Weight gain for Vegans is not a topic as popular as weight loss for Vegans. But gaining weight on a Vegan diet can actually be a difficult task for some. Vegans who are eating no or low volumes of processed foods can often have trouble putting weight on.
Weight gain can have a negative connotation attached to it in today’s Western culture. In some cases, weight gain is a positive thing, and should be looked upon in a favorable light.
Clean-eating Vegans can often struggle to keep weight on due to a generally lower caloric intake. There are foods within a Vegan diet that are high in calories, and others that are low.
While eating clean through fruit and vegetables is fantastic for your nutrition, it can often lead to a caloric deficiency. This is due to the low-calorie density of the foods being consumed.
We will elaborate on calorie density below.
Weight Gain for Vegans
Sea Moss can fit into weight gain for Vegans, but it is not the primary source of weight gain for Vegans. This seaweed has a wide range of benefits, but typically works to reduce the body’s ability to absorb fats.
We’ll take a closer look at the role Sea Moss can play in the Vegan weight gain mission a little further in this article.
At this point, we do need to note that weight gain for Vegans can be quite difficult. It will require a lifestyle shift to ensure you are eating plenty of calories. This needs to be complemented with a reduction in calories burned while the gain occurs.
When it comes to weight loss or weight gain, there is a very simple principle to observe:
“Calories In” minus “Calories Out” = Calorie Difference
Your calories in is how much energy you intake from foods and liquids consumed. All foods will provide you with some energy, some foods with more than others.
For an easy example of the difference, an apple roughly contains 50 calories. Compared to a peanut butter sandwich which has approximately 188 calories.
Your calories out, is how much energy you burn as you exert yourself. You can increase your calories out by performing more physical activities.
Examples of physical activities could be playing sports, going to the gym, or taking a simple walk. Any activity that exerts physical energy will increase your calories out.
The difference is simple. If you end up with a positive figure from the above calculation, you have taken in more calories than you have used. If you end up with a negative number, you have used more calories than you have taken in.
In the case of wanting to gain weight, we need to focus on increasing our calories in and minimizing our calories out.
Calories in is a simple fix, this is achieved by eating higher-calorie foods. But being on a clean Vegan diet can present some challenges.
If you want to go down the rigid path, you can visit a health professional who can tailor a plan outlining how many calories you will need to consume per day just to maintain weight.
Otherwise, the average is 2000 calories for women, and 2500 calories for men on a per day basis. This can vary however with factors such as age or how much physical work you complete with your work.
You may find this calorie calculator helpful.
Why gain weight?
There are a number of reasons someone may need to gain weight. The list is almost endless, but the reasons easily could include:
- Preparing energy stores for an upcoming physical activity
- Adding bulk to your body frame
- Overcoming an eating disorder
- Healing from a traumatic event
- For general health and wellbeing
Whatever the reason may be, there is a healthy way to gain weight, and an unhealthy way.
I don’t know about you, but smashing burgers, chips, and lollies seems like a great solution to solving the weight gain problem. Then washed down with soda and ice cream… Just kidding!
Although, a healthy Vegan burger could be a good option.
Clearly, this is quite unhealthy and is likely to do more harm than good for us in the long run. I’d rather focus on sustainable and healthy weight gain.
What sorts of foods will help with weight gain for Vegans?
There are a wide range of foods you can add to your current Vegan diet which will increase your caloric intake. The ones we want to focus on are foods that are calorie-dense, meaning they have high-calorie levels for their size and weight.
Calorie density is often higher in foods that are more processed, but not in all cases.
Unfortunately, most fruit and vegetables aren’t typically calorie-dense foods, making them not very suitable for weight gain. They are still a part of a weight gain diet for Vegans but play a different role in a standard plant-based diet.
There is a lot of information out there that will tell you that a high-carb, low-fat diet, or vice versa, will help in gaining weight. The truth is that both carbohydrates and fats play an extremely important role in healthy and sustainable weight gain.
Knowing this, we need to increase our healthy carbohydrates and healthy fats intake. We can use foods (like the ones below) to increase our intake and then assist in healthy weight gain.
Vegan Food List to Gain Weight
We have put together a list of more common foods to provide an example of the foods you can consume. Most of these can be combined with other foods (even pre-existing recipes you love) to increase your calorie intake:
Quinoa is a great food for weight gain as it is high in calories. It is also loaded with high protein and fiber, providing plenty of energy for the body.
Cooked quinoa is easy to mix in with other foods as it is described by many as being somewhat flavorless. But quinoa adds so many benefits.
Alternatively, you can make quinoa your base and mix it with vegetables for extra calories while still getting your vegetable fix. It’s great as a base in a Buddha bowl!
185 grams (roughly 1 cup) of cooked quinoa will provide approximately 220 calories, 8 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber.
