Gone vegan but still can't lose unnecessary weight? Or thinking of going vegan to lose weight easier? All you need is a balanced vegan diet plan for weight loss and some exercise to fire up your hormones. But let's focus on the diet only for now and begin with a question before we come to the diet plan.
Do calories in a balanced vegan diet matter for weight loss?
The difference for a vegan diet compared to a “normal” western diet is that your body needs more work to convert the plant nutrients to make them bioavailable for you. Because of that your body will not overconsume calories and therefore calorie counting might be not necessary.
But there are a few more things to consider.
Women tend to store more fat than men because of another biology and less muscle mass. Muscles are great to burn fats even when you are not active, but you need to exercise first to get more muscles. So women might need to watch more for calories because they are very good in storing them as fat.
But calorie is not calorie. It is more important what calories you eat than how many calories. The difference in what calories you take lies in the form of the food. You have to always ask yourself: Is my food whole or not whole?
Processed white rice for example has no fiber like the natural form brown rice. Brown rice has fiber, that makes it more time consuming for the body to absorb all the calories.
Because it is harder for your body to get all the calories it needs from the food with fiber, it will take in less. So even though you eat the same caloric amount of white rice and brown rice, your body will have fewer calories from the brown rice absorbed.
Carbohydrates in the fiber-less food are absorbed too fast. Because of that your body can fill up its need for carbs faster. This will lead to an excess amount of carbs that your body won't waste but convert into fat as energy reserve.
But your goal is not to store more fat but to burn it!
And there is one more factor that counts to the question “Is my food whole or not whole?”.
If you would take the brown rice and put it into a blender and make it into a puree, you would break down the fiber and make the digestible carbs easier available. You basically predigest the food for your body and take up more calories faster this way. This would result in more fat storage again.
So eating 100 g bread made of whole grains or just the 100 g whole grains makes a difference too. And a whole fruit would be better than a blended fruit and a blended fruit would be better than a juiced fruit because a blended fruit still has fiber.
So what is the answer to the question: Should I count calories for weight loss or just eat whole foods without counting?
Like you see from the example above, it isn’t such an easy task to count calories, if you have to guess how many calories your body actually absorbs. And your genetics and gender makes that not easier too.
If you want to be on the safe side, then you avoid processed foods as much as possible and start to count your calories only if you don't see results (intensive bodyweight exercise included). After some time you will know from experience how much of what to eat and won’t need to count calories anymore.
It must be self explaining that vegan junk food like meat substitutes will give you a hard time to lose weight and be healthy.
Vegan meat substitutes and junk food will not do you a favor. What you really need is better cooking skills!
How to count calories
The reason I wrote that you count your calories only if you don't see results, is because done wrong can lead to more harm than good.
There are things you can do wrong. In case you set your caloric need to low you can face the famous yo-yo effect after, if you should decide to eat more again.
Another one is that your body adapts to the caloric deficiency and starts to be more productive with less calories. You might end up with malnutrition as well as the infamous fat wheel!
The fat wheel (a term I just invented) is the following: You eat lesser, your body adapts. You still don't lose weight and get stressed about it. Your body will put itself under stress too. The stress raises your cortisol hormone what makes fat loss even more impossible.
To do it the safe way you go to cronometer.com and enter your details. Then you will see how many calories you need to stay at your weight. Don't forget to include your activity level.
Next you use cronometer to enter the foods you had during the day. Your goal is to be 250 calories below the calories you need.
Then during a 6 week period you check if you lose fat. And I mean check for fat not weight! If you see no change, then you can try to lower 250 more.
If you are obese, you can go for 500 calories below straight. But never do more than 500.
With the right food and correct exercise you should see results. If not, then the issue shouldn't be the calories. So please don't overdo it!
What food you should have in your kitchen
If you want to live a healthy life with a high quality body, you need high quality food. That's why you should prefer organic food and save your money somewhere else.
Some people believe that there is no much difference in organic and non organic food. It can make a difference for your weight too.
Food to have in your cupboard:
- Millet Flakes, Buckwheat Flakes, Oats
- Almonds, Peanuts, Cashew, Walnuts, Brazil nuts
- Flax Seeds, Chia Seeds, Hemp Seeds, Sunflower Seeds
- Whole Grains (Millet, Buckwheat, Brown Rice, Amaranth, Quinoa, Spelt, Rye, Barley)
- Legumes (Lentils, Peas, Beans)
- Olive Oil, Hemp Oil, Avocado Oil, Coconut Oil (All virgin)
- Dried Raisins
- Still Spring Water
Food to have in your Fridge:
- Broccoli, Cucumber, Capsicum, Tomato, Cabbage, Sweet Potato, Carrots, Arugula, Spinach, Wild Plants.
- Orange, Kiwi, Banana, Pineapple, Pomegranate, Berries
- Virgin Flax Seed Oil
Food to have in your medicine shelf:
- Cinnamon, Turmeric, Milk Thistle, Parsley, Oregano, Black Pepper and other herbs
There are other nice healthy foods that I haven't mentioned.
And if you don't buy candies and have fruits at home instead, you won't have cravings for them.
How to use the food in your kitchen
This is based on the way I do it and can be altered of course. I exercise regularly and therefore eat some more calories. The amount in grams for food should be altered on personal needs.
