Vegan diet for weight loss
A vegan diet eliminates all animal products, including meat, dairy and eggs, and focuses on plant-based foods and drinks instead. Unlike vegetarians, who may still consume dairy or eggs, vegans remove all animal byproducts and foods and replace them with other vitamin and protein-rich foods like leafy greens, beans, nuts and whole grains.
Some vegans eat a plant-based diet, but not all plant-based diets are vegan. It’s crucial that you remember the difference between a vegan diet and a plant-based diet. You could eat nothing but junk food and still technically get away with calling yourself vegan. A plant-based diet requires you eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains while minimizing refined sugars, salt and foods that come from animals.
While many people will naturally lose weight when switching to a vegan diet due to the reduction of calories and increase of fiber that’s part of most vegan diets, it is possible to be unhealthy and even gain weight on a vegan diet if you do it wrong.
- What is vegan?
- A vegan is someone who doesn’t eat any meat or any animal byproducts, including gelatin and honey. Because Americans have historically relied on meat and animal products like milk and eggs as a source of the many essential nutrients our bodies need, you might need to make special considerations to be sure you’re staying healthy.
- Will I lose weight if I go vegan?
Losing weight on a vegan diet is not guaranteed. Many unhealthy foods are still vegan, like French fries, candy and sugary supplements. So, while a vegan diet can be full of healthy foods and nutrients, it’s up to you to stick to healthy alternatives that don’t ruin your diet.
And because vegan diets are complicated and can cut out essential nutrients, maintaining a healthy vegan diet that satiates hunger and cravings while still giving you the health benefits can also be difficult. But if done correctly, vegan diets are a great way to lose weight and find a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.
If you are worried about feeling full or finding protein swaps that fit your needs, you could follow what is called the “Vegan Before 6:00” (VB6) diet, which allows for meat consumption for dinner (or after 6 p.m.) but maintains an otherwise vegan diet. VB6 is believed to lead to greater overall health and relationship to food because it does not deprive its followers of food they crave—if they can wait until dinner to consume them.
Top 5 best vegan weight loss plans
Compare our top picks for the best vegan weight loss plans to choose the one best for you:
Best for flexibility
Perhaps the biggest draw to WW, formerly Weight Watchers, for vegans is the freedom the diet plan gives you. Because it’s so customizable, you can apply almost any dietary restriction of food preferences to it. WW Freestyle works on the SmartPoints system, where each food is assigned a number of “points” based on its nutritional value. Foods that are higher in calories, fat and sugar contain more points, while healthier choices have fewer points, and lots of vegan foods have no points at all—which means you can eat as much as you want. WW works because it changes your lifestyle, not just a few meals. Plus, there is a vast social community, both online and off, for dieters to celebrate their weight loss, share recipes and support one another.
Best for athletes
Beachbody's Vegan 21 Day Fix
Beachbody’s Vegan 21 Day Fix Eating Plans provide you with a color-coded system of containers, a grocery list for a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, seeds, nuts, nut butters, plant-based protein, canned foods, vegan protein shakes and miscellaneous seasonings and condiments. With this vegan diet plan, breakfast is oatmeal with a banana and cinnamon with coconut oil or chia seeds. For lunch and dinner, you might make a bean and avocado tacos or a lentil wrap with quinoa and lemon tarragon vinaigrette. For snacking, options include celery with peanut butter or Tropical Strawberry Shakeology. This vegan meal prep plan is for those needing a 1,200–1,499 calorie range and is accessible through the Beachbody On Demand app.
Best for new vegans
Recommended for new vegans, Veganuary provides healthy, plant-based meal recipes that are designed to break your kitchen routines and inspire. You download printable recipes, and there’s extra space for you to add your own notes. There are gluten-free, nut-free and soya-free meal plan options, plus the Quick and Convenient Meal Plan for busy lifestyles, Love to Cook! Meal Plan for culinary creatives, Family Friendly Meal Plan with recipes that even your kids will like and Sport Nutrition Meal Plan for athletes. The What Real Vegans Eat Meal Plan is a specially curated collection of the Veganuary team’s favorite meals. Veganuary supplies some basic nutritional information for each recipe, but suggests you do your own research before enrolling in Veganuary meal plans.
