Veganism is now one of the fastest growing movements in western culture, and it’s important to understand that going vegan isn’t just about food or a diet; veganism is veganism, there isn’t really a “vegan diet” (however people often separate eating as a vegan from living a true vegan lifestyle).
While this article is entirely focused on how to stick to a vegan diet, you should always remember that the fundamental ethos of veganism is actually for an individual to make every effort they can to avoid animal products in every aspect of their day to day lives.
In the world of dieting, people assume that consuming vegan food will consist of nothing but carrots, lettuce and the occasional warm soup, however, this is far from the truth.
Vegans become vegans because they do not agree with any form of animal trade or consumption, but this doesn’t stop you from following the dieting aspect of the movement, and if done correctly, it can be a great way to lose weight and improve your overall health.
Like all diets that focus on calorie, fat and sugar intake, a vegan diet is no different if you want to lose weight. Just because you see a meat-free cheeseburger with a vegan sticker on it, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. However, if you just want to switch to vegan foods to avoid animal products, then your diet itself will not actually change.
This may come as a shock to you but any meal that you currently eat that consists of animal products, you will most likely find, or be able to make, a vegan version of using plant-based substitutes. This means you can still eat pizza, garlic bread, steak, chicken nuggets, spaghetti carbonara, ice cream, and cheese! Yes, there are dozens of different types of vegan cheese on the market.
The vegan versions of these meals are simply made with plant-based products and are readily available in large supermarket chains and even restaurants so you can see why it’s important to have a basic understanding of what a vegan diet can actually consist of.
So, the good news is you don’t actually have to stop eating all the foods you currently love, however, if you want to lose weight you still need to follow the basic principles of a weight loss dieting program, and this handy guide will give you all the information you require in order to help you lose weight with a vegan diet, as well as everything you need to know about vegan food and how to eat vegan.
In this article we’re fully explaining how to adopt a vegan diet and how to look after your nutritional intake, as well as giving you some handy tips to help you decide if a vegan diet is for you.
How Do I Transition To A Vegan Diet?
This is arguably one of the most important aspects of adopting a vegan diet, and it is crucial that you take it seriously and also take your time, this is not an overnight process and should not be treated as such.
A large majority of dairy and meat products contain harmful chemicals, hormones, toxins, and antibiotics which are used during the farming process to keep animals free of disease and infections.
These ultimately find their way into the food chain, and into your body. So when you start to remove these from your diet your body will go through some changes as it begins the process of expelling these unwanted, and unnatural substances.
If you consider your consumption of animal products to be high then it’s recommended that you gradually remove animal products from your diet over the course of a few weeks by systematically replacing specific foods.
People that already have a low intake of animal-based products can usually remove them over a shorter period of time.
Your body is most likely used to relying on certain foods, so if you simply remove them all overnight then you could trigger unwanted cravings that will have you dying to consume them again.
Quick tip: Gradually replace individual animal products in your diet with non-animal products, this will make it seem like a much simpler transition, and easier to manage.
Is A Vegan Diet Flexible?
Following a vegan diet is unlike any other diet you’ll come across, mainly due to the wide variety of foods you can consume. You are not forced to eat one type of food or limit yourself to how many meals you have throughout the day, as long as you don’t go over your daily intake goals in relation to calories, fats, carbohydrates, sugars, it will be extremely flexible.
You are not going to be stuck eating carrots and salad!
You Will Make Mistakes:
Do not beat yourself up if you accidentally consume a product containing animal ingredients, as this is a pitfall that even the most experienced vegans fall into now and then. As we’ve mentioned, it’ll take some time for you to become completely aware of what you can and cannot include in your vegan diet.
The main thing you need to get used to is checking if a product is vegan or not, and we can assure you that once you get used to this you won’t even realize how good you are at finding vegan treats! Just be patient.
What Are Vegan Foods?
A “vegan food” is basically any food product that does not contain any animal or animal-derived ingredient. Some may be very obvious and others may not, but don’t worry, we’ll break down the most common ingredients for you to look out for, as well as the basics of which foods to avoid.