Avocado is an amazing source of plant-based fats. It is also one of the few fruits which are actually calorie-dense.
Avocado is a fantastic food to assist with weight gain for Vegans. This is due to their calorie density, high-fat content, and ease of pairing with other foods.
Avocado pairs with salads, main meals, or even serve as a topping for extra calories.
Avocado is a personal favorite in our household on Mexican night. Add some cubed avocado to a burrito bowl or fajita for that extra calorie boost (and delicious flavor!).
A large avocado will contain approximately 320 calories and a whopping 27 grams of fat.
Nuts or nut butters
Nuts are a fantastic snack that are easy to carry and eat on the go. Nut butter is great for adding extra calories, protein, and fats to your meals. Nuts can easily be added to meals or eaten on their own as a snack.
The most common nut butter known is peanut butter. But diligence is required to ensure you don’t buy a product with additives such as sugar.
Thankfully making your own nut butter is an extremely simple process. Nuts such as peanuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, cashew nuts, or even Brazil nuts make great nut butters.
Nut butter is great as a spreadable on breads or wraps. It also makes for an amazing calorie booster in smoothies or shakes. The high calorie and fat levels are a great way to increase weight gain.
Nut butters are one of the most efficient ways to increase your calorie intake. This is due to their calorie density, high protein, and healthy fats!
134 grams (1 cup) of macadamia nuts would provide a huge 960 calories.
Rice is a great grain to add to your meals to increase your calorie intake. Although white rice is often regarded as the unhealthiest kind of rice, it is suitable for weight gain.
However, we don’t recommend white rice as a sustainable weight-gain food. The weight gain aspect is not worth the strain on your pancreas when there are alternatives available. 1
White rice is digested by the stomach much quicker than other kinds of rice. It causes the pancreas to overstimulate and release too much insulin, which is then stored as fat. 2
Brown or black rice are a much better alternative, as they are digested slowly. This results in more sustainable levels of insulin being released, but less weight gain from fat storage.
Rice can be a base for many dishes, or added to a range of recipes for extra calories.
175 grams (1 cup) of cooked white rice will provide 204 calories.
195 grams (1 cup) of cooked brown rice will provide 216 calories.
Tahini is the result of grinding sesame seeds into a smooth paste. Sesame seeds are great for weight gain for Vegans.
While this may sound low compared to other foods, the volumes you add to foods are much smaller.
Tahini is great to use in combination with foods such as wraps. But it shines when added to other foods to create tastier options, such as chickpeas to make hummus.
15 grams (1 tablespoon) of tahini contains 89 calories.
Legumes are a fantastic source of plant-based protein and fiber. Foods such as kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, and soybeans all fall into the legume category.
Legumes are not great to eat on their own but are fantastic to add to meals for more flavour and calories.
Chickpeas or kidney beans can make a great addition to a salad. A personal favourite is to add split red lentils to a homemade pasta sauce. The lentils add little to no flavor in my opinion, and not a great deal of texture, but they increase your calorie intake with ease.
Be creative, it is easy to add a calorie-dense ingredient to many different recipes!
164 grams (1 cup) of chickpeas will contain as much as 269 calories and 14.5 grams of protein.
Olive or coconut oil
Oils like olive and coconut are full of healthy fats, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.
Drinking a cup of oil is not what we’re referring to. Oil can be used for cooking, baking or just adding extra healthy fats to a salad.
Oils are an easy food to add to other recipes. Salads can have oil drizzled in and vegetables can be cooked/coated in oils. There is no shortage of recipes on the internet that include oil as a part of the recipe.
13.5 grams (1 tablespoon) of olive oil will contain 119 calories.
Dried fruits compared to their fresh form are high in sugars, but the good kind (if they do not have added sugar that is).
Fruit without additives is high in sucrose and fiber. The fiber in the fruit you eat counteracts the sucrose of fruit, which is why we don’t have a sugar overdose when we eat a lot of fruit.
These fruits are a great way to add more calories to your diet and satisfy your sweet tooth. A handful of dates can be a very sweet treat.
This makes dried fruit a great snack to eat on the go, or a yummy dessert to add some more calories in before bed. It is also a great combo with a secret tip we have below!
180 grams (1 cup) of dried fruit will provide 440 calories.
Natural sweeteners such as maple syrup, agave nectar, or raw honey can add huge amounts of calories.
However, they are all made of sugar, which means that they are empty calories for your body.
Depending on how you plan to approach your weight gain as a Vegan, you may or may not choose to use natural sweeteners.
Ideally, these natural sweeteners are great to add to your desserts or smoothies.
This makes it quite an easy way to add a few extra calories to some of your snacks or meals.
