Weight gaining vegetarian diet

Gaining Weight on a Vegetarian Diet

Q1. I am 16 years old and I have been a vegetarian for a year. My original weight was 110 pounds, but I now weigh 95 pounds. I’m 5 feet 1/2 inch tall. My BMI is 18.2, meaning I am slightly underweight. What do I do?

— Hillary, Ohio

You are actually within the normal range for BMI (normal is between 18 and 22 for adolescent girls). Your BMI of 18.2 falls between the 10th and 25th percentiles for age, which is still considered normal. A BMI that falls below the fifth percentile is considered underweight in the adolescent world.

However, if you would like to gain some weight, make sure that you are getting enough protein on the vegetarian diet so that you can gain muscle mass and not fat mass. Also, a resistance exercise program will help you gain lean muscle mass and not fat mass. The most common problems that vegetarians face are a vitamin B12 deficiency and inadequate protein intake. Protein can be found in legumes and skim milk products, as well as in eggs and fish. If you don’t eat eggs, fish, or milk, then you must rely on legumes and other vegetables for protein, as well as tofu and other soy products.

If you are a vegan, it’s very hard to get enough B12, and therefore a multivitamin is a good idea. A protein shake with protein powder and soymilk flavored with fruit is also a terrific way to get more protein and gain muscle mass.

Because you are still within normal range for your height, I would not be too frantic about gaining weight. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy, with the number of calories to gain weight, which for you would be about 2,500 calories per day, is perfect for health and vitality.

Q2. I’ve heard that baby carrots contain less beta-carotene than full-size carrots. Is this true?

Yes. According to horticulturist Dr. Leonard Pike, these little carrots contain about 70 percent less beta-carotene than full-size ones. That’s because they’re actually pieces of larger carrots that have been specially bred to ripen faster and grow longer (real baby carrots also contain less beta-carotene). They’re still a fantastic source of beta-carotene, though, and since you’re probably eating more carrots now that “baby” ones are on the scene, I see no reason to dust off your peeler.

By the way, if you’re really concerned about getting enough beta-carotene in your diet, you should cook your carrots. Cooking breaks down the veggie’s tough cell walls, thereby making available more of this antioxidant vitamin precursor.

Q3. What’s the best way to get my kids to eat vegetables?

Trying to get children to eat their vegetables can be frustrating — and parents often resort to bribery: “Eat your broccoli and you can have ice cream for dessert.” Unfortunately, this technique teaches our kids that broccoli and other vegetables are less appealing, because their consumption requires a reward. At the same time, this approach positions dessert as the prize, something to be valued over other foods.

Instead, encourage your kids to try at least one small bite each time vegetables are offered, and continue to offer them over and over again. Eventually, as vegetables become more familiar to them, their distaste may wear off. The most important thing you can do, though, is to model good eating behaviors yourself. Pile plenty of vegetables onto your own plate, and let your kids know how much you enjoy them.

Q4. My doctor says my cholesterol is too high, and she wants me to take medicine to control it. I want to see if I can control it with diet, though, and she suggested that a vegetarian diet might help. I don’t know how to start eating this way healthfully — can you help me?

— Jan, Washington, D.C.

The best way to start a vegetarian diet is to see a dietitian for information. You may be able to lower your cholesterol by avoiding red meat while still eating fish, eggs, and low-fat dairy foods. If you opt to become a vegan — someone who eats only plant-based foods — it can be very difficult to maintain your vitamin B12 and folate levels, so you may need to take supplements. The best way to lower cholesterol levels is to avoid fried foods, desserts, and red meat. Make sure that most of the fat you consume is in the form of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.

Read more tips and Q&As from healthy eating expert Joy Bauer.

Learn more in the Everyday Health Diet and Nutrition Center.

Photo by mydegage via .com

When you announced to the world, “I’m going vegetarian!” chances are that someone, somewhere was worried you’d waste away to nothing.

Of course, that’s not true. Not only can you meet your calorie needs on a vegetarian diet, you can easily exceed them. While in theory a vegetarian diet is the most healthful on the planet, in practice it sometimes leaves much to be desired in terms of weight management and vibrant good health.