It can seem daunting at first when you see what to avoid, but we’ll help you discover a whole new world of tasty vegan food!
What Foods Should I Avoid On A Vegan Diet
Depending on what your diet currently consists of, this list could be pretty long, especially if a high percentage of your diet is meat and dairy. However, it’s extremely important to remember that most of the food you currently eat can be substituted with a vegan version that’s just as tasty, flavorsome, and “meaty”.
You DO NOT have to give up pizza, burgers, or snacks to follow a vegan diet. The general rule is, ‘if it used to be alive, then you need to avoid’.
Any animal such as the following should always be avoided:
- All Seafood
We obviously cannot list every animal on the planet, but you get the picture – ‘if it used to be alive, then you need to avoid’. This also includes exotic or wild animals such as Kangaroo, Buffalo, Elk etc.
Common Non-Vegan Ingredients To Look Out For:
- Lactose / Lactose Powder
- Lactic Acid (this can also be plant based)
- Milk Powder
- Milk Proteins
- Cheese / Cheese Powder
- Egg / Egg Powder
- L. Cysteine
- Whey / Whey Powder
- Condensed milk
Common Vegan-Friendly Ingredients:
- Rehydrated Textured Soya Protein
- Yeast Extract
- Methyl Cellulose
- Xanthan Gum
- Calcium Chloride
- Calcium Acetate
- Gellan Gum
Can I Eat Dairy On A Vegan Diet?
If you’re a big fan of milk, cheese, yogurts, and other dairy products, you may be thinking that this will create an enormous restriction in your diet in terms of the food you can consume. You may be thinking “I’ll never eat a pizza again” or “I can’t go without my morning coffee” – well this is far from the case.
If you drink dairy, how many options do you have? One, maybe two if you drink goats milk, right?
Well, vegans get to choose from:
- Rice Milk
- Almond Milk
- Soya Milk
- Oat Milk
- Coconut Milk
- Hazelnut Milk
- Cashew Milk
- Hemp Milk
- Flax Milk
- and more!
There is also a huge range of vegan cheese on offer from Cheddar to Tex-Mex, and Mozzarella to Edam.
Dairy Milk vs Soya Milk
Here’s a little comparison between Dairy Milk and Soya Milk to show you how easy it is to make a big difference with a small change.
Dairy Milk Vs Soya Milk (Per 100 ml)
- Calories: 64 vs 28.6
- Fat: 3.6 vs 1.6
- Saturates: 2.3 vs 0.3
- Carbohydrates: 4.7 vs 0.4
- Sugars: 4.7 vs 0.1
Even if you try and opt for Skimmed milk, this still has an average content of 5-8 grams of sugar per 100ml, which is something you want to avoid if you’re trying to lose weight.
Can Vegans Eat Cheese?
Cheese seems to be one of the biggest hurdles for most people to overcome when adopting a vegan diet, however, there are now so many different brands of vegan cheese to choose from, you can be sure you’ll never miss out on pizza again.
What Vegan Cheese Can I Buy:
- Mild Cheddar
- Strong Cheddar
- Tex Mex
- Pizza Cheese
- Smoked Gouda
This is actually a relatively small list. There are now dozens of vegan cheese brands to indulge in, all offering a wide range of flavors.
Quick tip: just type the words ‘Buy vegan cheese’ into google to be blown away!
How Do I Avoid Dairy When Eating Out As A Vegan?
Thanks to the ever-growing popularity of veganism, this is relatively easy to do now. If you can’t go without your morning coffee from Starbucks, they offer dairy-alternatives and so do most coffee chains now as well as independent coffee shops, just ask them!
Again, many chain restaurants and independent foods joints will also offer a wide variety of vegan options and dairy replacements, so if you’re looking for a weekly cheat meal to indulge in, just have a browse on the internet.
Quick tip: Try www.happycow.net, they have a huge list of all vegetarian and vegan restaurants all over the globe including reviews and photos from previous customers.
How Do I Know If Lactic Acid Is Plant Based Or Animal Derived?
