If you are looking to improve your diet and lose weight, there is no better choice than a plant-based diet.
According to a Harris Poll survey commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group in 2020, approximately 6% of Americans eat a plant-based diet exclusively. And many are using this diet to shed pounds.
Losing weight is hard. It’s even harder when you don’t know how to go about it. However, if you follow the simple steps outlined below, the process will be a lot easier and more enjoyable for your taste buds!
What Is A Plant-Based Diet?
A plant-based diet is a way of eating that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
It discourages the consumption of animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs.
There are many different types of plant-based diets like veganism (no animal products whatsoever) or vegetarianism (no animal meat).
You can even follow a flexitarian diet which includes some animal products like eggs or dairy in moderation while still following the general principles of a plant-based diet.
A plant-based diet not only helps with weight loss but also leads to many other health benefits.
For example, increased energy levels, improved digestion, and strengthening of your immune system. It also decreases your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
The Top 4 Reasons To Follow A Plant-Based Diet For Weight Loss
Here are my top reasons for following a plant-based diet when you are looking to shed some extra pounds:
1. You are more likely to stick with it.
I grew up eating meat. In my twenties, I was vegan for about two years and then switched to being vegetarian. Now, when people ask, I just like to say that I follow a plant-based diet.
I prefer this label because I don’t feel so restricted. Even though I don’t eat meat or drink cow’s milk, I eat eggs and Greek yogurt.
Not limiting myself so much is the reason why I have been able to stick with a plant-based diet for so long.
It is also the reason why I have been able to maintain my weight after losing 40 pounds.
2. Get more fiber in your diet.
A plant-based diet is typically high in fiber which helps you feel fuller on fewer calories.
And because plants are low in fat, you’re less likely to overeat calorie-dense foods.
3. Get the protein you need.
The food you will eat on a plant-based diet will ensure protein needs are met in the body.
Similarly to fiber, protein also keeps you feeling satisfied for extended periods.
4. Cut out processed food.
A plant-based diet makes it more unlikely that you will eat unhealthy foods such as refined sugars, and saturated fats found in animal products and processed food items.
This is because you will be eating plenty of fruit and vegetables to help fill you up!
Download this cheat sheet to learn the secrets to go from busy and out-of-shape to energetic and fit!
How To Lose Weight On A Plant-Based Diet
The following steps are the ones I personally took to lose over 40 pounds! I’m so excited to share them with you. Here we go!
Step 1: Figure Out How Many Calories You Need To Eat To Be In A Calorie Deficit.
To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than the amount required to maintain your current body weight.
So you either consume fewer calories, you exercise, or even better, you do both! I know this is not what you want to hear, but I’m being honest with you. There is no way around it.
I strongly suggest that you check out my blog post on calculating how many calories you should eat per day to lose weight.
Everyone’s nutrient needs and energy requirements vary due to sex, age, height, ideal body weight, physical activity level, and state of health.
Portion control is the key to losing weight. When you overeat, your body will store those calories as fat. One tip to help you portion control is to not eat food out of a bag (for example, chips). Instead, pour in a bowl how much you will eat, so that you don’t unconsciously finish whole bag!
Healthy foods do a fantastic job of fueling your body, but a calorie is still a calorie at the end of the day.
Therefore, if you overeat healthy foods (yes, this includes plant-based food), the scale will never budge.
Step 2: Set Realistic Goals.
If you think that you will be able to drop 10 pounds in a week, I’m going to tell you now that unless you are extremely overweight, you won’t.
Being unrealistic with your goals will only set you up to fail. If you are following a healthy diet, count on losing 1 to 2 pounds per week. You need to be patient.
I recommend that you write down your goals. For example, “I want to lose 3 to 4 pounds in a month because I want to feel comfortable in my skinny jeans”.
This way, you will commit to your weight loss plan and give yourself a reasonable deadline.
Never ever let one slip up derail you. We are not going to be perfect all of the time. There is no need to beat yourself up about missing a workout or making one poor food choice.
Step 3: Have A Plan On How To Reach Your Goals.
Pick a weigh day. Pick a specific day and time, use the same scale, and wear the same amount of clothing to weigh yourself at least once a week.