We asked several savvy, veg-friendly chefs and nutritionists to help spot common vegetarian diet traps, and suggest ways to not fall into them.

Trap #1: Negative Thinking

“A vegetarian diet is exciting, but when people focus on what they’re not doing anymore, they’re missing out on the adventure of it,” says Christina Pirello, host of the PBS series Christina Cooks, and author of This Crazy Vegan Life. “And they can start to lose nutrition if they’re focusing on just lopping things out without replacing them with something healthful.”

Focusing so intently on what you’re cutting out of your diet that you stop thinking about what you’re putting into it is possibly the most basic vegetarian pitfall of all. When meat (or eggs, or dairy, or all of the above) drops out, it can be easy to assume that all other foods are A-OK. Unfrosted Pop-Tarts, Oreos, Fritos—all these are vegetarian, and all are nutritional black holes just the same. “You can stick to everything vegetarian or vegan, and still be eating way too many processed foods,” Pirello says.

Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life, has a name for victims of this trap: “I call them the ‘beige vegetarians,’ ” she says. “They’ll be reading labels like crazy to make sure there’s no meat in their diet, but they’ll have no fruits or vegetables on their plates.”

With a willingness to experiment and a little kitchen inspiration (see Trap #5, Clueless about Cooking), a whole new world of textures, flavors, and energy-boosting phytonutrients can be yours. “I encourage people to make a list of foods they love, focus on the vegetables there, and then start playing around with one new seasonal veggie every week,” says Jackie Newgent, RD, author of Big Green Cookbook: Hundreds of Planet-Pleasing Recipes & Tips for a Luscious, Low-Carbon Lifestyle. “When you’re playing with just one ingredient, it gives you a focus. You can expand your eating plan one vegetable at a time.”

Taking this addition approach, make your local farmers’ market an idea laboratory. “A vegetarian should always be eating a variety of fresh foods, and the ‘green’ market is a great place to find inspiration,” says Myra Kornfeld, a culinary instructor at the Natural Gourmet Institute of Culinary Arts in New York, and author of The Healthy Hedonist Holidays: A Year of Multicultural, Vegetarian-Friendly Holiday Feasts. “You’ll encounter purslane, wild spinach, escarole, chicory…these are the kinds of things that people overlook, but they’re delicious once you get to know them.”

Balance your diet, and your plate, with more vegetables, and expect to feel better and start shedding pounds.

Trap #2: Subpar Carbs

Vegetarians heaved a collective sigh of relief when the benefits of a low-carb diet started getting debunked. Pasta, that old friend, was back on the menu! And with it came lots of refined carbohydrates. For many, that added up to creeping weight gain.

Pirello—a confessed pasta fan—recommends proceeding with caution. “It takes the body 20 minutes to process that it’s getting full, but you can knock back a huge plate of pasta in 10 minutes,” she says. “Refined carbs go down so fast and so easy.”

So, what’s wrong with cultivating a refined palate? “When you refine grains, you remove two-thirds of the plant—you take away the bran and the germ, and that is where the fiber and nutrition are,” explains Blatner. “When you’re eating refined grains, there’s a low satiety factor—it’s hard to get full, which can lead to overeating.”

The solution is simple: switch to whole-wheat pastas, and explore the world of whole grains, which come with filling fiber and nutrition intact. “A healthy vegetarian will look at brown rice, quinoa, and barley,” Pirello says. “These complex carbohydrates break apart slowly in the body—they set you on simmer, so you won’t be hungry as quickly.”

Keep good old semolina pasta on the menu, if you like, but go easy. Limit the serving size to 1/2 cup—no more than 25 percent of your plate—and load up your pasta primavera with extra broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, eggplant, and onions.

Trap #3: Mock Meat Overload

It’s easy to replace all those hot dogs, hamburgers, bologna slices, and chicken wings you’ve cut from your diet…with meatless hot dogs, hamburgers, bologna slices, and chicken wings. But going overboard on these microwavable replacements is simply faux-meat folly.

