If you want to lose weight, eating more plant-based foods (and less of all the other stuff) is one of the fastest ways to get you there. But if you’re brand new to the idea of going vegan for weight loss, it’s easy to feel intimidated!
I know when I first tried it I failed many times because I felt deprived.
The thought of never having cheese again was NOT okay!
Lucky for you, if you’re willing to make a few adjustments, you can still enjoy so many textures and flavors that are actually quite similar to the foods you’re used to – sometimes even better!
Here are 17 low-calorie vegan food swaps that’ll help you lose weight (and keep it off!)
1- Cheesy sauce instead of cheese
One of the first things people think of when the idea of going plant-based or vegan comes to mind is cheese!
And while there are some great vegan cheeses out there, they can be high in calories and fat. So why not try making a tasty cheesy sauce instead?
Made from ingredients like cashews and nutritional yeast, you’ll get all the flavor without the added calories.
My favorite plant-based cheesy sauce recipe is mostly cauliflower!
So it’s so low-calorie and I largely give credit to this sauce for my weight loss.
Get the recipe here: The Best Low-Calorie Vegan Cheesy Sauce
2- Air-fried potatoes instead of french fries
Next, if you love french fries, you’re not alone.
But as tasty as they are, the way most restaurants deep-fry them in oil is just so bad for our health and our waistlines!
The good news is that potatoes they are one of the most satiating foods we can eat.
And that means half of the battle is already won.
Instead of purchasing oily, fatty french fries, baking or air frying your own is an excellent compromise.
You may not get that exact crunch, but you can season them to your liking and they still taste pretty good in my opinion – especially dipping them in ketchup or another sauce!
3- Zoodles instead of noodles
Pasta is another food that can be hard to give up when trying to lose weight.
But the good news is, there’s a great alternative – zoodles!
Zoodles are simply zucchini noodles and they are an excellent low-calorie substitute for regular pasta.
You can use a spiralizer or even just a peeler to make them into long, thin strips.
Then, simply cook them in a pan with seasonings of your choice.
You can even add in your favorite protein and veggies to make it a complete meal.
Not only will you save on calories and fat, but zoodles also provide more nutrients than traditional pasta.
Plus, they taste great!
If you really want, you can still have half of your regular pasta and half zoodles.
That way, you’re getting the best of both worlds!
One thing about zoodles, though, is that they don’t keep well so they’re best served fresh.
Not great for meal prep or batch cooking, but well worth the effort!
4- Avocado spread instead of butter
We all love a good spread of butter on our toast or sandwiches, but unfortunately, that adds a lot of extra fat and calories.
A great alternative is using avocado instead!
Avocado is packed with healthy fats and can provide that creamy texture just like butter.
Simply mash up half an avocado, add lemon or lime juice, salt, and pepper, and spread it on your bread.
It’s great on toast alongside this Vegan Chickpea Scramble for breakfast!
5- Tofu mayo instead of regular
Mayonnaise is a popular condiment, but it’s also high in calories and fat.
A simple swap for this is using tofu mayo.
It has a similar texture to regular mayo but with fewer calories and more protein.
You can easily make your own by blending tofu with lemon juice, mustard, salt, and pepper.
Or, you can find it at most health food stores.
Try it in your next sandwich or wrap for a healthier alternative!
Remember, small swaps like these can make a big difference in your overall calorie intake and help you reach your weight loss goals.
Get the recipe here: Vegan Tofu Mayonnaise
6- Hummus instead of dip
Instead of reaching for a high-calorie dip like ranch or sour cream, try swapping it out for hummus.
Hummus is made from chickpeas and is a great source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
It’s also incredibly versatile and can be flavored in many different ways to suit your taste preferences.
You can make your own quick and easy hummus by combining canned chickpeas, water, lemon juice, garlic, and tahini into your blender and blending it until it reaches your desired consistency.
Then, sprinkle it with paprika for that extra pizzazz.
Notice I didn’t list oil – as that would make it higher in calories.
If you wanted to use oil you could, but why add extra calories if you don’t need to?
RELATED: 17 Healthy Grab And Go Vegan Snacks
7- Almond milk instead of cow’s milk
Many people struggle with cutting out dairy when trying to lose weight.
But a simple swap for cow’s milk is almond milk.
It has fewer calories and fat than cow’s milk, making it a healthier option.
One cup of whole cow’s milk has 150 calories and 8 grams of fat, while one cup of unsweetened almond milk only has 30 calories and 2.5 grams of fat.
