Everybody knows somebody who went vegan to lose weight and ended up gaining 20 pounds from a steady diet of potato chips and granola bars. You don’t have to wreck your health in the service of bulking up. Karen Ansel, R.D.N., author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging: Stay Younger, Live Longer, shows you what to on a eat a plant-based diet to put on weight the healthy way:
Protein from plants
“If you want to muscle up, it’s a matter of choosing healthful, plant-based proteins and not French fries,” Ansel says. That means beans, tofu, and even protein-rich grains such as quinoa. Protein is a building block for muscle. And since vegan diets tend to be carb rich, “you want to be sure you focus on getting adequate protein,” she says. Does that mean you need to pile something like a pea- or soy-based protein powder into your smoothies? “I’m not usually a fan of protein powders, because I say you can get all the protein you need from food,” she says. But if you’re having trouble getting as much of this nutrient as you want, these powders are OK. “They tend to vary in texture, so just pick the one you like best,” Ansel says.
Nuts and nut butters
“These are excellent choices because they have so many health benefits to begin with,” Ansel says. “And vegans trying to put on weight have the luxury of not worrying about eating too much of them.”
In addition to healthy nutrients, “you also need calories,” she says, and avocados deliver on both fronts.
Carbs with a bonus
There’s, say, vegan mac and cheese, and then there carbs that give you fiber and other important nutrients, like whole grains. Bulgur and quinoa, for instance, give you fiber, nutrients, and a larger protein hit than some other grains (especially refined ones, of course). Tempting as it may be, for your health’s sake, “steer clear of vegan junk foods,” she says.
There’s even pea-protein milk now. These milks are a great way to supplement what you’re eating, Ansel says. “Just make sure you’re not reaching for one of those super-low-calorie plant milks,” she says.
“Being on a vegan diet doesn’t mean you’ll gain or lose weight,” she says. It’s all about the food choices you make. Focus on bringing the choices above into your life to get to the healthy weight you want.
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