20 grams (1 tablespoon) of maple syrup will contain 52 calories.
Don’t let the “processed” part confuse you. When we refer to processed (refined) carbohydrates we are not referring to sugar-filled snacks. What we mean is foods such as pasta, breads, and cereals.
The best part is that these processed carbohydrates often come in healthy, less processed versions.
Gluten-free pasta, wholemeal bread, and rolled oats are a few examples. Unfortunately, some of the healthier options will also mean fewer calories per serving.
We understand that not all Vegans will want to eat these types of foods. However, they can be an excellent source of calories and significantly help with weight gain.
Most of these processed carbohydrates can be mixed with vegetables for a healthy, calorie-filled meal or snack.
Sandwiches or wraps can be filled with salad, or cereals added to smoothies. You could always combine cooked pasta with a split red lentil pasta sauce for that extra calorie intake too.
It is up to you if you want to use processed carbohydrates, but they are a useful food for weight gain!
200 grams (1 cup) of cooked refined pasta can provide around 220 calories per serve.
Home cooked desserts
Home-cooked desserts are a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth cravings while also controlling the ingredients used.
This helps you to ensure that you know what has gone into it and that the dessert is Vegan friendly, but it also allows you to calorie-pack your desserts with healthy ingredients.
We have several Vegan-friendly desserts listed on our site that you can check out. If you want to add more calories you can adjust the recipe to include higher calorie items.
You could add raw nuts or dried fruit as a topping. Alternatively, you could add nut butter or Irish Moss Seaweed to add more calories to the dessert you are making.
Plant-based protein powder
While we don’t recommend using protein powders, they can be a great way to get more calories into your diet. Protein powders can be made into a shake with just water or plant-based milk.
Alternatively, you can add protein powder to a smoothie or mix it in with foods like coconut yogurt.
You can find a range of healthy plant-based protein powders available online with varying levels of calories and protein.
Using Sea Moss for weight gain for Vegans
Sea Moss is a great food for helping to lose weight. Unfortunately, this makes it less useful when gaining weight, but it can still be used to assist with your diet while gaining weight.
Since Sea Moss is packed with minerals, it can be used as a supplement for weight gain for Vegans. The extra minerals you are providing your body will allow you to swap out other foods in your diet.
What we mean by this is reducing higher mineral and nutrient-heavy foods for more calorie-dense foods.
With the increased mineral intake from Sea Moss, you could swap out some of your leafy, vegetable salads (low in calories). This could then be replaced with a quinoa salad with chickpeas, avocado, some vegetables or fruit, and a smaller portion of leafy greens.
Sea Moss is not a “magical fix” when it comes to weight gain. But it can be useful to provide your body with the minerals it needs.
Combining Sea Moss with a decrease in low-calorie-dense foods and an increase in higher-calorie foods will help with weight gain. All this while helping you maintain your required mineral intake.
Make sure that you speak with a Nutritionist about your specific needs though, I can’t take into account your specific circumstances.
Shakes and smoothies
When it comes to weight gain for Vegans, shakes, and smoothies are an efficient way to get extra calories in. Shakes and smoothies can contain large amounts of calories and can be consumed relatively quickly.
More on eating faster further in this post.
As mentioned above, you can create a shake from plant-based protein powder, or add it to your shake/smoothie. Sea Moss is also a great ingredient in any of your shakes/smoothies for an extra nutrient boost.
Shakes/smoothies are a great way to pack heaps of calories into one convenient drink. There is a range of ingredients you can use to craft your calorie-dense shake:
- Bananas, fresh or frozen
- Mango pieces
- Nuts or nut butter
- Natural sweeteners
- Vegan milk or water
- Plant-based protein powder, and
- Sea Moss
You can combine together ingredients and try to find a mix that suits your needs. Otherwise, check online for shake/smoothie recipes that sound yummy.
Once you’ve found something you like, then alter it to include some ingredients with higher calories. Foods like nuts or nut butter, oats, or Sea Moss can easily be added to most shake mixes without altering the flavour or texture of the original recipe too much.
We have a list of shakes and smoothies on our recipes page that can be altered as above to include more calories. Planthlete also has a list of 5 high-calorie vegan protein smoothies you can check out. 3
Tips and tricks
Firstly, your eating habits will need to change. Fruit and vegetable consumption needs to be reduced and replaced with higher calorie foods.
We have already described above a few ways you can increase your calorie intake without too much disruption to your regular Vegan diet.
Put simply, you are also going to need to eat bigger volumes of food. Quantity does matter when it comes to weight gain and can be quite uncomfortable at first.
It can often leave you feeling bloated and increase the time before you feel hungry again. What can be challenging is that to increase your weight is it likely that you will have to eat at times where you don’t feel hungry.