“The jury is out on whether they are really healthier for you,” says Pirello. “Yes, there is less saturated fat, but there can also be lots of sodium, preservatives, hydrogenated fat, and fractionalized soy protein.”

The key here is moderation—and vigilant label reading. Look for varieties that include whole grains and beans (as some do). “They’re nice transitional foods,” says Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, nutrition adviser for the Vegetarian Resource Group. “The biggest problem with them is that they are superconvenient. It’s so easy to microwave plateful after plateful of nuggets and overdo it. You’ll get more protein than you really need, and way too much salt. And you may be missing out on all the phytonutrients that come with eating whole foods.”

One more thing: if you’re relying on fake meat for dinner every night, you may very well be getting too much soy—especially if you’re pouring soymilk on your breakfast cereal, snacking on edamame, and eating a tempeh burger for lunch. “Soy is great, but nobody gets healthy focusing on one food,” says Blatner. “You want to rely on beans for protein, but there are lots of beans out there, and each has its unique nutritional qualities. Instead of grabbing a preformed patty, try adding white beans with tomato and basil to a whole-grain pita, or tossing some garbanzos into a stir-fry, or heating up some lentil soup. Every legume will bring a different set of phytochemicals and micronutrients to the table.”

Trap #4: No Game Plan

Even if you know what’s best for you, it’s easy to fall into the habit of grabbing whatever’s handy. Too often, that means calorie-dense cheese and starch. If you eat out a lot, you’re especially prey to a reliance on pound-packing foods. “When you go vegetarian, it pays to do a little restaurant sleuthing, so you’re not falling back on cheese pizza and French fries,” says Tara Gidus, RD, aka the Diet Diva. She advises getting to know the chefs at your regular haunts, and asking politely for more meatless options. “You won’t be the first,” she says.

Apply the same advance work to the meals you cook at home. One of the best ways to lose weight and feel energized, says Newgent, is to plan for a balanced plate: fill half with vegetables or fruits, one-quarter with whole grains, and one-quarter with protein-rich foods, such as beans, whole soy foods, or nuts.

If you haven’t quite gotten the knack of eating this way, don’t worry. All it takes is a little practice. If you’re new to the game, start out planning a week’s worth of menus— you don’t have to execute the plan exactly, but you’ll get a good idea of what you need to eat and how to shop for it. Once you’ve grasped that, and mastered the art of the balanced plate, you can start to loosen up a bit. “With planning, less is more, but you do want to ballpark it,” says Blatner. “Start each week with just two or three ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Go to the store with those ideas in mind, and be open to what’s beautiful, in season, and fresh.”

One sweet side to planning: when you start to replace French fries with baby zucchini, you get to add a whole lot more to your plate.

Trap #5: Clueless about Cooking

The single most important thing you can do for your diet is to get into the kitchen and start cooking your own food. “People say they are so busy that they don’t have time to cook,” muses Pirello. “In other cultures, dinner is the entire point. You make an evening out of it. Here, we have dinner in a bucket so we can hurry up, choke it down, and do something else.”

Pirello blames the “dinner-in-a-bucket syndrome” on a cultural disconnect—with a world of convenience foods, we’ve lost the art of cooking. It’s time to revive that art, she says, especially if you’re a vegetarian. “When you don’t have the basic skills to put a meal together, you’re at the mercy of whatever is out there—it’s how you end up every night saying, ‘Oh, it’s 7 o’clock, I’ll just do pasta again,’ ” she says. “You need to know how to braise, how to roast, how to stew; you need basic knife skills. We’re not splitting the atom here.”

Still, if the kitchen seems like foreign territory, sign up for a cooking class or two, says Kornfeld. Watch YouTube videos, thumb through cookbooks, read food magazines, and experiment.

You’ll boost your odds of culinary success if you set up a go-to pantry. Pirello advises having the following on hand: sea salt, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and a few types of whole grains (millet, brown rice, amaranth, quinoa). Stock up on dried beans (black, white, pinto, garbanzo), plus a couple of canned varieties for on-the-spot cooking. Buy a few vinegars (white, balsamic, red wine). Invest in a great knife. (“Go to a kitchen store, and hold every chef’s knife in your hand,” says Pirello. “When you find the right one, you’ll just know it—I swear.”)

