Happy Herbivore Blog

Ask Happy Herbivore: Losing Weight Being a Vegan

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: FAQ

Q: I’ve been having a hard time losing weight being vegan. Any suggestions on what I can do to lean out? Less fat? Nuts?

**This is not medical advice. Talk to your doctor before changing your diet.**

 I find a lot of people operate on the notion that plant-based (vegan) calories are magic calories -- that they don’t count, or something. 

I saw this a lot when I was a personal trainer. I had a client, for example, who replaced her 100 calorie pack of Oreo thins with a box of raisins. There’s no doubt that the raisins were healthier, but the problem was her box of raisins was quite generous so her snack went from 100 calories to more than 200 calories -- not a step in the right direction if you’re trying to lose weight. The solution was simple, I told her to buy smaller boxes of raisins (or measure out a 100-calorie serving herself), but she was surprised when I brought it to her attention. Like a lot of my clients, she assumed since it was a healthy choice, that’s all that mattered.

Another example: I bumped into another client at Whole Foods and noticed she had two tubs of vegan ice cream in her shopping cart. I asked her what that was about, and she said “oh it’s vegan ice cream so it’s healthy.” She thought just because it was vegan that meant it was also healthy. And sure, it’s healthier than your average dairy ice cream BUT IT’S STILL ICE CREAM. Just because something is vegan doesn’t meant it’s automatically healthy.

 I admit, I’ve been victim of this mental phenomenon myself. I once munched through an entire bag of baby carrots. I didn’t think anything of it, after all carrots are a healthy food, but when I later realized how many calories I gobbled up I noted to never do that again. Excess is still excess even when it comes from a good source.

My advice is to really pay attention to what you’re eating. If you eat a lot of high calories foods, even if they are vegan, or wholesome foods, it still will add up and cause weight gain or inhibit your ability to lose. Try eating less. It seems so simple, but it really makes a difference. 

Cutting calories doesn’t mean deprivation either. My favorite way to lighten a dish is to serve it over a big bed of greens or lettuce instead of a grain. Brown rice is a healthy food, but it’s high in calories. I can easily pack away 2 or even 3 cups of cooked brown rice at dinner -- which is a lot of calories. However, if I eat 4 cups of kale (which I’ve been known to do) I’m equally as satisfied, but my caloric consumption goes way, way down.

My other advice is to cut out or reduce added fats. I know this is controversial, but it’s what worked and continues to work for me. Once I eliminated added fats, particularly oils, weight loss was much, much easier for me. There are a lot of calories in such a tiny bit of oil, so cooking with it was really adding the fat and calories on. Once I removed it (and I didn’t notice a difference in my food) I was saving myself 100s of calories a day effortlessly.

I was also really motivated by something John McDougall said in his book  “the fat you eat is the fat you wear.” That’s always stuck with me so when I was trying to lose body fat, I asked myself why was I eating more of it? It seemed so counterproductive. In fact it was that realization that made me start cooking “fat-free” and I’ve noticed that any time I start eating fats in excess again (such as when I went on an avocado binder last summer) the weight creeps back on.

 But again, these are just my experiences and you should do your own research before trying something. For more reading on the topic of eating low fat for weight-loss, I recommend The McDougall Program or Eat to Live. I’ve been a McDougaller for years. Other books that helped me lose weight include Mindless Eating (which I can’t recommend enough) and Volumetrics.

By popular request, I am also starting comprehensive HH meal plans that lay out your daily eats and are based on 1,200 calories (with 100-calorie snack lists so you can adapt the plan to meet your goal).  

Above all my advice is this: Remember to keep “veg” in vegan.

**This is not medical advice. Talk to your doctor before changing your diet.**

Whole Wheat Fat-Free Vegan Scone Recipe (Pumpkin Cranberry Scones)

Posted by: Andrea Dermos |

Category: Recipe

I used to love eating scones from Starbucks, I'd pick one up with my morning coffee and head to class. The scone made early (read: 10 AM) classes tolerable. 

I know it's a little early for pumpkin recipes but I can't help it! Autumn is my favorite season, and it reminds me of all those mornings walking with hot coffee to class.

And since I get this question often; a scone is sort of like a mix between a biscuit and a muffin. They're firmer than a muffin, but softer than a biscuit.....just make them, they're delicious!

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Cranberry Scone Recipe
Yields: 6 Scones

1.5 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3.5 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup pumpkin (pureed, not pumpkin pie filling-that has spices!)
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tbsp non-dairy milk (optional)
1/2 cup cranberries (if using dry- plump them as you would raisins, by adding them to some water or orange juice and allowing them to get rehydrated)
(Edited to Add: You can use fresh pumpkin that's been cooked, if you can't find canned. Pumpkin pie spice is a blend of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. You can blend your own to taste) 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a cookie sheet.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and pumpkin spice and whisk together to ensure even distribution of the ingredients.
3. Add wet ingredients; pumpkin, maple syrup, and also your cranberries. Incorporate all ingredients together, scones make a dry dough(like biscuits) but if you think your dough is too dry and all your flour hasn't been incorporated, add non-dairy milk 1 tbsp at a time.
4. You can make these 'drop' scones by using a measuring scoop and dropping the dough onto the prepared cookie sheet, or you can cut them into triangles (like Starbucks!). To make triangles, roll dough into one large ball and then flatten slightly. Cut the dough like you would cut a pizza! I first cut in half, and then divide each section into 'slices'.
(I usually sprinkle a little raw sugar on top of scones, just to make them glisten and give them a pretty textured top. This is totally optional)
5. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until firm to the touch.

Celebrate: Peanut Day!

Posted by: Andrea Dermos |

Category: Holiday

Today we're celebrating Peanut Day! While The Happy Herbivore Cookbook is made up of recipes without any added fat, there are a few "cheater" recipes that aren't completely fat free. The "Cheater" Pad Thai (p. 117) uses a little peanut butter to create a delicious pad thai sauce that you can serve over noodles or vegetables, or even in a salad. Enjoy!

"Cheater" Pad Thai Sauce
Makes 2 Servings

2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp smooth peanut butter
1 tbsp sweet red chili Asian sauce
1/4 tsp granulated garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp hot sauce, or to taste

1. In a small bowl, whisk 2 tbsp of warm water, soy sauce, peanut butter, chili sauce, garlic powder, ginger and hot sauce together until combined. It may appear too runny at first, but it's not.
2. Taste, adding more hot sauce if desired.

Use to coat rice noodles, tofu, as a salad topper, or even in a vegetable stir fry!