The number of people switching to a vegan diet is growing constantly, and one of the reasons for this is their wish to lose weight. Obesity has long become one of the biggest health problems in America, and the efficiency of veganism in promoting a healthy body mass has been proven by several studies. However, if you choose to give up meat for the purpose of losing weight, you need to be aware of the healthy vegan diet guidelines. Following them is necessary to prevent nutritional deficiencies that can put your wellbeing at risk.
Today we’ll talk about how to go vegan the right way and whether this diet can really help you lose some extra pounds.
Vegan Diet Guidelines: Basics
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the vegan diet, and it’s important to understand that it isn’t perfect. Any diet has pros and cons, and you have to know them in order to plan your meals right.
As veganism eliminates several large food groups, the risk of nutritional deficiencies for this diet is particularly high. However, it’s caused by poor meal planning, not the low nutritional value of plant-based foods.
It’s possible to get the required daily dose of all essential vitamins and minerals even without meat, fish, and dairy products. It just requires more planning and studying food labels.
What you need to prepare for is that turning from an omnivore into a vegan will be difficult. If you want to do this only to lose weight, you might consider switching to a less restricting diet. The ‘shock’ of a complete meal plan overhaul might have a negative effect on your motivation and overall reduce your chance of achieving your goal.
You also need to understand that a vegan diet is not a universal solution that will make you slim fast. It’s true that vegans usually have a lower BMI (body mass index). The reason for this is that this meal plan contains less ‘bad’ fats and calories by default. However, there are quite a few vegan junk foods that are bad for you. Poor meal planning will prevent you from losing weight regardless of whether you consume animal-based products or not.
Here are the basic vegan diet guidelines you need to follow to start losing weight without hurting your health:
- Set yourself a time limit.
It can be rather scary to start a completely new diet with a resolution to follow it forever. Therefore, you can start with setting yourself a goal of 3 weeks of vegan eating. This time would be enough for your body to get accustomed to new flavors. This period is also long enough for you to feel the improvement brought by this diet. Seeing these positive changes will help strengthen your resolve.
- Avoid unbalanced vegan meal plans.
There are quite a few vegan weight loss meal plans that promise miracle results fast. Steer clear of them as in the majority of cases they are nutritiously unbalanced. Remember that to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than you burn. However, you have to receive the required daily amount of essential nutrients. The general RDA guidelines are calculated based on a 2000-calorie diet. As every person is unique, your needs might differ a bit. Therefore, you should consult a professional nutritionist to work out the right meal plan for you.
- Start a meal journal and keep track of your weight.
Keep track of all the food you eat and monitor your weight daily. Record this information into a journal that will allow you to follow your progress. Today you can make this task easier using specialized mobile apps.
Sample Low-Fat Vegan Meal Plan for Weight Loss
Check out an example of a well-balanced vegan diet designed specifically for losing weight. It’s based on the four main plant-based food groups and even has a little sweet extra to make your journey to a slimmer body more enjoyable.
Please remember that it’s essential to follow nutritional vegan diet guidelines in order to maintain your overall health. Therefore, you shouldn’t cut out any servings from this plan just to reduce the amount of consumed calories.
- Grains: 8 servings.
At least 6 of your daily servings have to come from whole grain sources (brown rice, wheat bread, bran cereal, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal). One serving equals about 80 kcal, so one serving of oatmeal amounts to about 1 oz. of dry cereal. This means that your ‘grain plan’ for a day should look like this:
- 1 cup of oatmeal for breakfast
- 1 sandwich (2 slices of bread) for lunch
- 1 ½ cups of spaghetti pasta for dinner
- 1 slice of French bread for a snack
- Fruits: 3 servings.
It’s better to eat whole fruits instead of juices. If you choose a juice, make it yourself as processed products are packed with refined sugar. The best fruits to eat are those that are low in calories but high in nutritious value, such as plums, oranges, berries, peaches, and grapefruit. One serving is about half a cup of sliced fruit.
- Vegetables: 4 servings.
Make sure at least one of your daily servings consists of raw vegetables. Healthy vegan diet guidelines stipulate that you should favor dark leafy green veggies as they contain large amounts of essential nutrients. Kale, spinach, and/or collards should be a part of your daily meals as they contain calcium. If you dislike their taste, consider mixing them with other ingredients into a smoothie. The serving size is about ½ cup of cooked vegetables and 1 cup if they are raw.
It’s very important to avoid fat dressings on your salads and veggie sandwiches.
- Legumes: 3 servings.
A cup of beans (one serving) a day is mandatory for this meal plan. You can break it down to a half cup of cooked beans and another half of spicy bean spread, or try some other recipes. A cup of low-fat soymilk will also count towards your legumes servings, as do vegan meat substitutes.
- Sweets: 1 serving.
This is an optional serving, but it can make your day brighter, especially when you only start to adjust to a vegan diet. There are many delicious sweets you can make from plant-based foods, even cakes. Make sure your daily serving is no more than 100 kcal.
Remember that healthy vegan diet guidelines for weight loss state that you shouldn’t reduce your calorie intake to less than 1200 calories per day. Even this can be too low, so consult a professional before going on such a strict diet.
Other Important Weight Loss Tips
Remember that diet alone won’t give you a perfect body. Exercising is a very important part of any weight loss program, so you need to develop an effective workout plan.
Physical activity will burn off the calories faster, but it also requires more energy. A regular person will be able to get enough ‘power’ from a well-balanced meal plan outlined above. However, a vegan menu for athletes requires more planning, because their bodies are under much strain due to intense training.
Things to Consider When Switching to a Vegan Diet
There are a few factors that can affect the efficiency of your diet. They also make it harder for you to adjust to a vegan lifestyle, even for a short time. Consider them in advance to prevent any issues.
- Personal tastes.
It’s very important for you to enjoy your food, which would be difficult to do on a vegan diet if you are a fan of steaks and burgers. The best thing to do is to experiment with recipes to discover new flavors.
Eating out on a vegan diet is a bit difficult, and vegan fast food is usually unhealthy. If you are a busy person, you will have to rearrange your whole schedule in such a way that will allow you to cook your meals. In this case, you can try to prepare the basic ingredients of your meals in advance, for example, you can make tortillas with veggies and freeze them. The same approach works for cooked beans.
It’s possible to create a vegan meal plan on a budget, but only if you plan your purchases right. Note that this diet might require you to invest in a few appliances, like a food processor and blender.
Even following vegan diet guidelines may not provide you with sufficient amounts of some nutrients, because plant-based meal plans are poor in vitamin B12, iron, and calcium. You can solve this problem by consuming fortified cereals and juices or by taking supplements.
A vegan diet is a great way to become a healthier and leaner person. But only if you do it right. Be sure to plan your meals well as you’ll stay healthy.