A healthy and balanced vegan diet can be a great way to gain weight if that’s your goal. It is full of healthy foods that are rich in good fats, proteins and carbohydrates that can be used to meet those weight gain goals.

The reasons can be many, including recovering from a recent period of ill health to building muscle mass, usually to improve physique or performance in sport. A vegan diet has been adopted by many elite athletes and has been found to be optimal for this purpose. If you need convincing, we’re sure watching The Game Changes will be enough to make anyone reach for black beans instead of beef for their post-workout meal.

If you have experienced unexpected weight loss, we recommend seeing a medical doctor who can figure out the root cause. But for those who want to gain weight in a healthy and sustainable way on a vegan diet, we can help!

A vegan diet is part of the vegan philosophy, which tries to exclude the use of all foods taken from animals, so as not to contribute to their exploitation and harm. So when it comes to diet, that means no meat, fish, eggs or dairy, but it still leaves us with plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, grains and all products made from them.

This healthy choice is often seen as negative for weight gain, as people may prefer protein-rich foods such as meat and dairy products, but there are also protein-rich vegan foods that come without unhealthy fats and other negative health consequences . with products derived from animals. Plus, choosing plant-based foods means we’re getting plenty of other key nutrients like fiber, vitamin C and more.

In short, a vegan diet can provide enough protein and healthy fats for healthy weight gain while nourishing other aspects of your health.

A negative caloric deficit is the most common reason for difficulty gaining weight. Because many healthy plant foods are high in fiber and water, we can feel full before we consume the calories we need to gain weight. If our solution is to eat more of these foods, it can leave us feeling nauseous, bloated, and still falling short of the calories we need.

Don’t worry, there is a simple solution. The answer is caloric density. It just means understanding which food groups provide us with the most calories per 100g and then eating as much as we need! Read on for a breakdown of the most calorie-dense vegan foods


There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Everyone is different and before deciding how to gain weight it is important to understand our current and expected calorie intake, metabolism and body type. The following tips outline the best ways we can maximize our weight gain on a vegan diet.

Find out your current calorie intake, metabolism and body type
The first step to gaining weight is to simply figure out your current calorie intake. Calorie King provides a free and easy calculator to help you figure out how many calories are in our foods – a good approach is to track the ingredients you eat in a typical week and then calculate the total. Alternatively, there are many calorie tracking apps that will do it for you. Simple!

Then we should calculate our metabolism or basal metabolic rate (BMR). Simply put, that’s how many calories we need to sustain ourselves at rest.

If we want to gain weight, we want to take in enough calories to account for our BMR, plus the calories we burn during exercise, and then some! This will result in positive caloric balance and healthy weight gain. has a simple and easy to use BMR calculator that does the math for us.

Body type also plays a role in our approach. Our body type is determined to some extent by our genes, but it is largely adaptable to our diet and exercise choices. The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) provides an excellent overview of body type and how we can adjust what we have to what we want.

Get enough calories
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, calories are the key to weight gain. A simple rule of thumb is to make sure we take in more calories than we burn, and we can use both exercise and diet to do this.

Knowing which food groups are calorie dense is key! Eating large portions of only salad or vegetables, while healthy, will not provide us with the calories we need to gain weight. Of course, we should continue to eat these nutritious foods, but it is necessary to supplement them with more calorically dense variants.

The Center for Nutritional Studies gives some examples (calories per 100g):

  • Vegetables: 25 calories
  • Fruit, potatoes, and starchy vegetables: 60 to 70 calories
  • Rice and cereal: 125 calories
  • Avocado: 167 calories
  • Soy products (edamame, tempeh): 110 to 195 calories
  • Nuts: 600 calories

Here are some tips to help you reach your new calorie goals:

Use one of the many calorie tracking apps available to clearly visualize your calories.
Nuts, seeds and avocados are your friends! These calorie-dense foods are delicious and great for complementing calorie-light meals. Why not try the nut butter satay sauce with another stir-fry!
Cooked grains like brown rice, quinoa, and barley can be great additions to bulk meals like stews and soups.

Increase your food intake
When you gain weight, try to think bigger! That doesn’t mean eating three pizzas in one night, but it does mean making the most of healthy fats and proteins like avocados, beans, tofu, and more. This can take some time to adjust to, so take it slow if you need to.

Gena Hemshaw, author of ‘The Full Helping’, suggests a 50 per cent increase in meal size as a good starting point. For example, instead of one sandwich for lunch, try a sandwich and a half. That adds up over time.

A snack is also your best friend. Snack between each meal if you can, high calorie foods. Bars rich in nuts, seeds and oats are great options, as are nutritious smoothies full of nut butters and fruit.

Eat on bigger plates
Now this may seem like an odd tip, but the size of our plates has more of an effect than we might think!

Research shows that people tend to eat whatever they serve themselves. No one likes the look of a half-full plate, so make those plates bigger, fill them up, and you’re much more likely to finish a larger portion.

Choose energy-dense foods more often
Weight gain isn’t just limited to meal timing. It’s about adopting a mindset that focuses on choosing energy-dense, calorie-dense foods at every opportunity. So while it’s key to make sure you pack your main meals full of energy-dense foods, look for them when you’re on the go too.

Look out for energy bars that are rich in nuts, seeds and grains. Even keeping a jar of peanut butter in your bag to dip fruit in is a great on-the-go snack option!

Skip cardio
While cardio is great for our health and fitness, it’s also a powerful calorie burner, and we want to maximize calories when gaining weight. Of course, exercise is still key to a healthy lifestyle, so we don’t recommend skipping it entirely!

If you want to gain muscle mass, the meatless athlete suggests stopping all forms of cardio for a short period of time and actually reducing the number of workouts you do per week. Of course, this isn’t realistic for some people, so reducing the time and intensity of your cardio might be a good starting point.

Try this approach for 4-6 weeks and see how it affects your weight gain, then reassess your goals.

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