Now, let’s say that from Steps 1 and 2, you realized that you are 25 pounds overweight and that it will take you about 16 weeks (4 months) to lose them.
First of all, don’t think, “I need to lose 25 pounds in 4 months!” It will seem daunting and overwhelming.
Some years ago, I read a book called “The 12 Week Year” by Brian P. Moran, and the whole idea of the book is that you need to divide your goals into quarters if you want to succeed.
I applied this concept to my diet when I was going through my own weight-loss transformation.
So if we go back to our example above, instead of thinking, “I need to lose 25 pounds in 4 months,” think, “I need to lose 6.25 pounds in 1 month”. Doesn’t that seem so much more doable?
When I was going through this, I would check in with myself every month and see how I did.
Step 4: Transition Slowly.
I get it, starting a new diet can be exciting. However, changing your entire diet from one day to another it’s not sustainable.
You might even become so overwhelmed that you quit on the first day! The key is transitioning slowly so that your body has time to adjust.
I suggest making 1-2 changes every week. For example, in week 1, you can stop drinking soda. In week 2, you can start incorporating more vegetables into your diet, and so on.
Step 5: Eat The Right Food.
This is the hardest step. Knowing what to eat to lose weight is what often stops us in our tracks.
Know that this is a never-ending learning subject. I am always googling nutritional information on food. It’s part of the journey, so enjoy it.
1. Eat lots of fiber and protein-rich foods.
If you want to get full faster, then fiber and protein are your best friends.
Some foods that contain fiber and protein are beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, oats, and popcorn.
Vegetables with fiber and protein include spinach, brussels sprouts, artichokes, and broccoli.
Also, don’t forget to eat fruit; blackberries and starfruit are excellent choices! Don’t believe anyone who tells you that fruit is bad because it has sugar. I have never met anyone who has gotten fat from eating too much fruit!
2. Eat low-calorie foods.
Are you always hungry on a plant-based diet? The reason is most likely because you aren’t eating low-calorie foods.
Some foods might be healthy, but they aren’t low-calorie. For example, when trying to lose weight, you might choose to eat brown rice.
A cup of brown rice has about 215 calories. Instead of eating brown rice, replace it with a cup of riced cauliflower with about 25 calories!
Another example is peanut butter. One tablespoon has about 95 calories. Instead, buy powdered peanut butter, which only has 25 calories.
It’s small changes in your diet that will make a massive difference in your weight loss journey on a plant-based diet.
Step 6: Avoid Eating The Wrong Food.
If you don’t want to do anything else I recommend in this blog post, and just do the following, I don’t see how you won’t lose any weight.
In other words, this step is essential to your weight loss efforts!
1. Cut out oil.
If you think that pouring oil on your pan to cook is harmless, then you don’t understand calorie density.
The number of calories in a food doesn’t just dependent on its size. For example, a cup of vegetable oil has almost 2,000 calories. A cup of water has 0 calories!
Believe it or not, you don’t need oil to cook. For example, you can steam vegetables or sautee your food with water instead of oil.
Use non-stick pots and pans. They are a little more expensive, but your health is worth it. Plus, they are much easier to clean.
I do sometimes use cooking spray. I do 1 or 2 quick sprays, it helps to portion control and not pour a bunch of oil on the pan. Don’t ever use vegetable or canola oil cooking spray, those types of oil are not good for your health. Instead, use avocado or extra-virgin olive oil.
2. Cut liquid calories.
It’s not just beverages like soda and frappuccinos that are packed with calories.
Beverages that you would also consider to be “healthy” and “plant-based” can also have tons of calories.
For example, kombucha, green juices, coconut water, and cold brew coffees, just to name a few.
Just because something is healthy doesn’t mean it doesn’t have calories.
You could be unknowingly sipping hundreds of calories every single day!
If you want to lose weight, you can’t afford to waste your calorie allowance on calories in beverages.
Stick to beverages with 0 calories like water, black coffee, sparkling water, or unsweetened tea.
3. Avoid eating junk food.
There are fast-food restaurants on almost every corner. Grocery store aisles are filled with processed food.
