How to Gain Weight as a Vegan (Tips & Recipes!)

by Alena

Follow a plant-based diet doesn’t automatically have to mean losing weight! Learn how to gain weight as a vegan healthfully with lots of everyday tips and easy recipes.

It’s more common than not that people try a plant-based diet for weight loss. But what if you’re already slender or want to bulk up as a vegan?

Let’s reverse common weight loss advice and check out the best vegan foods to gain weight and support muscle growth!

Because believe it or not, if you don’t know much about nutrition or calories, some of the more common vegan side effects include both involuntary weight gain and weight loss.

If you want to check out some great recipes to help you gain weight as a vegan, click on our collections below and keep on scrolling for our best weight gain tips.

Track your food intake

It’s always good to know what your starting point is! If you assess how many calories to aim for each day and you see how much you usually consume, it’s a lot easier to make tiny shifts about your diet to hit that goal.

One of the most popular free tracking tools is Cronometer (affiliate link) which breaks down all of the important nutrition information very well. Using this app can also help you stay on track during your weight gain phase!

It’s usually recommended to add around 300-500 extra calories to your diet above the maintenance level each day.

Read more about vegan nutrition in this guide.

Learn about calorie density

Filling your plate with lots of broccoli or potatoes won’t help you gain weight on a vegan diet. That’s because some foods offer way fewer calories per bite than others!

Since we want to eat more calories than our bodies need — and our stomachs can only hold so much food at any given time — we need to choose wisely.

With the calorie density approach, you start to see that you should rather have that peanut butter bread instead of carrot sticks with hummus as a snack and that you should cook with a good amount of oil — which is the food highest in calorie density.

Calorie Density Chart for easy weight gain or weight lesspin it

Decrease fiber & increase fat

Plant foods, in general, have lots of fiber and offer more carbs than fat or protein. While consuming fiber is definitely healthy and necessary, it may prevent us from eating enough calories.

Instead of choosing whole grain products, you can go for refined pasta or bread, add tofu or seitan instead of whole beans to your meals and so on.

As you can see in the calorie density chart above, fat tends to be on the calorically dense end of the spectrum here. That’s because 1 gram of fat has 9 calories whereas protein and carbs have only about 4 calories.

If you add a handful of nuts, some tahini, coconut, avocado or oil to every meal, the extra calories will add up super quickly!

Eat more high-calorie vegan foods

Reduce the leafy greens, veggies and fresh fruit on your plate a little and fill up your stomach with these foods instead!

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Dried fruit
  • Nut butter
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Tofu & tempeh
  • Olives
  • Avocado
  • Mock meat
  • Vegan cheese
  • White rice
  • Granola
  • Coconut milk

Focus on plant-based protein

Needless to say, if you want to build muscle, you need to work out — and consume enough protein.

As a vegan, you should aim for a bit more protein than recommended by any calculators that assume you eat animal-based protein! This is because plant-based protein is not as bioavailable.

However, you can still eat enough protein as a vegan! Check out our vegan protein guide here as well as our recipe collections below.

Don’t drink before you eat

Remember, you only have so much space in your stomach and you want those sweet sweet calories from your vegan food!

The same is true if you drink too much during your meals and especially if your beverage is calorie-free such as water, tea or coffee.

Choose beverages wisely

Consider opting for drinks that are both hydrating while also packing some calories. 

This means fruit juices, plant-based smoothies (be sure to add nut butter for extra calories) or lattes with full-fat plant-based milk.

You can also make “weight gainer shakes” consisting of banana, oats, nut butter, soy milk and vegan protein powder. These will keep you rather full for a while, though!

Frequent & small meals

Try eating more often and go for smaller portions. You can still slowly increase your portion sizes gradually!

Aim to spread out your meals and snacks throughout the day so that you eat every 2-3 hours. Set a timer as a reminder to eat consistently!

No need to hold back on midnight snacks or that bag of chips or popcorn during movie night, either.

If you’re usually too busy to cook regularly, think about getting into meal planning and prepping!

Exercise more often

That might seem counterintuitive as we burn calories when we exercise. But we also increase our appetite and build muscle at the same time which is a good thing!

To get the best results, stop all forms of cardio for a short amount of time and take walks instead while focusing on lifting weights.

Strength training in particular is perfect to gain more muscle and stay healthy.

Use bigger plates & bowls

The size of our plates and bowls can have a huge effect on our brain and whether or not we think that we have a lot or only a little food in front of us.

An overfilled small bowl with the same amount of food as a half-empty large bowl offers a different perspective to your subconscious mind and you’ll be more likely to be able to finish off the latter.

Tricks like these have even been tested in studies!

Always have snacks on hand

Snacking on nuts or dried fruit is great because they pack a lot of energy and are also very portable!

This helps you remember to eat regularly throughout the day and not skip snacks.

The same goes for energy bars or oat bars, bliss balls or dark chocolate. Find our favorite snacks below!

Eat more quickly

Our brains need up to 20 minutes to recognize that we’re full. So, if you eat fast enough (but still reasonably paced), you can increase the calories you consume until you feel satiated.

While this behavior can lead to overeating and should not be overdone, it can help those with smaller appetites to meet their calorie goals for the day.

Try a bite

Sometimes our appetite doesn’t kick in until we’ve smelled and actually tried a bite of food. 

This can make you realize that you’re hungrier than you initially thought and that you would actually enjoy eating some food right now!

Make your food taste great

This kind of ties in with the last tip: your food should be really appetizing! 

Add lots of dips or sauces like cashew mayo or peanut butter sauce to your meals, include different textures and don’t shy away from processed foods.

While you should still meet your nutrient requirements for the day, you can try lots of tasty vegan alternatives and add-ons to increase your appetite.

Nutriciously Transition Course iPad

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Learn how to thrive on a plant-based diet with practical tips & a 3-day meal plan!

Don’t stress out

Being consistent and taking small steps forward is much more important than being super strict all of the time!

Don’t work out way too much, rest and sleep enough, and don’t eat until the point of feeling uncomfortable.

Get professional help if you feel stuck!

Take it step by step

It’s time to make our tips for how to gain weight as a vegan suit your lifestyle! Take a look at your current diet and see whether you want to make some food swaps to increase your calorie density, try to go for larger portions or eat more frequently throughout the day.

See if you can make your meals tastier so your appetite increases or if movement makes you hungry!

More vegan guides

We hope you found our tips helpful! Did you manage to gain weight as a vegan? Let us know in the comments below and Pin this article here or share it on social media.

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Alena sitting in a cafe with a bowl of fresh plant-based food and a glass of coffee in front of her

About Alena Handwritten FontAlena Schowalter is a Certified Vegan Nutritionist who has been a vegetarian since childhood and vegan since 2012. Together with her husband, she founded nutriciously in 2015 and has been guiding thousands of people through different transition stages towards a healthy plant-based diet. She’s received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy and social work. Alena enjoys discussions around vegan ethics, walks through nature and creating new recipes.

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