If you want to use dry legumes like me, that are cheaper and have no additives, you will have to acquire the habit to think ahead of what you want to eat tomorrow, because you need to soak them before cooking.
But with a big fridge you can store the already soaked foods for several days and be more flexible this way.
100 g Millet flakes
10 g Brazil Nuts
30 g Almonds
30 g Flax Seeds
30 g Dried Raisins or preferably fresh berries
You have to soak the flax seeds one day before you want to eat them. Either in the morning while preparing your breakfast or in the evening before going to sleep. Unsoaked ones will drain water from your intestine and could cause constipation.
You don't have to soak the almonds and brazil nuts, but I would recommend it because soaking gets rid of the phytic acid and makes the micro nutrients more available and digestible. Phytic acid in a low dose however has shown to be beneficial against cancer.
The next day you blend a kiwi with around 0.4l still water in a blender. Add all ingredients into a bowl.
I know that it is not the best way to eat the kiwi in terms of what I have mentioned above, but combined with the water as well as the fat of the nuts, the sugar intake will be slowed down.
You can use oats or the buckwheat flakes too. In case you have some gluten intolerance, oats might be a problem for you.
Instead of flax seeds you can take chia seeds or hemp seeds too. The reason I prefer flax seeds is because of the higher omega 3 amounts.
Walnuts would be a great alternative for almonds. But they are low in vitamin E.
Brazil nuts are the best known selenium source. 10g brazil nuts have a maximum of 200 micrograms selenium what will give you more than you need to protect your cells. More than 400 micrograms selenium are believed to be toxic though this should apply more for medication than natural sources.
The reason I choose kiwi is due to the high vitamin C amount. You can use other fruits like orange too if you like.
Caution with dried fruits though because most of them are industrially dried with sulfur and can harm your digestive system. So better use fresh fruits if you can.
And of course you can add all the above-mentioned variations in a good mix if you like.
150 g Whole grains
75 g Legumes
500 g Vegetable salad
10g Flax seed oil
The vegetables will provide your cells with many vitamins, minerals and digestive enzymes (if raw). It is best to always have some raw vegetables before your main meal.
You can use flax seed oil on top of your salad and some herbs if you like. What I like to do often is to eat my vegetables separate and put the oil into the cooled down grains or legumes with some seasonings.
Other oils I use are avocado, olive, hemp and coconut oil. They don't interfere much in your omega 3 to omega 6 ratio balance.
Never heat up flax seed oil or any oil high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (Omega 3 and omega 6). That will lead to trans fats and is highly unhealthy and will cause your body to isolate them with even more fat. The only oil you should use for high heat is coconut oil.
You can cook the first two ingredients as instructed. I would soak dry beans and peas usually 24 hours instead of just 12 as often recommended. That will make them better digestible. Dry lentils should be soaked too, but can be used unsoaked as well in case you forgot to soak something.
Special trick: Because beans can make you produce more butt air than you want and you usually don't want to use it to launch to the moon (or someone beside you to send you there with his fist ), you can add one tablespoon bicarbonate of soda into the soaking water. This seems to help.
For whole grains soaking is less important, but maybe better. Which one you choose for your meal is your decision. All have a unique taste. Quinoa is usually more expensive than the others, but is praised highly for its health benefits and is my favorite in taste.
You can try to include turmeric from time to time into your meals. It has some very good health benefits like detoxification of organs and can be made up 1000 times stronger by combining it with black pepper.
The thing with herbs though is that they are meant to heal specific areas by poisoning them and forcing the body to detox the problematic area more intensively. Thus neglecting the parts the body gives usually more priority to.
Therefore, it might be not wise to overuse any herb and that's the reason you shouldn't "overdose" herbs and use them probably more when really needed for a period. The bitter taste alone tells you that they are toxic. And garlic for example has the same effects like herbs.
Further knowledge can be probably best found in traditional Asian medicine and exclude my knowledge so far.
50 g Peanuts or peanut butter
50 g Green leafy vegetables
A quick meal for the evening are some peanuts or if you like a peanut butter on a bread or a rice cracker. Or you can also make a salad with green leafy vegetables with peanut toppings.
You can use other nuts too. Look for the ingredients though and make sure it contains 100% nuts only.
If you have a ripe avocado you can make yourself an avocado salad.
Just add some cucumber, tomatoes and some green leafy vegetables.
Snacks during the day
Almonds or/and Cashew/Peanuts/Walnuts/
Bananas and fruits in general.
Almonds will be your best vitamin E source. Cashew can aid your zinc intake. Peanuts are very high in vitamin B3 and high in vitamin B5. Walnuts are the best source for Omega 3 from nuts, but still higher in Omega 6 though.
Bananas will be a good potassium source and are a great food after a workout, because they raise your blood sugar levels. This is ok after a workout. Other fruits should be preferred other times.
And drink enough still spring water from glass bottles if possible instead of fruit juices or soft drinks so you stay away from sugar.
Having a balanced vegan diet with whole foods is in my opinion the best way to lose weight. Not the only one but the best because it comes with health benefits.
If you stick to a good exercise plan as well, you will reach your goals fast enough.