This Nutritionist Explains How You Can Lose Weight, The Vegan Way

|Updated Jan 26, 2021
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Plant-based nutritionist and fitness coach Lisa Danielson is on a mission to help you add more vegetables to your plate, regardless of what diet you follow. If you find yourself wanting to feel better and get healthy, you're more than halfway there when you add any amount of vegetables to your plate, a major key towards better health, according to the nutritionist.

Danielson helps people all over the country find success whether their goal is losing a few pounds, training for a marathon, or feeling younger and more energetic. She shared her personal journey with her own diet and how she ate healthier to transform her lifestyle and career.

In her twenties, Danielson gave birth to her first child and gained about twenty pounds. She didn't really think twice about it because as an athletic person with a fast metabolism, she thought the weight would magically shed postpartum. But, it wasn't that simple. She had a moment of realization when she struggled to get up the stairs and complete day-to-day tasks that seemed so easy before she was pregnant.

One day when Lisa felt the urgency to get healthy again, she decided to clean up her diet and focus on eating more vegetables, grains, and fruit, without limiting calories. Naturally, she dove into a plant-based diet, and the weight came off within the first six months of eating this way. She loved the feeling of living lighter, feeling more athletic, and nourishing her body naturally with nutrients, so she continued to eat a plant-based diet and ultimately discovered her passions, career, and developed a fresh start to a new, healthy lifestyle as a nutritionist.

This past summer, Danielson wrote the book Weight Loss the Vegan Way: 21-Day Meal Plan with Over 75 Easy Recipesan easy way to discover how a vegan diet can help you achieve real weight loss and overall health. The method to her work is simple: To fill up with nutritionally dense foods and avoiding saturated fat and cholesterol by recalibrating your palate.

The Beet spoke to Danielson over Zoom to discuss the topic of weight loss a healthy vegan way. She shared vital information like how to get started and resources that will help you stay on track. One thing Danielson notes is that at this very moment, if you feel inspired to eat healthily, do it. It doesn't matter what the diet is. If you want to eat healthily, go for it, then decide which meal plan is right for you.

The Beet: How should I make the transition to a vegan diet for weight loss?

Lisa Danielson: Make a list and get organized! One thing that's really helpful for when you're just starting out is to make a list of three or four foods that are your favorite protein sources, it's one of the most important macros your body needs to lose weight. Maybe you like beans, lentils, nuts, or tempeh. You should aim to eat more protein than you think you need when you're first starting out. Then, plan out all of your veggies.

Make a list of vegetables that you love to eat and next to the name, make note of how you like to eat them: Cooked, raw, roasted, steamed, etc. Then, to limit your carbs, eye-ball how many carbs you tend to eat daily and cut them in half. If you eat a grain bowl, fill up half the bowl with grains and the other half with spinach, instead of having a base of just grains. Try to eat grains like quinoa, which is high in fiber.

TB: What is a healthy breakfast we should all start our day with?

Lisa: A breakfast that I found to be really satisfying and healthy is a tofu scramble with a ton of veggies, as many veggies as you can. Try to add, onions, peppers, carrots, mushrooms, spinach, and anything that you have in the fridge. If you don't like tofu, make an oatmeal bowl with chia seeds and lots of berries. Berries have a low-glycemic index, which classifies their carbs by the effect on blood sugar levels. Women should eat tons of GI fruit, but make sure you don't eat too many medium GI or high GI foods--avoid eating too many mangos, bananas, fruits that are dense and high in sugars.

The Beet: Do you have any helpful tips for weight loss?

Lisa: The one thing that I think is important is to repeat your meals. A lot of people ask me for meal plans and expect something like a cookbook with new recipes, but I like to keep meal plans simple.

Here's how to make your meal plans:

In a 7-day meal plan, I make the first three days the same, then on the 7th day, I repeat breakfast on day 1, lunch on day 3, and dinner on day 5.  If you ate new meals every day, your grocery bill would be expensive and you would spend so much time cooking (nobody's got time for that!)

Make sure when you go to the store, you know exactly what your meals look like for the week and buy a couple of ingredients that you will use over and over. The simpler you can make your meals, the better results you will get. When the meal plan is complicated, people get frustrated and give up. If you know that bell peppers are one of your favorite things to eat, chop up the entire vegetable and assemble them in different meals, maybe on a salad, stir fry, pasta, or a snack.

The Beet: What's your take on oil and which are the healthiest oils to cook with?

Lisa: Be careful with measurements when it comes to oil. If you're using half of a tablespoon, just use that, because it's easy to go overboard. I like avocado oil, but lots of people like grapeseed oil and coconut oil. It's really important to keep track of how much oil you consume daily unless you're on a ketogenic plan. I find that there are so many low-calorie cooking spray oils now, and they're more natural and better for you.

The Beet: What should my day-to-day ratios look like? Fats, carbs, proteins.

Lisa: Good question. Macros tend to vary with body type and genetics.  If a person is more of an ectomorph they'll want more carbs if they're an endomorph they'll want more fats. At first, I give my clients balanced amounts of macros to see how their body reacts to it. I recommend a 35% (carbs) 35% (protein) 30% split (fat). There are helpful tools to ensure you're keeping track like MyFitnessPal.

The Beet: What are healthier dessert options, if we're trying to lose weight?

Lisa: I say to control the ingredients, make them healthier, and reduce the portion size, that way you can still have the same things you love and see the weight loss results. I always look for good substitutions of the desserts you like. If you like to make no-bake cookies, I would add honey instead of sugar, almond butter instead of peanut butter, chop up almonds for texture, and very small chocolate chips. When I make no-bake cookies, I  put them in small cookie liners so I eat a small cookie, instead of normal size or large size, it was so satisfying.

The Beet: Do you have a favorite weight loss recipe in your book?

Lisa: I do! My favorite recipe in my entire book is the sweet potato pumpkin curry made in the crockpot, it's one of those recipes where you dump the ingredients in the crockpot and walk away. Your house will smell amazing. It's made with coconut milk, pumpkin puree, curry powder, served over rice, cauliflower rice, Asian noodles.

The Beet: What's your best advice for anyone starting a plant-based diet?

Lisa: If you feel inspired to eat healthy, do it. It doesn't matter what the diet is. If you want to eat healthily, go for it, then decide which meal plan is right for you. Start with a healthy breakfast and work your way into lunch. Ask yourself: "What can I add to my lunch to make it healthier?" There are so many incredible products for plant-based meals like delivery services and meat alternatives. The meal plan I like is Veestro. If you're someone who misses eating meat, try some of the alternatives then maybe eventually you will grow out of them and choose more whole-food plant-based options. I really do believe that it's the future of eating and health, and when people realize that, they will be more inclined to try it.

The Beet: What does your own diet look like?

Lisa:  In the morning I have peanut butter with a rice cake. Then, I go to the gym and come back to have my post-workout meal, which is not fibrous because it's harder for the body to digest, after an exercise. I like to eat cream of rice with berries. Then, for lunch, I'll have a Kardashian-sized salad, a huge salad. I have all my fruits and vegetables divided up in my fridge. Later in the afternoon, I have a yogurt. For dinner, I have whatever my family is eating. If they want spaghetti, I'll make myself zoodles with vegan meatballs and a marina sauce. We eat lots of vegetable sides with our main meal, like potatoes, and squash.

I'm a simple person. There was a time in my life when I ate a roasted carrot soup every day for three years, and when it was the summer, I would make it a gazpacho. If you find meals you like, make them on repeat.