Gaining weight on a plant-based diet?

You might be gaining weight on plant-based diet from eating too many fruits and vegetables. Yes, I said it.

Let me explain.

People are often attracted to plant-based diets by the promise of weight loss. And, yes it’s true, herbivores tend to be slimmer than omnivores.

Yet, many people find they actually gain weight when they go plant-based. So, what’s going on?

It’s often due to a lack of understanding of the role of different plant foods. Nourishing your body without meat and dairy is not as simple as replacing meat with vegetables.

Unless we know how much protein to eat, we tend to undereat legumes and overeat fruits and vegetables. And that’s reasonable. We’re always told to eat more vegetables – especially when trying to lose weight.

Why the confusion?

We’re told to fill up on low-calorie, water-rich vegetables, and crowd out higher-calorie foods (i.e. meat and dairy). But when you’re plant-based, this can cause a protein deficiency, hunger and downright misery.

Protein-rich plants (e.g. legumes, soy, wholegrains) are nutrient powerhouses. They contain zinc, calcium, and iron – which are harder to get from vegetables.

So, limiting protein-rich plants leaves the body wanting more.

There will be cravings for high-energy foods to make up the deficit… usually quick-acting carbs (e.g. flour products), high-fat takeaway, coffee and sugar.

And resistance is futile.

This leads to poor blood sugar control, hunger, and weight gain.

What to do instead

It’s important when trying to lose weight on a plant-based diet to focus on protein-rich foods first. The standard 1/2 plate vegetables, 1/4 plate of carbs and 1/4 plate of protein is great for omnivores. But if you’re plant-based, your plate should look more like the following:

1/3 of protein-rich foods (legumes, soy, etc)

1/3 carbs (starchy vegetables or wholegrains)

1/3 vegetables

2 serves of fruit per day (many plant-based folks eat more than this)

In a nutshell, aim for 3-4 serves of protein-rich plant foods each day, and get a wide variety across the week.

Fruits and vegetables are amazing and super important to eat every day. We need plenty of them. But, if you’re gaining weight on a plant-based diet you might need to eat more protein.

By eating enough protein, you’ll be more likely to meet your nutrition requirements. And less likely to smash a packet of Oreos after lunch.

If you’re new to plant-based eating, checking out by post for beginners here.

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