Junk food, plant-based or not, is high in calories, sodium, oil, and sugar. And most likely, it has been stripped of nutrients.
A study found that processed foods can reduce post-meal calorie burning by nearly 50% compared to whole plant foods.
It is totally okay to treat yourself once in a while, but when you do, at least it will be a conscious decision you are making. Also, don’t forget to control the portions!
Choose snacks that are healthier and low in calories. Fruits, popcorn, and Yasso yogurt bars are some of my favorite snacks and/or desserts.
4. Limit high-calorie foods.
I want to drill into your head that just because a type of food is healthy doesn’t mean that it is not high-calorie. Avocados and nuts are an example of this.
Nuts are a quick and easy source of protein and healthy fats, but eating too many can actually make you gain weight. Why?
Unfortunately, nuts are high in fat and high in calories. If you’re trying to lose weight, limit your intake of nuts to no more than one serving per day, which is about ¼ cup (about 160 calories).
Another trick is to choose a variety that is low in calories, like cashews, pistachios, and peanuts.
Personally, when I’m on weight-loss mode, I avoid eating nuts.
5. Be careful with dressings and sauces.
Imagine this: you buy a salad because you are trying to eat healthily, and without giving it much thought, you add the salad dressing that comes with it. Huge mistake!
Most dressings and sauces are packed with calories, fat, and sugar.
In fact, some of the most popular dressings can contain more than 100 calories per tablespoon. And I know that you aren’t just pouring 1 tablespoon of dressing into your salad!
Instead, you can make healthy, low-calorie dressings and sauces at home. It is easier than you think and just involves a few ingredients.
If you don’t have time to make your own, check out my blog post, where I list my top 3 store-bought salad dressings for weight-loss.
6. Cut sugar.
Studies have shown that glucose in sugar can spike your insulin, slow down metabolism, make you hungry, and store fat in your fat cells.
In addition, sugar is addictive and has no nutritional value, so it’s not worth the calories. One tablespoon of sugar has about 48 calories!
By the way, I’m not talking about the sugar in fruit. Fruit is good for you, and it’s ok for you to eat it in moderate amounts if you are trying to lose weight.
I’m talking about the sugar in donuts, cookies, candies, and fruit juices/drinks.
It might seem hard now to avoid sugar, but your taste buds will get used to it after a while. Trust me.
Step 7: Implement These Tips.
When you think you have steps 1-6 under control, continue by implementing the following tips.
1. Learn to read labels.
It’s essential to take notice of the number of servings a food package contains.
For example, if it says it has 200 calories per serving, and it has 5 servings, that means you are eating 1,000 calories (not 200)!
Do you know what is in the food that you are eating? Watch out for misleading terms such as “all-natural.” These phrases may sound healthy, but they might not always be.
Read through the ingredients list. Avoid buying processed food that contains excessive amounts of oils and sugar.
And if you can’t pronounce or don’t know what it is that is listed on the ingredients list, you probably should not be eating it.
2. Learn to cook healthier.
Whipping up meals at home is so much better for your waistline than dining out.
I recommend you use measuring spoons and cups to keep track of how many calories are in your food.
Be careful with recipes from cooking shows or online websites. Although those recipes look absolutely delicious, they may be packed with calories.
Relying on sugar and fat for flavor all the time can up the calorie count of a dish dramatically. Instead, start experimenting with herbs and spices in your cooking.
Herbs and spices pack a powerful punch of health-boosting, fat-fighting nutrients that will add tons of flavor to your food. Check out my blog post on how to make healthy food taste good.
Finally, another common mistake people tend to make is that they nibble as they cook. All those small bites you take while cooking can really add up if you are not careful.
Sometimes, eating a plant-based low-calorie diet is just not enough to eliminate the few extra pounds you have left to lose.
You also need to move your body. You don’t need to spend hours at the gym. Start off by taking walks during the day. I walk for 20 minutes during my lunch break.
When doing more intense workouts, eat a healthy snack an hour before you train. This way, you’ll have the energy needed to work out harder and burn more calories.
Exercise not only helps you burn calories. It also enables you to build, strengthen, and maintain lean muscle that keeps your body burning fat.