And don’t neglect the spice rack. Keep a few key spices on hand, and you can turn whatever’s in season into a feast, says Kornfeld: “Combine cumin, ginger, chili powder, and oregano, and you can give dishes a Mexican flavor profile. Use cumin, coriander, ginger, garlic, and turmeric, and you’ve got Indian. Mix fennel, white wine, and a few of the green herbs, and you’ll have Provençal.”

What effort you do make will be amply rewarded with greater vitality and a naturally trim waistline. “Cooking is more work—it just is,” Pirello says. “But if you’re not willing to work for your health, what are you willing to work for?”


  • 1 oz. American cheese: 94
  • 1/2 Pop-Tart: 103
  • 15 cups spinach leaves: 104
  • 50 baby zucchini: 100
  • 5 steak-cut French fries: 101
  • 15 almonds: 104


Combine protein with carbs
“People eat 2 cups of cereal out of the box, and a half-hour later they’re starving again,” says Tara Gidus, RD. “Even if you just add soymilk, it really helps.”

Chew your food
“I try to eat slowly and deliberately,” says Myra Kornfeld. “That act alone will get me in touch with my body enough to keep me from overeating.”

Journal every morsel
“If you’re standing in front of the fridge with a spoon,” says Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, “you’ll be less likely to use it if you know you have to write down everything you put in your mouth with it.”

Diet Plan To Gain Weight – A Healthy And Safe Approach Priyanka Sadhukhan Hyderabd040-395603080 January 23, 2020

As obesity rates are sky high, everyone is quite obsessed about losing weight. However, being underweight or having a very low BMI is also a matter of concern and is often ignored by people.

In this article, we will discuss how you can gain weight in a healthy way and a sample diet plan you can follow.

Table Of Contents

What Is Your Healthy Weight Range?

Your BMI (body mass index) will help you determine your healthy weight range. Divide your body weight (in kilograms) by your height (in meters) squared to calculate your BMI (2).

A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 denotes a healthy weight range. If your BMI is below 18.5, you are underweight.

Use this calculator to know your BMI scale and status.

Reasons For Being Underweight

Several medical conditions can make you underweight:

  • High Metabolism: Some people are built to be lean. Their metabolic rate is so high that they fail to gain weight even after eating high-calorie foods.
  • Family History: A few people are born with the kind of genes that make them naturally thin and have a low BMI.
  • Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions can cause weight loss. Having an overactive thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) increases metabolic rate and may cause weight loss. Uncontrolled diabetes (Type 1), cancer, and any infectious diseases can make someone lose weight (3).
  • Eating Disorders: People with eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa can be underweight (3).
  • Depression: People who have depression may experience a severe loss of appetite and lose a substantial amount of weight very quickly. Such people need immediate medical help (3).

If your BMI is less than 16, please visit your doctor to diagnose any possible medical conditions.

Sample Diet Plan For Weight Gain

Though eating high-calorie foods like sodas, donuts, and French fries can make you gain weight, it is not a healthy approach.

Your aim should be to build muscle mass and gain weight in a healthy way. Eating processed foods for weight gain can lead to the accumulation of subcutaneous or visceral fat. This can result in the unhealthy deposition of fats around your belly area or organs, respectively.

Following is a sample diet plan that can aid healthy weight gain. This plan can vary based on the age, sex, the level of physical activity, and calorie requirements of the individual.

