Our 7 Expert Tips For How To Lose Weight On A Plant-Based Diet

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reviewed by Katelyn Tocci

Choosing to follow a plant-based diet can offer health and environmental benefits.

People also decide to adopt a plant-based diet to lose weight, but are not sure how to lose weight on a plant-based diet.

So, is a plant-based diet good for weight loss, and can you lose weight on a plant-based diet?

In the article, we will discuss if plant-based diets are good for weight loss and then give you our top 7 tips for how to lose weight on a plant-based diet.

We will look at: 

  • Are Plant-Based Diets Good for Weight Loss?
  • How to Lose Weight On a Plant-Based Diet

Let’s get started!

A person measuring their waist.

Are Plant-Based Diets Good for Weight Loss?

In the United States, over 73% of adults over the age of 20 are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and many other countries are experiencing similar rates of obesity.

A plant-based diet can be an effective way to lose excess weight and maintain a healthy body weight.

But, what is a plant-based diet exactly?

The term “plant-based diet “ is a rather loose umbrella of eating habits that focuses on plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, seeds, and nuts.

Plant-based diets can include anything from the rather strict vegan diet, which eliminates all animal products, including honey, to the ovo-lacto vegetarian diet, which does not consume any animal flesh but does allow for dairy products and eggs

Flexitarians and pescatarians are sometimes included in plant-based diets as well.

A variety of vegetables and plant-based diet foods.

Even though a pescetarian eats fish and a flexitarian incorporates small amounts of animal products, including meat, occasionally, the bulk of these diets focus on plant-based foods.

Overall, plant-based diets are thought to be more sustainable and better for the environment, and research has demonstrated a host of potential health benefits of plant-based diets, including better heart health, lower risk of diabetes, and even longer life.

Studies have also found that following a plant-based diet may be more conducive to supporting weight loss and maintaining weight loss.

More specifically, when considering the breadth of plant-based diets, research has associated veganism, lacto-ovo-vegetarianism, pescetarianism, and flexitarianism approaches to plant-based eating with aiding weight loss. 

However, the truth is, much like any diet, you will not lose weight on a plant-based diet if you are not mindful of your food choices and calorie intake.

While it is certainly possible to get excellent plant-based diet weight loss results, knowing how to follow a plant-based diet for weight loss takes some planning, understanding of your nutritional needs, and making deliberate choices of healthy foods for weight loss.

A bowl of salad.

How to Lose Weight On a Plant-Based Diet

Here are some tips for how to lose weight on a plant-based diet:

#1: Know Your Caloric Needs

In order to follow a plant-based diet for weight loss, you need to know your individual caloric needs to ensure you are consuming the correct number of calories for weight loss success.

You can learn more about calculating how many calories you need here.

#2: Measure Portion Sizes

When you are trying to lose weight, there are two primary variables related to your diet that you can manipulate: what you eat and how much you eat.

What you eat tends to be the main focus of most weight loss diets, as certain foods may be encouraged or entirely off-limits.

This is certainly the case with plant-based diets, as they exclude meat, seafood, fish, poultry, dairy, and eggs (or at least minimize them as much as possible).

However, how much you eat—which is a matter of portion control—can be as important, if not more so, for successful weight loss.

Thus, just because you are following a plant-based diet doesn’t automatically mean you will lose weight unless you are being mindful of your caloric intake relative to your caloric expenditure.

A dish of pasta.

For example, one study found that people who ate pasta out of a large bowl ate 77% more pasta than those who ate pasta from a medium-sized bowl.

This is a significant difference in the amount of food eaten when comparing the portion sizes. 

For comparison, let’s ascribe numbers to look at the impact of increasing or reducing your portion size based on the bowl that you use for pasta.

According to the USDA, one cup of cooked spaghetti not packed tightly provides about 200 calories.

If we use the data from the research study and assume that a medium-sized bowl involves consuming this standard portion size, this means that about 200 calories of pasta are consumed out of the smaller bowl.

Then, if the pasta is served out of a large bowl and we increase the portion size by 77%, the number of calories eaten will increase to 354 calories.

