I Was a Junk-Food Vegan
According to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, individuals who follow a vegan diet for approximately 18 weeks shed, on average, four pounds more than those who follow animal-based diets. While this fact is great for anyone looking to lose weight, conversion to a plant-based regimen and weight loss are not always synonymous.
Many who switch to a vegan diet for weight-loss reasons often find themselves filling the meatless void with an array of plant-based processed food. Luckily, a veg diet is so much more than packaged food that just happens to be animal-free, especially for those looking to lose weight. By following these six tips, you’ll fit into your favorite pair of jeans in no time, all while doing good for animals and the environment.
1. Review the vegan food pyramid
The foundation of the vegan food pyramid is greens and vegetables followed by fruit and whole grains. This is an updated version of MyPyramid—the food guide that replaced the Food Guide Pyramid in 2005—which emphasized grains, bread, cereal, and pasta as the foundation of a good nutritional regimen. Although the vegan food pyramid serves as a guide, caloric intake and portion control are key factors for any healthy weight-loss program.
2. Eat greens
The versatility of spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, and zucchini makes dark leafy greens a wonderful addition to any meal. These foods are ideal for weight loss because they are the “most nutrient-dense healthy items” and “are extremely low in calorie and high in fiber,” says Lisa Odenweller, CEO of Santa Monica-based superfood café Beaming. The high-fiber content keeps you satiated throughout the day while helping you avoid unhealthy snacking. Other high-fiber options include fruit (be mindful of the sugar content) and raw tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, and cashews), which are packed with protein and fiber and can help lower cholesterol.
3. Up your protein
Consumption of protein-rich food is vital in many weight-loss programs because protein fills you up faster; thus, you need less food to be satisfied. According to Stephanie Goldfinger of vegetarian website Cooking for Luv, proteins are available in many forms, which makes them convenient to incorporate into meals because they can be eaten raw or cooked quickly. Protein powders are ideal for a grab-and-go breakfast or mid-day smoothie, while other plant-based proteins such as tempeh, beans, lentils, quinoa, and oats are versatile and can serve as the main component of a veggie burrito, salad, or stir-fry.
4. Limit processed soy
Soy products can be the easiest and most convenient “go-to” items when transitioning to a vegan diet. Soy isn’t necessarily unhealthy, but it is imperative that attention be paid to the amount of processed products in a meal plan. For instance, a tofu scramble for breakfast, soy veggie burger for lunch, and pad Thai with tofu for dinner is excessive. Instead, choose vegan cheese made with nuts, a black bean burger, or a pad Thai with vegetables and tempeh for whole-food versions of your favorite foods.
5. Prepare healthy meals
Meal planning is a vital component to ensure proper nutrition and weight loss, and, thankfully, supermarkets now sell pre-packaged vegetables that are table-ready in minutes. Examples of fast-and-easy dishes include quinoa bowls with tempeh; a mixed stir-fry blend of broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms; eggplant cutlets with marinara sauce, vegan cheese, and basil; and soba noodles with greens. If these meals are beyond your scope, meal delivery services such as Purple Carrot and meal-planning services such as Forks Meal Planner provide easy-to-follow recipes that are pre-measured and dietitian-approved.
6. Get exercise and stay hydrated
Healthy meals, water, and exercise are key components for any successful weight-loss program. People should engage in 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly in order to burn calories and lose weight. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a form of cardiovascular interval training focusing on alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. To achieve maximum results, HIIT should be practiced three times a week and supplemented with jogging or hiking, says Jorge Cruise, trainer and author of Tiny and Full. And don’t forget to stay hydrated! Drinking a minimum of 64 ounces of water daily keeps your body cleansed, which improves fitness and overall health.
Jarone Ashkenazi is a freelance writer who covers relationships, food, and sports.
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Going to school with a bunch of down-to-earth, sewed-their-own-clothes environmentalists, it was impossible not to hop on the vegan train. While this lifestyle can help you lose weight, after six years on this diet, I ended up gaining 40 pounds and realized it’s because I did it all wrong. Here are my mistakes and how you can learn from them to avoid ballooning on a vegan diet.
1. Pasta and Bread Were
On campus it was easy to grab bagels with Tofutti cream cheese for breakfast, pizza with dairy-free cheese for lunch, and a huge bowl of pasta for dinner, but I was eating enough carbs to run a marathon-while barely exercising, unless walking to the dining hall counts.