Best for young adults
22 Days Nutrition
The 22 Days Nutrition vegan meal plan was created with the idea that it takes 21 days to change your eating habits, and so by the 22nd day you’ve already improved your life. When you enroll in 22 Days’ Vegan Meal Planner, you get a customized plan to fit your lifestyle and continuous support for nutrition coaches. New recipes are added daily with nutritional information available for every meal. In some locations, grocery delivery is also available. The plan costs about $1.90 per week, not counting the cost of groceries. The 22 Days recipes are created to match almost any skillset, and they offer cooking technique videos for complete cooking novices.
Best for animal-rights activists
Available online for free, PETA’s two-week vegan meal plan is perfect for both long-time vegans and for someone who wants to go vegan but isn’t sure how to get started. You’ll find 14 days of unique, healthy, plant-based recipes that you can easily make at home: For breakfast, you might have a bagel with cashew cream and tomato lox or make a coconut berry chai parfait. Lunches and dinners are typically high-fiber, low-sugar soups, salads and sandwiches, though some recipes are more kitchen-intensive, like tempeh tequila taco sliders or Gimbap. Likewise, snacks recipes can be easy to follow, like popcorn with nutritional yeast, or a little more complicated, like spicy buffalo cauliflower “wings.”
How to eat vegan
While some people start a vegan diet to lose weight quickly, it’s important to note that a poor vegan diet lacks the essential nutrients for a healthy adult and is not immediately correlated with weight loss. Because many vegan-friendly foods (like juices and refined grains) still include high amounts of sugars and carbs, you’ll need to find a vegan diet that works best for your body and lifestyle.
- Load up on fiber and whole grains
Upping your fiber intake can help you control your sugar levels, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and improve regular bowel movements. It also helps that the more fiber you eat, the fuller you feel, which leads to more weight loss.
Because dietary fiber comes from plant-based food, vegans often easily add much more fiber to their diets naturally, but there is always room for improvement. The vegan food pyramid recommends that vegans choose higher fiber starchy foods, including sweet potatoes and whole-wheat pasta, rather than their less-healthy counterparts. High in fiber and low in calories, dark leafy greens are versatile and amazing for you. Some essential items for your vegan diet grocery list:
- Bok choy
- Flax seeds
- Find lean protein options
Proteins take longer to digest than carbohydrates, meaning you feel fuller for longer. Protein also helps cells repair themselves and builds lean, healthy muscles. But because a vegan diet restricts animal products, finding foods with lean protein can be difficult.
Beware of “faux” meats and cheeses. They are often over-processed and full of sodium.
One of the best sources for vegan protein includes foods in the legume family. For example, one cup of peas contains the same amount of protein as a cup of dairy milk. Another great option is quinoa, which is technically a seed that contains more than eight grams of protein per cup, plus all nine essential amino acids that the body needs.
Foods like legumes and quinoa can easily be added into the diet in simple ways, like in soup and salads or as delicious and filling side dishes. Other simple protein-rich additions to a vegan diet include hemp and chia seeds, nuts. Here’s what to add to your shopping cart:
- Chia seeds
- Plant-based protein powder
- Partner with an established program
Starting a vegan diet can seem daunting, but vegan weight loss programs can ease you into the vegan lifestyle by giving you creative recipes that check all the nutrition and wellness boxes. This gives you the ability to learn how to eat vegan the right way. Just make sure to find a commercial vegan weight loss program that adheres to a full, well-rounded vegan diet.
One great option is the Weight Watchers Freestyle program, designed specifically for vegans. This program includes recipes for foods such as veggie lettuce wraps, lemony beet hummus and vegan chocolate mousse. It’s great for those just beginning their vegan diet or looking to shake things up. Beachbody offers a variety of plant-based Shakeology vegan protein powder in flavors like Café Latte and Vanilla.