Plant-based weight loss can be a puzzle. Sometimes people really struggle to lose weight on whole foods. And sometimes they might even gain some weight.
One of the reasons might be their belief that simply eating healthy food will lead to weight loss. However, the reality is a bit more complex.
Therefore, if weight management is your goal, let me share a few tips and tricks to help you with this.
Why Isn’t the Weight Budging Using Whole Food Plant Based Eating?
First let’s tackle the mystery of why you’re not seeing weight loss on a plant-based diet, even if you’ve been careful with your food choices.
Regardless of the plan you follow, the basic rule of weight management stays the same. If you consume more energy (calories) than your body can use, it will store the excess as body fat.
In short, you can’t eat unlimited amounts of healthy food just because it’s plant-based. Calories in plant-based foods aren’t magic. They’re no different from those in other eating plans.
Fact: Excess calories are stashed as fat – no exceptions.
Sorry about that.
The Mystery of Slim YouTubers
Now, let’s dive into the intriguing world of those slim YouTubers. Many seem to feast on stacks of pancakes and hearty bowls of oatmeal topped with peanut butter without packing on pounds. If they are all truly eating as much as they say, could it be that they have a more active lifestyle?
Perhaps they are serious athletes who include heavy weightlifting and regular jogging.
Age might also play a role; many of them are younger than some of us.
As for me, at the time of writing, I’m 73 this year, I’ve definitely noticed that my metabolism isn’t quite as peppy as it was in my twenties. Age matters. So annoying.
Spotting Calorie-Dense Plant-Based Foods that Might Hinder Weight Loss
Even when eating whole food plant-based food, it’s important to spot the calorie-dense choices. We’ve already crossed out oil due to its calorie load and their possible problem for arterial function. Other high-fat culprits might include nuts, seeds, avocados, nut and seed butter, and olives. All these can still be included in your menus as a ‘good fat source’, but in modest serving sizes.
And then there are the starchy, carb-rich foods like oats, rice, pasta, legumes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and some tropical fruits.
These pack more calories per mouthful compared to most salads and vegetables. But there’s no need to fear them because they are more calorie-dense. Again, just keep an eye on their portions.
Calorie-dense whole foods that should be eaten in modest servings
The Plant-Based Weight Loss Hack
To ace plant-based eating for weight management, the trick is to load up on vegetables and salads. They’re the stars on your plate; there’s no need to skimp on these. And all the foods with their higher calorie counts can still take part….but they only play supporting roles.
Let me give you an example of what I mean:
Picture a big bowl of brown rice with plenty of chickpeas and a few green flecks of veggies. That can be a real calorie bomb.
Now, take the same bowl, fill it up with tasty sautéed ‘above ground’ veggies instead, and add just 1/3 cup of cooked brown rice and half a cup of chickpeas – It’s giving you the same volume of food, but definitely fewer calories.
A Closer Look at Breakfast
Let’s chat about breakfast. For instance oatmeal. Two servings may look similar, but they can vastly differ in their calorie content.
- One of the breakfasts might include half a cup of rolled oats, nearly a cup of oat milk, and a banana.
- The second bowl could have a quarter cup of rolled oats, a quarter cup of oat bran, unsweetened almond milk (significantly lower in calories and carbs than oat milk), and some berries.
Berries have half as many calories per 100g as bananas. Therefore the second option will be significantly less calorie-dense, even though we’ve not reduced the volume of the food.
A Valuable Bonus Tip
While I don’t advocate calorie counting every bite you take because that can drive anyone crazy, being calorie-aware is valuable. For instance, a mouthful of zucchini contains fewer calories than a mouthful of potato. In comparison, rolled oats, a starchy grain, have more calories than cauliflower. That’s why a variety of veggies and salads can be our greatest allies when it comes to weight management.
You can easily lower the calories of your meals by mixing in some low-calorie veggies with higher-calorie foods.
Think of mashed potato; swapping some for mashed cauliflower can give you a flavourful alternative with fewer calories.
And one of my favourite foods to use to cut back the energy content of my meals is grated riced cauliflower.
It can either fully replace grains like quinoa or rice or use my favourite trick: you can mix half and half. This will reduce calories while keeping your meal volume. And of course, it will taste nice.😍
There’s no need to remove starchy whole-grain foods from our menu. We just need to reduce their serving sizes and know what to add as ‘filler’ foods. That way, we don’t have to resort to eating toddler-sized portions to cut calories. Simply fill your plate with low-calorie vegetables to add volume to your meals and prevent hunger.
Enhancing Breakfast with Vegetables
Now, back to breakfast, especially overnight oats. You can increase your breakfast volume compared to regular overnight oats while reducing calories.
Slightly reduce the amount of oats you use, add low-calorie, unsweetened plant milk, plus add grated zucchini, carrots, or riced cauliflower to the mix. These veggies are neutral in taste when raw, they boost nutrients and fibre, and add texture while keeping calories in check.
Add your favourite flavour boosts like cinnamon, vanilla, defatted nut powder or unsweetened soya yoghurt…or add protein powder, and you’ll have a delicious filling breakfast.
Stay Creative, Stay Full
In summary, get creative with your plant-based meals. Eat generous servings of vegetables and salad, and combine neutral-tasting veggies with higher-calorie foods like root vegetables or grains.
This approach can keep you full for longer, which is a crucial factor in maintaining your healthy eating habits.
Hunger often totally derails people’s weight loss efforts. Therefore, use all the veggie tricks you can think of. Increase the volume of your meals without necessarily pumping up their calorie count. This is one of the more effective weight management strategies that we can draw on to stop hunger and cravings.
But if in the past hunger has been a roadblock for sticking to healthy eating in the right portion sizes, check out this video for a sneaky 3-day trick over on my YouTube Channel at Nicki’s Tips for Vegan Wellness to beat that problem.