Weight loss and gain
A well balanced vegan diet is up there with the healthiest of diets. A vegan diet based on whole foods, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, plus cereals, pulses, nuts and seeds, will typically be low in sugar and fat, and high in carbohydrates. It's therefore uncommon for vegans to experience weight problems, and male vegans tend to be lighter than the average weight recommended for their height.
However there are an increasing number of vegan convenience foods available which tend to be relatively high in fat, so it is quite possible to have an unhealthy vegan diet (just as it is possible to have an unhealthy meat or dairy based diet) or to be an ‘overweight’ vegan.
Although adopting a vegan diet won't necessarily lead to an instant weight reduction (especially if the individual has spent a large proportion of his/her life as a meat eater or vegetarian, or if s/he has a metabolic disorder), research has shown that a well-balanced vegan diet is generally healthier than both a vegetarian and a meat-based diet, so a change to veganism is certainly likely to bring positive health benefits.
General advice for losing weight, if you need to, is to cut down on fats — so try to avoid fried foods, spread fats thinly on bread, and replace high fat snacks with fresh fruit. Fill up on plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, beans, lentils, wholegrain pasta, brown rice and other cereals.
Make sure you eat regularly, and try to start the day with a high fibre breakfast (missing meals can cause you to eat more to compensate).
Finally, you could look at increasing your activity level, walking being one of the best exercises. Try and build this into your regular routine. A number of slimming clubs (e.g. Weight Watchers) accommodate a vegan diet.
If, on the other hand, you need to gain weight (and we receive roughly an equal number of enquiries from people wanting to gain weight as from those wanting to lose weight), you’ll need to make sure you’re following the basic rules for healthy eating. Again, this means eating regularly; plenty of fruit and vegetables; daily servings of pulses, grains, nuts and seeds; and a regular source of vitamin B12.
Increase your intake of energy-dense food:
• Consume foods such as hummus, tahini; soya products including yoghurts; avocado, dried fruit and fruit juices.
• Add ground or chopped nuts, seeds, pulses and dried fruit to meals.
• Extra oil could be added, but stick to olive and rapeseed oil and a small amount of flaxseed or hemp seed oil to provide omega 3. Margarine and soya cream could also be used to bulk out dishes.
Always ensure that food is readily accessible when you feel hungry and set aside enough time for eating.