Click this link to learn all about how you should exercise, what kind of exercises, and for how long you should exercise to lose weight.
Making sleep a priority is fundamental. Not getting enough shut-eye can lead you to overeat and make poor health decisions throughout the day.
Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night to manage stress, boost metabolism, and regulate your appetite. Establish a sleep routine and stick to it.
If you have trouble falling asleep, try winding down with a cup of chamomile tea before bed, which is naturally caffeine-free.
Also, keep your bedroom dark. I use blackout curtains and move all of my digital devices to another room to block out distractions.
5. Drink water.
Staying hydrated is the key to a healthy digestive system. Drinking enough water can help speed up your metabolism and regulate digestion, which will give you more energy!
It is common to confuse dehydration with hunger. So, you might be eating thinking that you are hungry when drinking a glass of water was all that your body was asking for.
As a rule of thumb, women need to drink at least 80 ounces of water daily and 120 ounces for men.
The following are some tips to encourage you to drink more water:
1. Carry around a reusable bottle or cup with you at all times.
2. Have a glass of water before each meal and take sips throughout the day to help you feel fuller.
3. Use an app to keep track of your daily water intake.
Personally, the first thing I do in the morning is to drink a glass of water. I know that my body is dehydrated from not getting any water for 7+ hours since I’m asleep. Also, it’s a good feeling knowing that whatever happens the rest of the day, I at least got that glass of water already.
6. Don’t skip meals.
Skipping meals will not help you lose weight. If you skip meals, your metabolism will slow down, and your body will hold onto the fat and burn lean muscle instead.
Skipping a meal will also make you overly hungry. That can cause overeating when you eventually do eat or at night before going to bed.
I suggest you eat every four hours. For instance, I have breakfast at 8 a.m., lunch at 12 p.m., a snack around 4 p.m., and dinner around 8 p.m.
Spacing your meals throughout the entire day can help keep your blood sugar levels and hunger hormones stable.
7. Prep your meals and keep a recipe book.
Being too busy is often an excuse we tell ourselves to keep prolonging starting our weight-loss journey. There are things you can do that can save you a lot of time.
For example, you can bulk cook your meals for the week. Place the food in containers so that you only have to grab it before heading out the door for work each morning.
Don’t forget to carry around with you a protein a bar for you to eat in case you get hungry. This will keep you from stopping at the next fast-food restaurant you come across!
I also recommended that you keep all your favorite plant-based weight-loss recipes saved in a place you can quickly access them.
This way, you won’t forget all the available options, and you won’t waste time trying to find them again in the future.
8. Don’t stress.
When you are under excessive stress, the adrenal gland will release the hormone cortisol into your bloodstream.
High levels of cortisol can lead to harmful side effects, weight gain being one of them.
Therefore, it’s crucial that you naturally keep your cortisol levels under control.
9. Document your weight-loss journey.
People that keep a journal lose more weight than those who don’t. When you document your progress or regress, you will know whether you have shed weight, are stagnant, or have put on weight.
Taking pictures of your journey, keeping a record of what you eat, writing down what workout you do, tracking how many calories you are burning in a day, and weighing yourself once a week are just some of the great ways to document weight loss.
The website and app MyFitnessPal.com makes it extremely easy to document your weight-loss journal. This is what I use for myself.
I struggled for years with being overweight. Now I’m finally at my ideal weight and have been able to keep it off without trouble.
Losing weight is not easy, but if you follow the step-by-step diet plan I provided in this blog post, it can be done!
Start by changing your diet and lifestyle to include more plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, etc. This type of food contains a lot of fiber and protein, which will keep you full for longer periods of time.
Knowing how much to eat and successfully transitioning diets are also crucial to accomplishing your weight-loss goals.
Get started today! You have the power to lose weight on a plant-based diet.
LilyHi, I'm Lily! Like you, I have struggled with my weight. It was not an easy journey but I was able to lose 40 pounds and have kept it off for 14 years. My goal is to share with you all the research, tips, and tricks that I have learned over the years to help you lose weight also.
Download this cheat sheet to learn the secrets to go from busy and out-of-shape to energetic and fit!
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