Expert advice Nutrition
Can Being VEGAN Make You Gain WEIGHT?

Shiny Surendran

MSc, Grad Dip Sports Nutrition (Intl Olympic Committee), Accredited Sports Dietitian - Sports Dietitians Australia, Level 2 Kinanthropometrist - ISAK, New Zealand

4 min read

Adopting a vegan diet can definitely be better for health in the long-term but too much of anything even if it’s good can be harmful. In the same way, if you consume more calories than your body requires, it will be stored as fat. Vegan substitutes like nut butters (peanut butter, macadamia butter, almond butter, walnut butter etc.) all are high in calories, so excess consumption can definitely lead to weight gain!

A number of calories are burned by your body on a daily basis. When UR calorie intake is less than what you burn, you will lose weight. But when you consume more calories than you expend, weight gain is imminent. This is the basic principle of thermodynamics.

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Though you may feel that you will not gain weight on a plant-based diet, you are wrong! If you consume more than what you require, the excess unused calories get converted to fat contributing to weight gain. Not all plant foods are the same. Some have more fats, calories and carbohydrates than the others. So sometimes, you may be consuming more calories than you think, even while on a vegan diet. In other words, going vegan does not guarantee weight loss because this diet too comes with the same fundamental principle of any eating pattern.

Keep a track of what U R eating and from where the excess calories are slipping into UR diet. Maintain a food journal, to note down all that you eat. Check the nutritional information on foods package labels to control the calories you consume on a daily basis!

Sneaky ways by which you can gain weight on a vegan diet:

Large portions: When the food is tasty, it’s easy to overeat. Moreover, assuming the plant-based food is healthy, you tend to eat more. This can lead to consuming more calories than you need.

Garnishes: Though the foods and snacks you may choose to eat will be low in calories, sometimes the toppings can contain all the high calories! So beware of the salad dressing you use and the cream you add to your black coffee or the chocolate sauce and other syrups you use as toppings.

Junk food: There are many vegan foods that are high in fat and calories. Some of these foods like bakery products include trans fats and hydrogenated fats. So watch out for the foods you eat like chips, French fries, cookies etc.

Substitutes for meat: Some of the plant-based meat products can be highly processed and contain extra fat and sugar which lead to weight gain if consumed regularly and in large portions.

Beverages: Calories can be easily concealed in juices, smoothies, flavoured nut milks, sport drinks etc. But you can certainly keep calories in check if you are aware about the quantity you consume.

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Tips to avoid gaining weight on a vegan diet:

Though restricting calories is one of the best ways to not put on weight when on a vegan diet, you can also follow these tips:
Add whole grains to your diet: Whole grains are rich in fibre and will help keep you feeling full for longer.

Ensure UR eating adequate protein: Compared to carbohydrates, protein takes longer to digest so you don’t feel hungry soon, this helps you avoid eating other foods which may increase UR calorie intake.

Eat more vegetables and reduce your fruit intake: If weight loss is on UR mind, fill your plate with vegetables that have less starch and eat less fruit. Whole fruits are better than fruit juices if you are keen on shedding fat.

Control portion size and eat balanced meals: Ensure UR meals consist mostly of vegetables. In UR plate, half of the space should be occupied with vegetables and a bit of fruit, a quarter of it with whole grains and the other quarter with protein.

Opt for low-calorie garnishes: If you really want to add flavour to UR foods, choose toppings that have fewer calories. For instance, avoid the heavy cream for UR coffee and sugary syrups. For UR salads, garnish them with nuts or dry fruits instead of high-calorie dressings.

Along with keeping a watch on UR diet, remember it’s also important to understand the role of exercise in weight loss. So make sure you include some kind of physical activity in UR daily routine to burn calories and lose weight. Some of the other factors that affect weight gain are genetics, hormones, food allergies, food intolerances, you food timings, impact of stress and the lifestyle you lead.

In case you are gaining weight on a vegan diet you need to first try and understand the following:

  • What is the maximum amount of calories you should be consuming in a day to avoid weight gain or lose weight? Be aware of the fact that you may need to reduce the number of calories. UR doctor or nutritionist can help you with this.
  • Keep a track of what you’re eating and from where the excess calories are slipping into UR diet. Maintain a food journal, to note down all that you eat. Also, check the nutrition information on foods package labels to be able to control the calories you consume on a daily basis.