What to do instead: Overloading on carbs is one way to pile on the pounds, so while complex carbohydrates should be included in a vegan diet, they shouldn’t be the star of every single meal. Head to a bookstore or the Internet to find vegan recipes, and experiment to help open up a whole new world of entrées like tofu scrambles, zucchini noodles, and homemade veggie burgers.
RELATED:20 Satisfying Fall Meals for Any Diet
2. I Never Ate Beans
Having gas was the last thing a college girl would wish for, so I stayed away from beans and hardly ate any protein aside from soy ice cream. Without enough protein, hunger pangs drove me to eat more, which basically meant unhealthy comfort food like vegan mac ‘n’ cheese and cupcakes.
What to do instead: Be sure to stock your kitchen with vegan sources of protein such as dry or canned beans, different varieties of tofu, tempeh, seitan, soy yogurt, and soy milk. For quick meals, packaged soy burgers, hot dogs, frozen dinners, and vegan deli meats are great to have on hand. If you’re not used to these foods, introduce them gradually to prevent digestive issues.
3. Sweet Potato Fries Were My Vegetable
My mom wasn’t there to tell me to «eat my veggies,» so guess what? I didn’t-unless French fries or vegan carrot cake count. Without veggies and protein, I never felt full, which meant eating all day long.
What to do instead: Make a point to consume veggies and protein at every meal and snack, as they’ll fill you up and keep you energized. Here’s a sample eating schedule:
• Breakfast: this vegan, high-protein smoothie with a big bunch of spinach added
• Snack: whole-wheat pancakes made with sweet potato, topped with a dollop of soy yogurt
• Lunch: huge salad with a side of split-pea soup or buckwheat salad with tempeh
• Afternoon snack: cucumber tofu rolls
• Dinner: polenta and beans
4. I Was a Junk-Food Vegan
French fries, soy ice cream, dairy-free chocolate, vegan cookies-I was so psyched they were made without meat, milk, or eggs that I devoured them and didn’t realize that they still contained calories.
What to do instead: Just as non-vegans need to enjoy treats in moderation, so do you. It’s okay to indulge, but remember to mostly eat a healthy, balanced diet.
RELATED:2-Ingredient Snacks Under 200 Calories
5. I Ate Peanut Butter by the Spoonful
My motto was, «If it’s good for me, why not?» Unfortunately, healthy foods can also be high in calories, so downing bags of popcorn and sipping back fruity soy smoothies was one reason I didn’t fit into my clothes.
What to do instead: While they’re nutritious, be sure to measure out portions of calorie-dense foods such as nuts, seeds, and the butters made from them; avocado; fresh-squeezed juices; whole grains like brown rice; granola; oil; and sweet potatoes.
More on POPSUGAR Fitness:
5 Healthy Peanut Butter Desserts
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- There are different health benefits linked to a vegan diet — including maintaining a healthy weight.
- Some foods on the vegan diet won’t help you lose weight automatically.
- Other reasons why you might not be losing weight on a vegan diet has to do with health problems.
A vegan diet has been linked to a variety of different health benefits, as the Harvard T.H. Chan School Of Public Health suggests that a well-balanced plant-based diet can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity.
But while a steady diet of plant-based foods are thought to keep your body at a healthy weight, experts like registered dietitian Michelle Hyman, MS, RD, CDN, explained that replacing animal proteins with an excessive amounts of carbohydrates, fats, and vegan junk food, may actually result in unwanted weight gain if you aren’t careful. So, if you are turning to a vegan diet to lose weight, you may want to reconsider some of your eating habits, especially if you have made no progress at all.
To see what could be potentially hindering your vegan weight loss goals, INSIDER spoke more to Hyman and other experts about all the reasons why you may be struggling to lose weight on a vegan eating plan. Below are some things to keep in mind if you are struggling to shed some pounds with a plant-based diet.
On campus, it was easy to grab bagels with Tofutti cream cheese for breakfast, pizza with dairy-free cheese for lunch, and a huge bowl of pasta for dinner, but I was eating enough carbs to run a marathon, and I was barely exercising, unless walking to the dining hall counts.
What to do instead: Overloading on carbs is one way to pile on the pounds, so while complex carbs should be included in a vegan diet, they shouldn’t be the star of every single meal. Head to a bookstore or the Internet and experiment with vegan recipes to help open up a whole new world of entrées like tofu scramble, pasta-free zucchini noodles, and homemade veggie burgers.