Even low-fat or skim milk still has more calories than almond milk.
Plus, almond milk is also lactose-free and suitable for those with dairy allergies or intolerances.
You can use it in your cereal, coffee, smoothies, or even for baking!
Plus, if you’re lactose intolerant or have a dairy allergy, almond milk is a great alternative that won’t upset your stomach.
8- Zero-calorie sweetener instead of sugar
One of the biggest culprits for weight gain is sugar.
While it may taste delicious, it adds a lot of unnecessary calories to our diet.
But that doesn’t mean you have to give up sweetness altogether.
Some people dislike zero-cal sweeteners for various reasons, but I’ve used them just fine to lose weight so if you’re okay with them then give it a try!
9- Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) is a great plant-based protein option for those looking to reduce their meat intake or follow a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle.
It’s made from soy flour and is high in protein, low in fat, and contains no cholesterol.
TVP is also very versatile and can be used in place of ground beef in recipes like tacos, spaghetti, or even on top of nachos!
What I love about it is how easy it is to use.
It comes as dry crumbles in a big bag – it kinda reminds me of cereal.
All you do is hydrate it for about 5 minutes by placing it in a bowl of water, then season it and cook it up in a skillet just like you do ground beef or ground turkey!
It’s so great, too, because I use a great non-stick skillet and just sautee my onions and garlic in water, add seasonings and my TVP, and there’s a super-flavorful, meaty texture that is delicious and so familiar to what I’m used to.
Try TVP and see how you like it!
10- Soy curls
Similar to TVP is another plant-based protein alternative – soy curls!
Soy curls are made from whole soybeans and are a great source of protein if you want to reduce calories and shed extra pounds without sacrificing flavor or texture.
Just like with TVP, soy curls come dry. Simply hydrate them in water for a few minutes, then you can do pretty much whatever you want!
My all-time-favorite soy curls recipe is teriyaki soy “chicken”.
But I’ve seen people create battered and fried soy curls that come out just like fried chicken!
I usually add mine to stir fry but I’ve done tacos, nachos, and even BBQ sandwiches with it.
The possibilities are endless and the taste and texture are on point!
11- Homemade salad dressing
One of the most beneficial changes I’ve made in my weight loss journey is switching from store-bought salad dressings to making my own.
Not only does it save money, but homemade dressings are usually much healthier and lower in calories.
I remember when I tried to go vegetarian or on a low-fat diet before, I’d get this gross fat-free ranch dressing from the store.
It tasted SO awful!
I was already eating boring salads with basic iceberg and romaine lettuce and tomato only.
Then adding that crap on top thinking I was doing myself a favor – only to discover there was no fat but tons of sodium and sugar AND it taste bad too!
When you make your own salad dressing, you’re in full control over the ingredients.
Plus, you can customize the flavors to your liking!
There are SO many different dressings you can make, from creamy ranch and bleu cheese style, to tangy caesar and sweet vinaigrettes.
One of my favorites is this quick and easy ranch dressing.
An ENTIRE JAR is 350 calories!
That means you can slop it all over a huge salad and feel satisfied and never gain weight!
It’s so easy to snack on carrot sticks or celery sticks when you have unlimited dip and sauce to work with.
That’s one of my favorite quick and easy hacks to vegan weight loss that I swear by.
12- Homemade chips instead of store-bought
One of the foods people say you need to give up if you want to lose weight is chips (right alongside cookies!)
But you don’t have to give up chips altogether.
You just have to make your own!
Just like with french fries, you can bake them or air fry them.
I prefer air frying but baking works well – it just takes a bit longer.
If you have limited kitchen space here’s a little tip for an air fryer…
If you already have an Instant Pot, there’s a lid attachment you can buy that converts it into an air fryer, dehydrator and broiler.
It’s super convenient, multi-functional, and saves space in your kitchen!
For homemade chips, I like to use thinly sliced potatoes or sweet potatoes most of the time.
Use a mandolin to slice everything super-thin, then sprinkle them with some salt, paprika, (smoked paprika if you’re fancy), garlic powder or any other spices you like before baking/air frying.
The result is crispy, flavorful chips that are much healthier than store-bought!
I’ll often make a big batch so that I have some on hand throughout the week.
13- Banana “nice” cream instead of ice cream
Another food that is often considered off-limits for those trying to lose weight is ice cream.
But there’s a healthier and equally delicious alternative – banana “nice” cream!