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to figure this out. Sometimes the product will tell you it “contains milk”, sometimes it will tell you it’s suitable for vegans, sometimes it won’t say anything.
Quick Tip: Open google, type the name of the product followed by the word vegan, and you’ll most likely find the answer very quickly.
“MAY CONTAIN TRACES OF”
You will see this on almost every single food item you pick up for the rest of your life, regardless of the diet you follow. It simply means the product has been produced in a factory, or an environment, that uses the ingredients they have listed under ‘May contain traces of’.
It’s really down to you if you still want to consume this product. Many would consider a product that says ‘May contain traces of milk’ still vegan as long as milk is not a direct ingredient in the product.
It’s really just companies covering their own back. During the production process, if a product becomes contaminated with dairy – or another ingredient – and someone has an allergic reaction to this product due to this contamination then the company would be liable for this.
Quick Tip: Dairy, eggs, and dairy-derived ingredients are usually highlighted in bold in the list of ingredients.
The ‘E’ stands for European and means that these additives have been tested for safety and been assessed for use in the European Union (EU), these will only appear on EU food packaging. You may see ingredients such as E120, E542 etc which are known as food additives and are not always vegan.
Simply search for the specific E number followed by the word vegan (e.g. “E120 Vegan”) and you will quickly discover whether it is suitable or not.
How Do I Know If A Product Is Vegan?
At first, you might find it a bit of a difficult task trying to determine which foods are suitable for your new diet, but do not let this put you off! It will soon become second nature and you’ll be able to identify whether a product is vegan or not in no time at all.
Some products will actually display a vegan symbol on the packaging or the words ‘Suitable for vegans’. For other products, you may need to perform a quick scan of the ingredients. If in doubt, try using an app like ‘Is It Vegan’ that allows you to scan the barcode of the item and get an instant result!
Even if it does not say suitable for vegans, it could still be vegan! Just look for any animal ingredients, if you don’t see any then there’s a good chance it’s vegan. Be careful with products that just say “Natural Flavoring”, this can catch even the most experienced vegan out as there is no way of knowing what this contains. It could be vegan or it could contain an animal product.
Quick tip: If it says “Suitable for Vegetarians” and does not contain any dairy-derived ingredients such as milk, lactose etc – or egg – then it’s most likely vegan!
Are Vegan Diets Expensive To Stick To?
Vegan food has become incredibly accessible in recent years due to larger demand and wider distribution, this comes with a lower cost and cheaper goods for consumers.
However, like most diets, it depends on what you decide to consume, and where you live; in some parts of the world, it may be rather expensive to buy fresh fruit and vegetables every day compared to other parts of the world.
This is the same with vegan products, you’ll find some stores will have a wide range of vegan meats and cheeses available to buy at very reasonable prices relative to the local economy, other areas may have to charge more to cover delivery & distribution costs.
You can also find a wide range of vegan gourmet foods which can be expensive, but again, this is the same with any diet.
It’s all relative to your income and the local economy, vegan food is now as competitively priced as most animal-derived food.
Where Can I Buy Vegan Food?
If you’re talking about fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, chickpeas, beans then you can buy these almost anywhere. The same goes for other vegan foods such as Oat Milk, Soy Milk, Meat Substitutes, Vegan Cheese, and other vegan-specific products.
Vegan foods are now widely available in huge supermarket chains across America, the United Kingdom, and mainland Europe. Many stores now even have dedicated vegan sections, and health food stores are usually fully stocked on animal-free products.
If you don’t live near these types of stores you can always shop online as many of the products don’t need to be refrigerated during transit.
Quick tip: Just type “buy vegan food” into google! Whole Foods is a great place to start if you’re based in the USA.
Not all alcohol is suitable for a vegan diet. Many wines and beers are filtered through a fish extract in order to clarify the finished product.
There are certain brands that are known for being vegan, however, depending on which country you are in, they might not actually be vegan! This is due to each country having its own laws on what can and cannot go into alcoholic beverages.
Quick tip: The easiest way to check is to visit www.barnivore.com and simply type in the name of the drink. This site will tell you straight away if the product is vegan, and which country it is vegan in.
