Many people find they lose weight if they change to a vegan diet. A study from Oxford University found people who ate fish, vegetarians and especially vegans had lower BMI scores than those who eat meat.
Sometimes cutting out processed foods is enough for people to feel better and lose some excess weight. However, I also see people in my clinic who are vegan, yet struggling to lose weight.
This could be for a number of reasons including low functioning thyroid, high levels of stress, or gut imbalances. I review these kind of areas as part of the dietary review and root cause analysis in our initial consultation.
There are some dietary elements you may also wish to consider:
1. Not eating enough protein
You can get enough protein on a vegan diet, but you need to think about it and plan meals properly.
It’s very hard to do it properly. Not impossible, but you do need to plan each day’s food and think about protein at every meal. Eat beans, legumes, peas, tofu, nuts, seeds and vary the type of protein.
Studies have shown that dietary protein helps reduce obesity by keep us feeling fuller for longer, even when eating reduced calories. This helps to prevent a weight cycling effect, where you’re losing and regaining body weight.
If you eat sufficient protein when you’re trying to lose weight then you are less likely to lose muscle, and more likely to lose fat. You may wish to consider a plant based protein powder to bulk up your intake each day.
2. Too many carbohydrates
Some vegans rely on quinoa for a source of protein. Whilst it does contain all the necessary amino acids it is more of a carbohydrate than a protein source. It contains more protein than other grains, but it shouldn’t be seen as the protein on your plate. Beans also contain carbs, and vegans needs to eat a lot of beans and pulses.
When we eat carbohydrates our body releases more insulin, which encourages the body to pack away glucose and store fat.
If we repeatedly do this we will gain weight.
If you’re still snacking on lots of ‘healthy’ vegan treats with lots of added sugar, or even lots of homemade snacks with dried fruits then you may be taking in more calories than you need. This will lead to weight gain.
Also, eating late at night isn’t a good idea if you want to lose weight. We need to allow our body a break from digestion overnight.
If you’re hungry between meals look at your protein intake and increase.
4. Look at your portion sizes
Think about the amount of food you’re eating.
You can still eat more calories than you burn on a healthy diet!
Aim for carbs the size of your fist, and protein the size of your hand and the rest non starchy vegetables. You’ll need to include sufficient fats from nuts, seeds, avocado to maintain healthy skin, hair, and brain function, but look at your percentage of fats through the day.
5. Nutrient deficiency
A vegan diet may be low in Omega 3 (healthy fats) or other vital minerals such as zinc or iron.
Insufficiency of these can interfere with your metabolism and conversion of energy from food. Vitamin B12 is only available from animal products, so if you’re vegan you may be low unless you supplement.
B12 is important as it helps the body convert fats and protein into energy, as well as being vital for hormones, neurotransmitters and DNA health.
If you don’t move your body to burn off more calories than you eat you aren’t going to lose weight. Find an exercise that suits you and your lifestyle and aim for a minimum of 5 sessions of 30 mins a week. Increasing the general amount of movement in your day is also important, not just attending a class or going for a run.
Keep moving at regular intervals each day.
7. Gut microbiome
The trillions of bugs in our intestines can control how we metabolise our food and store fats. Some studies have shown transplanting gut bacteria from overweight mice into other mice made them gain weight, despite no other differences in environment. Other studies have shown people with certain bacteria lose more weight than others, even when diet and exercise plan is the same.
My top tips for vegan weight loss
- Include sufficient beans and pulses in your diet. These are low calorie and high in fibre.
- Add nuts and seeds, as well as tofu to your meals and snacks to bulk up the protein.
- Don’t rely on quinoa for protein, but do use it instead of other grains to mix things up
- Consider a protein powder to boost your intake – add to smoothies, pancakes or flapjacks
- Review your diet through the week – are you getting enough omega 3 fats, iron, zinc, B12? These nutrients require planning to get from a vegan diet.
- Don’t snack all through the day, if you’re hungry between meals include more protein.
- Consider a gut healing protocol looking at restoring a healthy microbiome
- Get your diet checked out if you’re wondering whether you’ve got it all covered.
I can help you review your diet and ensure you’re getting everything you need to stay healthy. Contact me for your free 15 minute consultation to find out how nutritional therapy can help you.
Contact me or email to make your appointment.
Do you want better digestion & more energy? Are you looking for solutions for weight loss, IBS or lack of energy?
Hi I'm Anna Mapson, registered Nutritionist (mBANT, CNHC). I help small business owners improve their diet so they have more energy to be creative at work and home, to socialise and be there for family.