Meals Time What to have
Early Morning 7 a.m. – 8 a.m.
  • Overnight soaked almonds (6-7 pieces)
Breakfast 8 a.m. – 9 a.m.
  • 2 multigrain breads with low-fat butter and egg omelet (2 egg whites from 1 whole egg).
  • A cup of corn flakes, oats with milk, or any cereal porridge (use full-fat milk).
  • Poha, upma, or daliya khichdi with lots of veggies.
  • 2 chapatis with a cup of veggies and a cup of boiled sprouts
  • 2 protein (Cottage cheese/sprouts) stuffed parathas with chutney or pickles.
  • Whole fruits or a glass of fresh vegetable juice with pulp.
After Breakfast 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
  • A glass of full fat milk with a health drink of your choice or whey protein.
Lunch 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
  • A small cup of rice and two chapatis.
  • A cup of pulses (masoor, moong, chana).
  • ½ cup of vegetable curry.
  • 3 oz chicken breast or a piece of fish/ eggs/ tofu/cottage cheese.
  • Mixed salad made of cucumber, carrot, and tomatoes.
  • A small cup of curd or yogurt.
Evening snack 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
  • Veg sandwich with cheese.
  • Baked potato with skin and avocado dip.
  • Fistful mixture of roasted nuts.
Dinner 8:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
  • ½ cup of brown rice and 1 cup of kidney beans/black beans/ mushroom curry.
  • Mixed salad made of cucumber, carrot, and tomatoes.
Before bed 10:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.
  • A glass of full fat milk.

Healthy Tips To Gain Weight Fast (And Safely)

1. Eat Calorie-Dense Foods

Foods high in calories and balanced in nutrients will help you gain weight. Foods like avocado, banana, and full-fat milk should be your staple.

2. Consume Healthy Carbs

Carbohydrates can help in weight gain. Replace high sugar and refined carbs like chocolates, donuts, pizzas with healthier options like banana, potato, sweet potato, whole grains, rice, and fruits, etc.

3. Consume A Protein Source With Every Meal

Your muscles are made of proteins. To gain weight and build lean muscle mass, you must include a protein source in every meal you consume. Aim to take 1.5-2 gm of protein for every kg of body weight.

Chicken breast, ground turkey, tofu, legumes and beans, nuts and seeds, fish, eggs, milk, and yogurt should be your go-to choices of protein.

4. Add Healthy Fats To Your Diet

Don’t consume just any fatty food. Choose healthy fats that do not cause harm in the long run. Healthy fats are also good sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Include foods like avocado, nuts, seeds, avocado oil, salmon, and olive oil in your diet. Eating a fistful of pumpkin or flaxseeds is a good way to provide your body with healthy fat.

5. Take Weight Gain Supplements

In some cases, diet and exercise alone may not bring about the desired results. Another way to go about this is by including some additional supplements in your diet.

Whey protein is an increasingly popular supplement you can add to your milk or smoothies.

6. Strength Training

Gaining weight doesn’t mean you have to gain fat mass. Gain lean muscle mass. You’ll look toned and defined. To get there, you need to hit the gym at least 2-4 times a week and lift some weights.

If you have any medical conditions, talk to your doctor before you hit the gym.

7. Eliminate Stress

Losing or gaining weight could be a stressful event. Stress often becomes a major hurdle when you try to achieve a goal. Therefore, it is important to reduce stress.

Have a relaxing bath to reduce stress. Put on some good music and dance until you drop. Meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises also work well to reduce stress.

8. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is an essential determinant of your health and well-being. A person needs a minimum of eight hours of sleep every night to stay fit and fine. A cross-sectional study on Chinese University students revealed that good quality sleep helped strengthen muscle mass as compared to poor quality sleep (4).

9. Track Your Goal

Tracking your goal increases your chances of hitting your target. Maintain a food journal to write your calorie goal and track the foods that you eat.

Check your weight every week or 10 days. This not only motivates you but also helps you analyze your progress better. You can even track your exercise pattern and start measuring muscle gain.

10. Keep Yourself Motivated

Weight gain is not rocket science; it requires a scientific approach and well disciplined lifestyle. Be patient and keep yourself motivated. Do not aim to gain more than four pounds a month. Looking for faster weight gain could be unhealthy and may only give you temporary results.


Weight gain could be as challenging as weight loss, but consistency is the key for long-term results. Consuming calorie-dense junk foods should not be the aim. Instead, your focus should be to gain lean muscle mass as that can lead to a healthy weight gain.