This is a difference of 154 calories.

If you eat pasta once a day every day for a year, eating pasta from the larger bowl would result in a net surplus of 56,210 calories per year.

Because a pound of fat contains 3500 calories, this larger portion size translates to 16 pounds of weight gain per year! That is far from insignificant.

Therefore, make sure that when you are following a plant-based diet for weight loss, you are measuring portion sizes or being careful about how much you eat, not just what you are eating and not eating.

A glass container of almond milk and almonds.

#3: Choose Healthy, Low-Calorie Plant-Based Alternatives 

If you want to follow a plant-based diet for weight loss, you still need to be mindful of your caloric intake.

Make sure that plant-based alternatives that you use for animal products are lean and low-calorie, where possible.

For example, a 3-ounce serving of tofu has just 63 calories, whereas a 3-ounce chicken breast has 122 calories, and 1 cup of almond milk provides 37 calories and 3 grams of fat, compared with the 122 calories and 4.6 grams of fat in 1 cup of 2 percent cow’s milk.

On the other hand, you want to avoid highly processed, high-calorie, high-sugar, and high-fat plant-based alternatives like sweetened chocolate soy milk or almond milk, soy chicken nuggets, and vegan yogurts that have all sorts of added sugar and little to no protein.

A bowl of tofu.

#4: Make Sure You’re Eating Enough Protein

When people transition from an omnivorous diet to a plant-based diet, the biggest concern is getting enough protein.

While it is a misconception that you can’t get enough protein on a plant-based diet, you do want to make sure that you are indeed eating enough protein, as this macronutrient has been associated with promoting satiety, controlling appetite, and aiding weight loss.

#5: Limit Processed Foods

Coca-Cola, Oreos, and potato chips all have two things in common: they aren’t healthy and conducive to weight loss, and they are vegan.

Remember that the quality of the foods that you eat really matters when you are following a plant-based diet for weight loss or better health.

The National Institutes of Health reports that highly processed foods are associated with weight gain.

A meal planning form.

#6: Plan Your Meals

Plant-based meals take a little more planning than following an omnivorous diet because you want to make sure that you are getting complete proteins, which sometimes requires pairing complementary foods like rice and beans or choosing a complete protein like soy.

A study found that people who planned their meals in advance had lower body mass index (BMI) than those who did not.

Grabbing plant-based meals last minute or trying to throw something together may lead to making unhealthy food choices, relying on packaged and processed foods, and forgetting about the importance of fiber, protein, and healthy fats for satiety.

#7: Take Supplements If Necessary

A risk of a plant-based diet weight loss meal plan is the potential to develop nutritional deficiencies. These risks are heightened with the vegan diet in particular.

Veganism is associated with higher risks of nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin B12, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein deficiencies.

The risk of nutritional deficiencies on a vegan diet is also heightened if you are following a vegan diet meal plan for weight loss and cutting out higher-calorie foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. 

A variety of supplements.

Although these foods are often the foundation of many plant-based diet meal plans, because they are higher in calories, people trying to lose weight on a plant-based diet often cut back on these plant-based foods, further limiting the range of nutrients they are getting.

Moreover, many plant-based proteins are incomplete proteins, which means that they must be paired over the course of the day with complementary proteins that provide other essential amino acids.

If you are not mindful about your protein intake on a raw vegan diet and trying to get not only enough plant-based protein but a range of plant-based protein sources, you may have trouble building muscle or even maintaining muscle mass.

Studies have also found that vegans tend to have lower bone density. 

This is due to low calcium intake because dairy products are excluded from the vegan diet.

Vitamin D is also necessary for healthy bones. Your body can synthesize vitamin D if your skin is exposed to adequate sunlight, but if you live in northern latitudes, a vitamin D supplement is often necessary during the winter months.

Supplements can help ensure you don’t experience deficiencies that may compromise your health, increase food cravings, or lower your energy levels, reducing your ability to be active.

There you have it, our top 7 tips on how to lose weight on a plant-based diet!

For more information about plant-based diets, check out our guide to being a plant-based athlete here.

A variety of plant-based foods.
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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