To achieve your Vegan weight gain goals you need to ensure you are taking in enough calories.
With that said, we do have a few tips and tricks that can help you get more calories into your diet.
- Eat quickly
Your brain can take anywhere from 10-25 minutes to recognize that food has entered your stomach. During this period, the more food we can fit in before the brain registers that we’ve had enough the better your chances of increasing your caloric intake.
It is a balancing act, however, as overeating can lead to food not settling properly and coming back up.
On your first few tries, don’t overdo it. Just include a small amount more in your meal until you are comfortable with upping the quantity again.
As mentioned earlier, speak with a Dietitian about your needs to ensure that you are able to craft a plan that fits you specifically.
- Use shakes and smoothies
Shakes and smoothies are easy calorie foods as they are liquid, so they are easier to consume and process.
Try not to replace your normal meals with shakes, but rather use them as an in-between snack. They could also be a dessert depending on your ingredients.
Just remember to add in the extra calorie-dense foods to make it easier to achieve your weight gain goals!
- Avoid fasting, ensure meals are regular
Fasting is a fantastic tool for reducing calorie consumption. Which is the exact opposite of what weight gain requires. The best thing you can do is ensure your meals are regular and often.
You should ideally be looking at three main meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and up to three additional, smaller, in between meals.
With all six feedings, you should aim to balance out your need for minerals with increased calorie intake. Even if you are feeling full, still make yourself consume at least something to keep the calorie intake high.
Note that all evening meals should not be eaten right before bedtime. You still need to provide your body a chance to process the food before sleep. This will allow your body to focus on rest and repair, rather than digestion.
- Late night, slow-digesting, protein snack
While a late-night snack seems the opposite of what we just mentioned above, it can be a useful tool for weight gain. We do not recommend to do it every night of the week. However, one to three times a week will still give your body the time it needs for rest and repair.
I personally found this technique to be extremely effective when I was younger. Mind you, I was still eating a wide range of meat, processed foods, and sugars in a normal diet. All of which had little effect on my weight gain.
This trick changed the weight gain process for me.
It greatly assisted me in gaining 10kg over a 3 month period while hitting the gym 5 days a week. In hindsight, that wasn’t the correct way to do weight gain in a healthy manner, but the weight gain did work.
I would mix in two scoops of protein powder with 500 grams of yogurt. Then I would eat the whole lot every second night right before bed.
The dairy would be broken down slowly, and provide a slow release of protein and fats overnight. Thankfully, there is a much healthier way to use the same trick.
What I would do differently now is reduce the volume of food and swap out for healthier ingredients.
100-200 grams of coconut yogurt mixed with nuts, cereals, seeds, dried fruit, or even plant-based protein powder.
All you really want to do is find a mix where it will take your body time to digest it. Then add in protein for a slow-release overnight of healthy fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
I would also reduce the consumption to twice a week and on days that I have worked out. Speaking of exercise…
Exercise while gaining weight
If you are an active person before trying to gain weight, this may be some bad news.
While trying to gain weight, you should be reducing cardio activities such as running, swimming, or cycling. These activities are counterproductive to weight gain as they consume a high number of calories.
If you want to still exercise during the weight gain process, we recommend doing less cardio-based activities. Physical activities such as weight lifting are more suited for the weight gain process as they consume fewer calories.
As per the simple principle, you want to reduce the number of Calories Out to ensure you are keeping more calories in your body. It is best to find a physical activity that allows you to exercise while minimizing calorie use.
If you are planning on including Sea Moss as a part of your weight gain process then you are in luck. Sea Moss is fantastic for post-workout recovery, helping to repair your body quicker!
“Calories In” minus “Calories Out” = Calorie Difference
The principle of Vegan weight gain is in the above statement.
You can choose to increase your calories in, decrease your calories out, or a combination of both. This principle is the foundation of all weight gain and weight loss is based on this formula.
As referenced by my story, empty calories of processed foods and high sugar consumption will not necessarily translate to healthy plant-based weight gain. A cleaner, more structured diet is required for sustainable, healthy weight gain.
Weight gain for Vegans is more difficult than weight gain for someone not following a plant-based diet. But it most certainly is possible to gain weight as a Vegan healthily and sustainably.
Have you completed healthy weight gain as a Vegan? Share with everyone your experiences and any tips you may have as well in the comments below!
- “Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar” – Harvard School of Public Health, 5 August 2013 [Harvard] [Archive] ↩︎
- “Diet and nutrition when living with pancreatic cancer” – Pancare Foundation, 29 November 2011 [Pancare Foundation] [Archive] ↩︎
- “5 high calorie vegan protein smoothies” – Planthlete, 28 October 2018 [Planthlete] [Archive] ↩︎
Last Updated on 3 days by D&C Editorial Team