It may come as a shock to most people, but eating vegan doesn’t automatically transform you into a miraculously healthy superhuman. The common misconception of veganism is that people only consume products such as fruit and vegetables, which as we’ve already covered is simply not the case.
Whether you’re adopting a vegan diet to better your health, or to avoid animal products for ethical reasons, you need to make sure you hit your daily nutritional goals for protein, vitamins, minerals, essential fats, and sugars.
Calorie & Fat Intake
The majority of weight loss programs will focus on your calorie and fat Intake and a vegan diet is no different if you’re trying to lose weight.
You need to be able to calculate your current height and weight and have a rough idea of what your goals are in terms of how much weight you want to lose. If you’re not sure then you can use online calorie calculators.
This is a great calorie calculation tool.
This is a great fat calculation tool.
Once you have these figures you can then start to look at the types of foods you should be eating on a vegan diet and the types of foods that ideally should be avoided if you really want to lose weight.
Your calorie intake is essentially down to you to manage, all we can do is guide you in the right direction in regards to the types of vegan foods you should be including in your diet.
Like most weight loss diets you want to be aiming for a specific amount of calories in combination with a low fat intake.
Quick tip: Use an app like MyFitnessPal to easily keep track of your calorie, fat and protein intake.
Does A Vegan Diet Have Enough Protein?
Protein is an essential part of any diet, it is responsible for the development of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, blood, and also helps to repair muscle and tissue within the body. Proteins are simply amino acids and all living organisms need to consume enough protein in order to live a healthy, fully functioning life.
Protein isn’t related to a specific diet in terms of whether you get enough or not, it is related to the food you eat regardless of the diet. You need to make sure you consume enough protein no matter what diet you follow.
Depending on your body goals, your daily protein intake will vary quite drastically compared to other people. If you’re looking to build muscle then you may need to consume up to 3 times more protein than the average person as amino acids are essential for muscle repair and growth.
Quick tip: Use a site like https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/calpro.htm to calculate how much protein you should be consuming.
Where Do Vegans Get Their Protein?
Common sources of vegan protein include:
- Meat Substitutes
- Protein Bars
Seiten is your new best friend (Pronounced the same as Satan, but with very different nutritional content!).
Seiten is one of the most popular meat substitutes readily available in most good health food shops, supermarkets, and online retailers. It boasts an impressively low-calorie content combined with a high amount of protein and almost zero fat content.
It’s also extremely versatile when it comes to cooking as it can be a great replacement for steak, chopped up into strips and coated with fajita seasoning ready to pack a bean filled burrito, or even sliced and used as a sandwich filler.
100 grams of Seitan will typically provide:
- 132 Calories
- 20 grams of protein
- 1.7 grams of fat
- 0.32 grams of sugar
- 10 grams of carbohydrates
- 0.72 grams of salt
- 2.2 grams of dietary fiber
As you can see, this is low in the things you want to avoid and high in the things you want to include in your diet.
Switching out meat and replacing it with Seiten is a great step to adopting a vegan diet and making sure you fill your protein requirements.
Another amazingly diverse vegan food is tofu, packed full of protein and low in fat, adding this to your meals is another great way to hit your protein intake. It’s also fortified with calcium and iron.
You can add tofu to stir-frys, marinade it in your favorite seasonings and grill it with vegetables or even add it to a spicy hot curry.
100 grams of Tofu will typically provide:
- 76 Calories
- 8 grams of protein
- 4.8 grams of fat
- 0 grams of Cholesterol
- 1.9 grams of carbohydrates
- 0.3 grams of dietary fiber
Quick tip: Meat substitutes are packed full of protein, and the easiest products for many meat eaters to transition with.
Again, most supermarkets and health food stores will sell a wide range of vegan, meat-free substitutes which are packed full of protein, fortified with vitamins, and are also seriously tasty. You can even buy vegan steak so there’s really no excuse!
Will I Lose Muscle Mass When Sticking To A Vegan Diet?