4 sources

Stylecraze has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  • Worldwide trends in body-mass index, underweight, overweight and obesity from 1975 to 2016 : a pooled analysis of 2416 population- based measurements studies in 128.9 million children, adolescents and adults, THE LANCET.
  • Assessing your weight, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Unintentional weight loss, National Health Services.
  • Relationship between sleep and muscle strength among Chinese university students: a cross-sectional study, Journal of musculoskeletal and neuronal interactions, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

Recommended Articles:

  • 1200 Calories Diet Plan – What Foods To Eat?
  • 7 Day Weight Loss Diet Plan For Vegetarians
  • 1500 Calorie Diet Plan – What Is It And What Are Its Benefits?
  • The 1000 Calorie Diet And Menu For Weight Loss

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Priyanka Sadhukhan

Priyanka has over 8 years of experience in nutrition and dietetics with a strong research background. She is passionate and obsessed about science and how it can be applied to daily lifestyle. According to her, food is the best medicine and proper nutrition is key to achieving good health. She has also written a book on PCOS and its management for doctors and patients. When she is not working, she loves spending quality time with family and friends. She loves creating innovative, healthy recipes and endorses healthier alternatives to junk foods to promote good health.

5 Ways to Healthfully Gain Weight on a Vegan Diet

So many vegans cite the benefit of the diet as a way to lose weight, which is great for those who need to. But what about those of us looking to maintain the same physique, or with health problems that make it dangerous to slim down? You don’t have to sacrifice your tastes, ethics, or health to gain weight.

1. Get nutty
Cashews, almonds, peanuts, pistachios – all pack a punch of protein and fat. Season them with salt and wasabi or mix them with your favorite dried fruit and dark chocolate chips. Either way, you’re reaching for a healthier snack than chips. And if the salty crunch and trail mix get stale; start exploring all the wonderful uses of nut butters beyond the PB&J. Banana and almond butter smoothie? Throwback to grade school with “ants on a log”? The sky is the limit.

2. Midnight snacks
Have you ever run into dieters who avoid anything besides water an hour before bedtime? That’s because when we sleep, our bodies burn fewer calories. We can use this to our advantage by eating a snack rich in protein, fat, or carbs right before bed. So before you brush your teeth, reach for some whole-grain toast or chips with store-bought or homemade hummus, an apple with peanut butter, or chips and guacamole.

3. Know which vegan foods have fat – and which ones you like
On a vegan diet, we only have a few sources of fat. To avoid missing out on them, it’s worthwhile to get to know them: Avocados, nuts, seeds, and oils. Make sure to have some high-fat food every day. A whole avocado with salt and chili powder makes a great afternoon snack, and a tofu or tempeh stir-fry with veggies is a wholesome and fat-friendly dinner. Seeds are a concentrated source of nutrient-dense calories. Sprinkle chia, hemp,or flax seeds on your oatmeal.

4. Liquids, liquids, liquids
Fool yourself into getting more calories by opting for easy-to-consume smoothies and drinks. Silken tofu makes a base for fruit smoothies that are high in protein and fat. You can also try a rich chocolate soy or coconut milk for an indulgent treat that’s a great source of protein. And don’t forget, if you’re making a smoothie, to toss in some chia seeds or nut butter. See Carrie Forrest’s Chocolate Cherry Bomb Smoothie, for example (shown above).

5. Be smart about beans
Legumes are a varied source of proteins and vitamins, but make sure you’re getting the most out of them by pairing them with a grain. Rice and beans, a quinoa-lentil chili – there are so many hearty dinners to explore. Jamaican Red Beans and Rice (above), cooked with coconut milk is an easy and yummy example.

A vegan diet is about compassion, health, and enjoying delicious food. By just being a little mindful of your habits, you can stay at the weight you want by eating the food you love. Happy snacking!

  • Are you a vegan athlete that needs more calories and nutrition? See also The High Performance Vegan Athlete: It is Possible!

5 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight on a Vegan Diet

Most people tend to associate a vegan diet with being lean. And science backs that notion. In a study of 40,000 adults, Oxford University researchers found that meat-eaters had the highest BMIs; vegans had the lowest; and vegetarians and semi-vegetarians landed somewhere in-between. But throughout my years in private practice, I’ve worked with plenty of clients who did not lose weight after cutting out animal products. And some even gained weight. Here are five common reasons this happens, plus how to avoid them—so you can reap both the health and weight-loss benefits of going vegan.

