it’s essential to be prepared to plan your meals ahead, cook from scratch and eat a variety of different foods, some of which may be new to you.