It’s common for some people to actually lose weight, in the form of fat, when switching to a vegan diet, not muscle mass. However, if you decide to switch the types of foods you eat without taking into account how much protein, or calories you’ll be consuming on your new diet, then, of course, you could lose muscle mass.
This is just common sense with any diet you adopt, if you want to keep your muscle mass then you just need to make sure you are eating an adequate amount of protein, calories, and essential fatty acids to maintain your current muscle mass.
Can You Still Bulk Up & Gain Muscle On A Vegan Diet?
Absolutely! In order to bulk up you just need to make sure you’re consuming the right amount of calories, protein, and essential fatty acids, just like you would when consuming animals products. The same can be said for muscle growth.
You may be taking weight gain supplements such as Whey powder to bulk up, BCAAs to help with muscle growth, and protein supplements for recovery. You can purchase vegan versions of all of these products and continue to build muscle and bulk like the hulk.
Quick tip: Take one look at Jordan David of Conscious Muscle or former Mr. Universe winner, Billy Simmonds, this should prove our point, both vegan.
If you’re finding it difficult to hit your daily intake of protein and vitamins then you can also include supplements and protein powders into your diet.
Many of these supplements will also provide your body with essential amino acids and minerals that you could have easily been missing out on. So, it’s a good idea to look into supplements as they could give your immune system an extra boost anyway!
A common myth is that adopting a vegan diet will see you become deficient in many vitamins such as B12, and minerals such as Iron, however, most vegan foods including milk, butter, cheese, and meat substitutes will usually be fortified with these essential vitamins and minerals.
You will either see something similar to this on the product: ‘with added calcium, vitamin B12, riboflavin and vitamin D’, or just look at the ingredients list and you will see the actual percentage of fortified vitamins and minerals the product contains.
Vegan protein powder is now extremely affordable and is a great way for you to hit your daily protein goals without having to eat like a beast all day. It comes in a variety of flavors and is also pretty versatile.
Protein powder can be mixed with water or even cold oat milk and ice to make your own healthy vegan chocolate protein shake. It can also be added to food or even turned into homemade, organic protein bars so you’ll never get bored of using it.
Protein powder also contains essential amino acids that play vital roles in the body’s immune and repair system, so supplementing this can actually give you an overall positive health boost.
Vitamins & Minerals
This is the same as any other diet, you need to eat fruit and veg to get your daily intake of vitamins! Or, you can take vegan multivitamin supplements. We would always recommend going for the fresh food option as this will also help you hit your daily fiber intake goals.
A common myth is that vegans are deficient in vitamins & minerals but this is simply not the case. Many people are actually deficient in this area of their diet because they simply do not pay attention to it. You don’t have to be a health freak to follow a vegan diet but if you take note of these aspects of your nutrition, it will lead to a healthier life for you and your body.
Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy, helps contribute towards normal metabolism speeds and helps make DNA. It is an essential nutrient to ensure your body can function normally. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause a condition called anemia which can leave you feeling weak and you may often find you become more easily susceptible to illness than most.
There is a common myth that by consuming a vegan diet you will instantly become deficient in B12. While vitamin B12 is only found naturally in meat and dairy, most vegan products are fortified with Vitamin B12 and it’s actually quite easy to hit your daily RDA for this essential vitamin.
Vegan milk and cheese are commonly fortified with vitamin B12, and a popular source of B12 is yeast extract. You can take vegan multivitamins which also include B12.
Quick tip: You can purchase vegan Vitamin B12 capsules from good health & wellbeing retailers.
Omega 3, 6 & 9
This is overlooked by many people on ALL types of diets. Omega 3, 6 & 9 are fatty acids that play an essential role in maintaining your heart, brain, immune functions, and help balance your cholesterol levels.
You can take supplements or find these essential fatty acids in a wide range of naturally occurring products such as flaxseed oil, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and tasty avocados!
Quick tip: You can purchase vegan Omega capsules from good health & wellbeing retailers.
Iron & Calcium
These minerals are essential for the body and can be found in a wide variety of versatile food sources such as lentils, soybeans, tofu, tempeh, lima beans, quinoa, fortified cereals, brown rice, oatmeal, pumpkin, squash, pine, pistachio, sunflower, cashews, unhulled sesame.