RELATED: 13 Vegan Breakfast Recipes That Are Seriously Delicious

Your portions are too big

Healthy foods—including veggies, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and avocado—contain raw materials that either fuel the activity of your body’s cells, or help maintain, heal, or regenerate tissue (such as hair, skin, immune cells, and muscle). But we don’t require an unlimited supply of these nutrients. The amount your body needs is largely based on your age, sex, height, ideal body weight, and physical activity level. A young, tall, active man with a higher ideal weight, for example, requires larger portions than an older, petite, sedentary woman.

Often when I evaluate clients’ food journals, I find that they aren’t losing weight because their nutrient intake exceeds their needs. I had one female client who was eating a large açaí bowl for breakfast that contained multiple servings of fruit, nut milk, nut butter, and seeds. She would then commute by car to work and sit at a desk all morning. While the bowl was chock-full of nutrition, it packed about three times what her body actually needed to keep her satiated until lunch.

RELATED: 17 Delicious Vegan Recipes

You aren’t getting enough protein

Eating an adequate amount of protein is key for maintaining muscle mass, which helps keep your metabolism revved. It’s possible to meet your daily protein needs on a plant-based diet. You just have to be strategic.

One of my clients who was struggling to drop weight (and feeling tired all the time) after he went vegan was surprised to learn he was only consuming about half the protein he needed. Most vegans I work with need at least 60 grams of protein per day. But many don’t know if they’re hitting that quota.

To make sure you’re getting enough, try tracking your intake (even briefly) with an app like My Fitness Pal. Another strategy is to include more pulses (the umbrella term for beans, lentils, and peas) in your meals, since they are one of the best sources of plant protein. One cup of cooked lentils contains 17 grams of protein, compared to about 8 grams in a cup of cooked quinoa or a quarter cup of almonds. Whipping a plant-based powder (such as pea protein, made from yellow split peas) into a smoothie can also boost your intake, by as much as 25 grams per serving.

RELATED: 17 High-Protein Snacks You Can Eat On the Go

Your timing is off

Whether you’re a vegan or an omnivore, meal timing can have a serious impact your waistline. Many people I talk to eat their largest meal in the evening, when they’re the least active. A smarter strategy is to eat larger meals earlier, so they fuel your most active hours of the day.

Skimping all day and gorging at night is a recipe for weight gain, or at least preventing weight loss-even if you’re vegan. Try switching to evening meals that are filling but but light, such as sautéed veggies and chickpeas over a bed of greens and spaghetti squash; or a broth-based veggie and white bean soup with a drizzle of EVOO.

You’re eating plant-based junk food

I’ve had plenty of clients who believed it was okay to eat unlimited amounts of plant-based treats (think coconut milk ice cream and sweet potato chips). Plant-based frozen foods, desserts, and snacks can not only be high in calories, but they’re often made with refined flour and added sugar, and stripped of nutrients and fiber. While they’re fine as occasional treats, when consumed daily, they can pack on pounds. One study found that processed foods may decrease post-meal calorie burning by nearly 50% compared to whole foods. Trade processed plant foods for fresh snacks. Reach for in-season fruit and dark chocolate to satisfy a sweet craving; and raw veggies with hummus or guacamole for a savory fix.RELATED: 5 Vegan Foods You Should Skip, Plus Healthier Alternatives

You’re drinking too many calories

There are many beverages marketed to plant-based consumers: kombucha, drinking vinegars, green juices, chia drinks, coconut water, and almond milk cold brew coffees, just to name a few. With so many choices, I’ve seen many clients unknowingly sip hundreds of extra calories per day.

My rule of thumb is this: If it’s not water or unsweetened tea, your beverage should count as part of your meal or snack. One vegan client who found she wasn’t losing weight was drinking a smoothie along with her lunch salad. Unknowingly, she was essentially consuming two lunches every day. Another client didn’t realize that the healthy (and expensive) beverages she drank twice a day in lieu of soda contained about 300 calories total. That may not sound like a ton, but it would take a one-hour speed walk to burn off just those drinks.