All you need is some frozen bananas, a little bit of non-dairy milk (I love using almond or coconut milk), and any other mix-ins or toppings you desire.
Blend everything together until smooth and creamy, and you have a nutritious and satisfying treat that won’t derail your weight loss goals.
You can get creative with different flavors like chocolate, strawberry, or even peanut butter by adding cocoa powder, fresh fruit, or nut butter.
Plus, unlike regular ice cream which is loaded with added sugars and unhealthy ingredients, banana nice cream is made solely from natural, whole-food ingredients.
So go ahead and indulge guilt-free! Your taste buds and waistline will thank you.
With this simple and nutritious dessert option, you can have your “ice cream” and eat it too
14- Sparkling water for baking
This one I stumbled upon while browsing Facebook one day and it was SO cool.
When making cakes, cupcakes, or even pancakes… if a recipe says you need eggs, milk and oil, you can skip ALL those ingredients and just use plain, unflavored, zero-calorie sparkling water!
Everything comes out so much BETTER than it would with all that extra, and it’s so much lighter.
If you don’t believe me – try it for yourself.
While not technically “whole food plant-based”, many box cakes are actually vegan as they have no eggs or milk in the batter in the box!
They tell you to ADD milk and eggs, but with my sparkling soda trick you can get away with a super moist, fluffy, low-calorie cake and it’s amazing.
(I will also use flavored soda sometimes like a zero-calorie Sprite or 7up and then the cake is not only low-calorie and vegan but also sweet!)
15- Kombucha instead of soda
This one is so cool.
Now, I personally drink a little diet soda here and there and think it’s fine.
I’m not necessarily a “purist”… I just eat mostly veggies as often as possible but I think “more” is enough!
That said, if you want a healthier alternative to soda that can help you lose weight, try kombucha!
Studies have shown that fermented foods can help reduce inflammation – and that aids weight loss.
But be careful – most store-bought kombucha is loaded with sugar and other fillers.
And that would go against weight loss.
If you have the space and the time, you can actually brew your OWN kombucha!
I took up a kombucha brewing hobby about a year ago and not only is it fun, but I love having a bottle every day.
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I’ve noticed some improvement in my digestive health since taking up the hobby.
I got started with this kit that I bought on Amazon.
At first, it was a little tricky.
But after the first two batches, I got the hang of it and now I’m all in!
If you don’t want to make your own, that’s understandable.
Just make sure you purchase a brand that doesn’t have tons of added sugar and other weird fillers.
You’d be better off just drinking soda if that was the case.
16- Oats instead of breakfast cereal
Breakfast cereal is often marketed as a healthy breakfast option, but in reality it’s usually loaded with added sugars and processed ingredients.
Instead of starting your day off with a sugar rush, try switching to oats!
Oats are full of fiber and protein, which will keep you feeling full and satisfied until lunchtime.
They also have numerous health benefits, including reducing cholesterol levels and improving heart health.
Plus, they’re incredibly versatile – you can make overnight oats, oatmeal pancakes, or add them to smoothies for a nutritious breakfast.
Make the switch to oats and you’ll notice a difference in your energy levels and overall well-being.
17- Tofu scramble instead of eggs
Last but not least, while eggs are a popular breakfast choice, if you want to eat more plant-based foods and consume fewer calories, there’s an alternative – tofu scramble!
The “eggy” flavor comes from black salt, which is something I’d NEVER heard of before embarking on my plant-based journey.
All you do is combine your spices – black salt, a pinch of turmeric, pepper and maybe some paprika or cumin into a bowl.
Take a block of firm tofu (no need to press it) and crumble it into the bowl of seasonings.
Saute some onions and garlic in a skillet, then cook the crumbled, seasoned tofu in with the garlic and onion and voila – vegan eggs!
Switching to tofu scramble can be an easy way to start incorporating more plant-based options into your diet while still enjoying a tasty breakfast.
So give it a try and see how you like it!
The Bottom Line
I know transitioning to a plant-based diet can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve grown up on a Standard American Diet (the acronym is “SAD” for a reason).
There’s SO much misinformation out there coming from these companies and industries that want to sell us stuff.
But that stuff makes us sick and fat!
It’s so liberating, though, once you discover the food swaps you can make that taste good and help you improve your overall health and well-being at the same time.
I hope that wherever you are on your journey – and how far you want to go – that you found some practical tips and inspiration in this guide.
Remember, it’s all about progress, not perfection.
So take small steps, listen to your body, and always be open to learning and trying new things.
Here’s to a happier, healthier you!