Trendy Diets Done Right: The Vegan Diet

The lowdown on giving up meat to lose weight-à la Skinny B---- and The China Study-including recipes and menus, and advice from a nutritionist

Looking to lose weight or just eat healthier in the New Year? Let us help you weigh the many options out there with our Diets 101 series. Today's diet is the Vegan Diet.

The Concept

  • A plant-based diet will slim you down and reduce your risk of cancer and other illnesses.

Distinguishing Features

  • No meat or fish (basic vegetarian)
  • No dairy or eggs (vegan lite)
  • No honey or gelatin (hard-core vegan)
  • No caffeine, alcohol, sugar, or processed foods (ultra-pure option)
  • Flagship flavor: soy

This Is Your Diet If...

  • You have moral or ethical issues with using animals for food
  • You don't mind rowing against the current
  • You never met a vegetable you didn't like
  • You're worried about your cancer risk
  • You'd like to reduce the carbon footprint of your diet

Probably Not for You If...

  • You can't imagine life without (real) cheese
  • You feel better on a high-protein diet
  • Beans and legumes make you unfit for polite company
  • You're looking for a flexible, low-maintenance diet

Our Assessment

The details here and all of the accompanying recipes are in line with the strictest form of this diet-veganism-which means no animal products of any kind. Fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and beans form the mainstay of a healthy vegan diet. Soy tends to be ubiquitous. Not only is it a source of high-quality protein, but it's astonishingly versatile-it can stand in for both dairy and meat, masquerading as everything from cheese and yogurt to burgers and bacon.

Plant-based diets tends to be higher in carbs and lower in protein than an omnivorous diet, but both protein and iron deficiency are rare among vegans (Vitamin B12 deficiency is more of a concern, so vegans should consider taking a supplement). Eliminating animal foods (including cutting out dairy and eggs) removes all of the cholesterol and a lot of the saturated fat from your diet, but does not necessarily make your diet low in fat.

Although our culture is more hospitable to vegans than it used to be, your choices will still be limited at most restaurants, parties, and highway rest stops-which can work in your favor by cutting down on extraneous calories.

Once you know where to look, however, you'll find plenty of overprocessed vegan junk food. If you're serious about losing weight and upgrading your health, you'll want to focus on whole, unprocessed foods and steer clear of added sugar, salt, and fat (just like everyone else!).

Recipes

A Day on the Vegan Diet

Breakfast:

  • Oatmeal with Soy Milk, Raisins, and Walnuts

Lunch:

with an apple

Dinner:

More Great Vegan Recipes

Books on the Vegan Diet

Skinny B---- and Skinny B---- in the Kitch
by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin
Former models Freedman and Barnouin pull no punches in their diet prescription: If you want to be a skinny b---- , you've got to give up the "crap" you're eating. All of it. In addition to expunging all animal products from your diet, you're also to give up alcohol, soda, sugar, coffee, and junk food (vegan or not!). What's left? A fairly austere menu of organic cereals and grains, salads, and veggie burgers, served up with plenty of attitude. We wonder if life is worth living if you have to give up virtually everything....

The China Study
by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D.
Although not a diet program per se, this book and Campbell 's research (as part of the China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project) have inspired many to adopt a vegan lifestyle. According to Campbell , "The solution to losing weight is a whole-foods, plant-based diet, coupled with a reasonable amount of exercise." As a bonus, Campbell argues, the vegan diet will reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses. There's a slight logical disconnect in the scientific rationale: Campbell seems to assume that meat eaters eat mostly junk food and that vegans only eat wholesome, unprocessed foods in the appropriate amounts. As long as that is indeed your approach, you should see good results.

By Monica Reinagel

Get more tips and recipes in Epicurious's complete Get Healthy guide

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