Recipes

3 Easy Vegan Recipes for Weight Loss

2 minutes read

For many people, the vegan diet can be a great way to increase daily vegetable consumption and lose weight. But “plant-based” doesn’t always mean healthy. You can easily lead a vegan lifestyle that’s high in refined sugar, processed foods, saturated fat, and other ingredients that can trigger blood glucose spikes, weight gain, and conditions like insulin resistance [1]. So whether you’re new to veganism or looking to incorporate more plant-centered meals into your routine, we’ll explore some principles and recipe ideas that are both vegan and metabolically friendly.

The vegan diet and weight loss

If you’ve been struggling to maintain a healthy weight, you may know about the “calories in, calories out” approach to dieting, which suggests that if you burn more calories than you’re taking in, you’ll lose weight. What this model leaves out is the effects your glucose levels after eating have on your insulin sensitivity and hunger hormones. When you eat a vegan diet that’s high in processed carbohydrates and low in fiber and protein, you’re setting yourself up to experience high glucose variability that can make losing weight more difficult, promote sugar cravings, and disrupt the hormones that signal satiety/fullness to your brain.

That said, when done right, veganism (or eating more vegetables/fruits in general, if you’re not vegan) can have significant health benefits. For example, one study on 22 pairs of identical twins found that eating a vegan diet that did not contain refined starches or sugar led to a 20% drop in fasting insulin and 4.2 additional pounds lost, compared to an omnivore diet [2]. 

Another 74-week study followed people with type 2 diabetes eating either a low-fat vegan diet or the American Diabetes Association (ADA) eating guidelines [3]. The group that ate a vegan diet saw greater improvements in cholesterol levels and lost slightly more weight than the ADA group.

The key to healthy veganism is focusing your meals on whole foods and lower-glycemic grains, avoiding refined flours and added sugar, and making sure you’re getting enough healthy fats (for heart health) and protein from sources like chickpeas and beans.

If you want to put these principles into practice, here are three easy vegan recipes to try.

1. Chickpea and spinach stew

Estimated time: 60 minutes

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red or yellow onion
  • 1 lb frozen spinach, chopped
  • 2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (28 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, with juices
  • ¼ c fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 3 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • ½ lemon

Steps:

  1. Smash tomatoes in a bowl with juices or, for a smoother consistency, blend. Set aside.
  2. Heat ½ c extra-virgin olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  3. Add onions and cook for ~4 minutes, until softened. Add paprika, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, tomato paste, and garlic, stirring for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant and the tomato paste has turned a dark brick-red color.
  4. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, and spinach. Stir and let the mixture cook without a lid over a low-medium flame until it thickens to your desired consistency. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. 

Why this recipe can help with weight loss

Full of hearty chickpeas (which provide ~25 g of protein per 15 oz can), this recipe will keep you full for longer by promoting the release of appetite-reducing hormones in your body, potentially helping you cut back on unnecessary snacking or cravings [4]. The high fiber content in chickpeas can help your body slowly absorb the carbohydrates in this meal, preventing a glucose spike. The extra-virgin olive oil provides heart-healthy fats and the spinach is rich in metabolically friendly phytonutrients.

2. Tofu and vegetable stir-fry

Estimated time: 30 minutes

Servings: 2-3

Ingredients (stir-fry):

  • 1 package (14-16) oz. firm tofu, drained and pressed (put between two tea towels on a plate and rest a skillet or cast iron pan on top), then diced into ½ in cubes
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch, potato starch, or arrowroot powder
  • 3 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 small carrots, shredded
  • 2 c green beans, chopped into ~1 inch pieces, or sugar snap peas (you can substitute broccolini, chopped into ~1 inch pieces, or another vegetable of your choice)

Ingredients (sauce):

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • ¼ c low-sodium soy sauce or tamari for GF
  • ¼ c water or low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced (or 1 tsp ginger powder)
  • 1.5 tbsp agave, maple syrup, or coconut sugar

Steps:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
  2. Pat diced tofu dry with paper towels and toss in cornstarch so that each piece is coated.
  3. Heat a nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add 2 tbsp avocado oil until it shimmers, then add tofu in a single layer and let it crisp up until golden (~3 minutes) before repeating on all sides.
  4. Remove tofu and set on a plate or wire rack.
  5. Add 1 tbsp avocado oil to skillet until it shimmers, then add red bell pepper, carrot, sugar snap peas or green beans, and other other vegetables. Cook and stir occasionally until tender, ~4-5 minutes.
  6. Add tofu back to the skillet, then pour in sauce.
  7. Stir for 1-2 minutes until sauce has thickened.

Why this recipe can help with weight loss

This recipe is packed with umami and just a hint of sweetness for a lot of flavor, even though it’s mostly vegetables. Both the high fiber content in this recipe and the protein from the tofu will help with satiety, keeping you full for hours whether you’re making this for lunch or dinner. It’s best served with rice (try cooking and cooling your rice to increase its resistant starch content and reduce your post-meal glucose increase), but to make it even more metabolically friendly you can opt for a low-carb alternative like cauliflower rice or quinoa.

3. Stuffed bell peppers with quinoa and black beans

Estimated time: 4-7 hours

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 orange, red, or yellow bell peppers
  • 1 c quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14 oz) can black beans, drained
  • 1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • Toppings and sides: tortilla chips, chopped cilantro, fresh lime juice, vegan sour cream, vegan cheddar cheese, salsa, sliced avocado, etc. (opt.)

Steps:

  1. Cut the tops off the bell peppers. Deseed and derib.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the uncooked quinoa, black beans, diced tomatoes, and all seasonings until well combined.
  3. Fill each bell pepper with an even amount of the mixture.
  4. Fill the bottom of your slow cooker with ½ to ¾ c water, then gently place the bell peppers inside. Cook for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low. Remove lid, add vegan cheese (if using) and place the lid back on for a few minutes until the cheese is melted.
  5. Serve with toppings of your choice!

Why this recipe can help with weight loss

This slow cooker recipe is about as simple as you can get, but rich in nutrients, protein, and fiber for a filling, metabolically healthy meal. The colorful bell peppers are rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, folic acid, and fiber — though the exact phytonutrient makeup will differ depending on the color [5]. Each pepper also contains about 4 g fiber and 4 g plant protein for satiety and gut health, both of which can help with weight loss [6]. The only thing to keep in mind here is your toppings. Some vegan cheeses and sour creams may contain processed ingredients you’re trying to avoid, so read any nutrition labels carefully.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8210981/
  2. https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2023/11/twin-diet-vegan-cardiovascular.html 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2677007/ 
  4. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/chickpeas-nutrition-benefits
  5. https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/healthy-eating/fats/which-color-of-bell-pepper-has-most-nutrients/  
  6. https://www.nutritionix.com/i/nutritionix/canned-black-beans-drained-and-rinsed-1-can-15-oz/5a95d02c34a1060457b5dd80

Written by: James Han
Reviewed by: Emily Johnson, MSc RD

Table of Contents

  • The vegan diet and weight loss
  • 1. Chickpea and spinach stew
  • 2. Tofu and vegetable stir-fry
  • 3. Stuffed bell peppers with quinoa and black beans

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