Quick tip: You can purchase vegan Iron & Calcium capsules from good health & wellbeing retailers
Is It Easy To Lose Weight With A Vegan Diet?
It is no less difficult losing weight with a vegan diet than any other diet – it’s all about carefully monitoring your daily caloric intake and ensuring that you burn more calories than you consume!
Often, losing weight as a vegan can be easier because you’re not consuming as many processed foods. Many vegan dieters also opt for using weight loss pills (such as fat burner pills and appetite suppressant pills) or weight loss shakes to give them that extra little boost – just make sure that the weight management products you choose do not contain animal gelatin or using protein powder from animal sources.
Should I Stick To A Vegan Diet When I’m Pregnant Or Breastfeeding?
It is perfectly safe to continue to adopt a vegan diet while you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Like with any diet, you need to ensure you are hitting your daily targets for protein, minerals, vitamins, and other essential nutritional components in order to stay healthy.
Key areas to pay extra attention to are protein (essential amino acids), Omega-3 essential fatty acids, iron, and calcium as well as vitamins D and B(12). It’s just common sense that should be applied to ALL diets; you need to make sure you consume the right nutrients to stay healthy.
Are Vegan Diets Safe For Growing Children?
Again, the same with any diet, you need to make sure your child is consuming the right food and receiving the right nutrients, this is no different for any other diet. As long as your child is eating the right food then a vegan diet is perfectly safe for them to follow.
Does The Vegan Diet Give You Clearer Skin?
While a vegan diet cannot be solely attributed to giving the dieter with crystal clear skin, many people have reported that since adopting a vegan diet they have benefited significantly from clearer skin.
It stands to reason that if you adopt a vegan diet consisting mostly of fruits and vegetables then there is an extremely high chance that your skin will benefit from this greatly, due to the high consumption of essential vitamins your body needs to maintain and repair cells.
One suggested culprit of bad skin appears to be dairy due to the number of chemicals and toxins present in the product. These toxins are said to leave the body through pores on the skin which can result in a build-up of nasty bacteria resulting in spots, blemishes, and even acne.
Quick tip: Try replacing dairy with vegan alternatives for just 7 days and see if this has an effect!
Over the last decade, we’ve seen an enormous increase in not only the number of people turning to a vegan diet, but also the number of supermarkets, companies, and restaurants adopting and expanding their range of vegan products – it’s never been easier to be vegan.
The great thing about a vegan diet is that you can actually adapt it to fit your own personal goals, as you’re not restricted to the types of meals you can actually eat, as long as they do not contain any animal products.
You can buy vegan pizza, vegan steak, vegan cheese, and a wide range of vegan milk.
Vegan diets are generally rich in nutrients, vitamins, protein, and minerals with many vegan products even being fortified with calcium, vitamin B12, and omega 3, 6 & 9. Many people that adopt a vegan diet report an overall boost in energy levels, clearer skin, weight loss, and many people even say their concentration levels improve.
If you’re looking to lose weight on a vegan diet you can still enjoy a wide range of tasty foods while losing a few pounds. You won’t be stuck eating carrots day in day out. One of the most popular meat substitutes on a vegan diet is called Seitan, rich in protein and super low in fat meaning you can still enjoy a meaty meal while dropping a few kilograms.
Vegan diets are perfectly safe for children, pregnant women, and women that are breastfeeding. As with any diet, you still need to make sure you’re consuming the right foods, calories, proteins, vitamins, and minerals etc.
You can even build muscle on a vegan diet, and many bodybuilders have actually reported seeing faster gains along with increased fat loss when switching to a vegan diet, making this one of the most versatile diets you can adopt.
There are so many goals you can achieve on a vegan diet, and you’ll never be limited to what types of meals you can eat. It can be adopted by anyone, it’s relatively cheap, and most people see an overall boost in their health and immune system after just a few weeks.
If you’re looking for an overall better way of life, then a vegan diet is for you.