Make good old H2O your drink of choice, and if you reach for anything else, take a careful look at the ingredients, nutrition facts, and serving size, so you can decide if it’s the best fit for your body’s needs.

Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and consultant for the New York Yankees. See her full bio here.

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How I Gained Weight as a Vegan: Don’t Let It Happen to You!

Going to school with a bunch of down-to-earth, sewed-their-own-clothes environmentalists, it was impossible not to hop on the vegan train. While this lifestyle can help you lose weight, after six years on this diet, I ended up gaining 40 pounds and realized it’s because I did it all wrong. Here are my mistakes and how you can learn from them to avoid ballooning on a vegan diet.

1. Pasta and Bread Were

My Staples

On campus it was easy to grab bagels with Tofutti cream cheese for breakfast, pizza with dairy-free cheese for lunch, and a huge bowl of pasta for dinner, but I was eating enough carbs to run a marathon-while barely exercising, unless walking to the dining hall counts.

What to do instead: Overloading on carbs is one way to pile on the pounds, so while complex carbohydrates should be included in a vegan diet, they shouldn’t be the star of every single meal. Head to a bookstore or the Internet to find vegan recipes, and experiment to help open up a whole new world of entrées like tofu scrambles, zucchini noodles, and homemade veggie burgers.

RELATED: 20 Satisfying Fall Meals for Any Diet

2. I Never Ate Beans

Having gas was the last thing a college girl would wish for, so I stayed away from beans and hardly ate any protein aside from soy ice cream. Without enough protein, hunger pangs drove me to eat more, which basically meant unhealthy comfort food like vegan mac ‘n’ cheese and cupcakes.

What to do instead: Be sure to stock your kitchen with vegan sources of protein such as dry or canned beans, different varieties of tofu, tempeh, seitan, soy yogurt, and soy milk. For quick meals, packaged soy burgers, hot dogs, frozen dinners, and vegan deli meats are great to have on hand. If you’re not used to these foods, introduce them gradually to prevent digestive issues.

3. Sweet Potato Fries Were My Vegetable

My mom wasn’t there to tell me to “eat my veggies,” so guess what? I didn’t-unless French fries or vegan carrot cake count. Without veggies and protein, I never felt full, which meant eating all day long.

What to do instead: Make a point to consume veggies and protein at every meal and snack, as they’ll fill you up and keep you energized. Here’s a sample eating schedule:

• Breakfast: this vegan, high-protein smoothie with a big bunch of spinach added

• Snack: whole-wheat pancakes made with sweet potato, topped with a dollop of soy yogurt

• Lunch: huge salad with a side of split-pea soup or buckwheat salad with tempeh

• Afternoon snack: cucumber tofu rolls

• Dinner: polenta and beans

4. I Was a Junk-Food Vegan

French fries, soy ice cream, dairy-free chocolate, vegan cookies-I was so psyched they were made without meat, milk, or eggs that I devoured them and didn’t realize that they still contained calories.

What to do instead: Just as non-vegans need to enjoy treats in moderation, so do you. It’s okay to indulge, but remember to mostly eat a healthy, balanced diet.

RELATED: 2-Ingredient Snacks Under 200 Calories

5. I Ate Peanut Butter by the Spoonful

My motto was, “If it’s good for me, why not?” Unfortunately, healthy foods can also be high in calories, so downing bags of popcorn and sipping back fruity soy smoothies was one reason I didn’t fit into my clothes.

What to do instead: While they’re nutritious, be sure to measure out portions of calorie-dense foods such as nuts, seeds, and the butters made from them; avocado; fresh-squeezed juices; whole grains like brown rice; granola; oil; and sweet potatoes.

More on POPSUGAR Fitness:

5 Healthy Peanut Butter Desserts

7 Moves for Tight, Toned Thighs

8 Detox Superfoods for Fall

  • By Jenny Sugar for POPSUGAR Fitness

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