Looking for an easy guide to effortless plant-based weight loss? This article on the WFPBNO diet (which stands for “whole food plant-based no oil”) is exactly what you need.
There are so many myths and misconceptions about healthy eating and dieting on the internet, it’s not even funny. Many people in Western society struggle with being overweight, which in turn creates a massive industry of people trying to sell us magic pills and scammy programs.
Luckily, there are still some honest, unbiased health professionals who conduct or evaluate great studies on which foods or diet patterns lead to a healthy weight.
Because let’s face it — there is no single food, pill or trick for easy and sustained weight loss. If you want permanent results, you need to make permanent dietary changes. That’s not something most of us want to hear, but once you’ve created some new, healthy habits, keeping with a health-maintaining lifestyle isn’t as hard as you might think.
And to be honest, a well-planned plant-based diet gets as close to a “magic pill” as you could imagine. We’re talking no forced calorie restriction and no macro counting or portion control.
There’s no need to look to cavemen for dietary guidance or cut out whole food groups (looking at you, keto!) — you can still load up on delicious carbs without the fear of packing on unwanted pounds.
Unlike most fad diets out there, the health benefits and sustained weight loss results of a WFPBNO diet are well-researched and scientifically sound.
This plant-based weight loss guide and meal plan at the end gives you a good overview of why a WFPBNO diet sets you up for success, how you can start your journey and which mistakes to avoid.
We’ll add plenty of free resources along the way so be sure to make use of them!
Common Weight Loss Advice & Mistakes
Let’s get one thing out of the way: we as human beings are flawed in the way that we value personal anecdotes over good studies. After all, it’s easier to relate to an individual who has lost a bunch of weight than some numbers in a study.
But the truth is that any eating pattern can make you lose weight — if you just cut back on calories enough to get into a deficit.
Dropping a few pounds for 2-4 weeks and really watching what you eat while working your way through hunger pains is one thing but, staying lean for years and years is the tricky part.
What we truly want is to be at a comfortable weight without having to be super restrictive while still and being able to enjoy our healthy bodies, right? Unfortunately, many diets leave you unhappy and unhealthy in the long run.
Official Weight Loss Recommendations
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Emphasize whole grains and low-fat dairy products (or alternatives)
- Lower saturated fat (mostly found in animal products), cholesterol (only found in animal products) and trans fats (found in animal products & processed foods)
- Eat more fiber (aka whole plant-based foods)
- Choose lean protein (hello, legumes!)
- Keep added sugars and salt low
Successful weight loss isn’t very controversial, but due to contradicting media coverage, many of us end up in analysis paralysis, hopping from one fad diet to another.
The Reality of What We Consume
What might come as a shock is that the majority of the food eaten in the US is made up of what we should reduce or avoid. According to the USDA, 63% of calories come from refined grains, sugars and added fats or oils.
Another 25% of calories come from animal-based food, such as meat, dairy, eggs and fish — which are the primary source of heart-damaging saturated fat and the only source of dietary cholesterol.
These two large food groups have generally been found to contribute to disease while whole plant-based foods contribute to good health — unfortunately, the latter only make up 12% of total calories in the average American’s diet.
Not only are fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds health-supporting, they contain significantly fewer calories per pound compared to animal-based and processed food.
This means that you either load up your plate with whole plant-based foods, or you need to count calories, reduce portion sizes and closely watch what you eat.
You can probably see where we’re going with this — here’s why a plant-based weight loss diet might be the perfect fit for you.
Scientific Evidence for Plant-Based Weight Loss
If successful and sustainable weight loss is your goal, you’re well-advised to follow a (at least predominantly) plant-based diet.
Vegetarians and vegans in particular have lower BMIs on average compared to meat-eaters and fish-eaters, according to the large EPIC-Oxford study comparing 38,000 people. The researchers linked a high protein and low fiber intake with an increased BMI, making it obvious that the more animal products people ate, the more at risk for being overweight they were.
But that’s not the only scientific evidence for plant-based weight loss!
More and more health professionals recommend their patients try a plant-based diet for long-term and safe weight loss or to treat and reverse type 2 diabetes — a chronic disease that’s often accompanied or caused by obesity.
What’s fascinating is that even studies that looked at healing chronic diseases like arthritis with a plant-based diet found that their overweight participants “accidentally” lost weight without having been told to reduce their caloric intake.
Most Successful Weight Loss Study Ever
In 2017, a group of New Zealand researchers published the ground-breaking randomized controlled BROAD study that looked at obese individuals in one of the poorest regions of the country. In the study, half of the participants were instructed on how to follow a low-fat plant-based diet during semi-weekly classes.
No meals were provided, and after three months, the average weight loss was 19 pounds — that’s not the end of the story, though! Short-term weight loss is easy, so what happened after a year? That’s usually when people who were put on a diet have regained at least most of their weight, if not more.
Not only is a plant-based weight loss diet easy to follow, satiating and delicious, most people get a whole lot healthier on it, too! Diseases that are typically associated with being overweight can be reversed or prevented, and one’s longevity can be increased.
Two Simple Plant-Based Weight Loss Rules
Susan Levin, MS, RD, CSSD, Director of Nutrition Education at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, says “As the weight comes off, you’ll start to see blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol fall right along with it.”
Together with her team, she set up a study of 64 moderately to severely overweight women who just had to follow two simple rules:
- Avoid all animal products
- Keep oils to a minimum
The result? They lost about a pound per week on this plant-based weight loss diet without any calorie counting or additional exercise — but what’s more, they maintained this weight loss after two years!
Now, if you’re already vegan or following a plant-based diet without the weight loss results you’ve been hoping for, the tips throughout this article will help you do some troubleshooting to find out what might be the culprit.
Plant-Based Transformation Stories →
Animal Products & Body Weight
Even when we put the ethical and environmental implications of using animals for food aside, there is still a lot of evidence that animal products like meat, fish, dairy or eggs aren’t beneficial to our health or sustained weight loss.
A 2010 PANACEA study showed the total meat consumption of their prospects was positively associated with weight gain in men and women, in normal-weight and overweight subjects.
With adjustment for estimated energy intake, an increase in meat intake of 250 g/d (eg, one steak at approximately 450 kcal) would lead to a 2-kg higher weight gain after 5 years.
Positive associations were observed for red meat, poultry, and processed meat. What’s more, the antibiotics found in most meats (32.6 million pounds of antibiotics were fed to livestock between 2009 and 2013) contribute to obesity in humans.
Cheese is especially hard to give up for most people, one of the reasons being that it contains small amounts of naturally occurring morphine-like compounds that are meant to strengthen the bond between the mother cow and her child.
It’s also the number one source of saturated fat in modern diets, together with other milk products like butter, dairy-based desserts and meat.
The nail in the coffin is that animal products contain zero fiber and are usually high in overall fat — both of which contribute to a high amount of calories per bite while offering little satiety.
Stop Calorie Counting for Weight Loss
Let’s get something out of the way really quick — while calories do matter when we want to lose weight, there are numerous factors that make a food more or less weight loss-friendly.
Macronutrients have different thermogenic effects which make it easier for dietary fat to end up on our hips compared to protein and carbs.
Refined food generally requires our bodies to have to work less to access its calories, whereas fiber can prevent some calories from being absorbed and cooked food is easier to break down and digest compared to raw food.
And while we’re going to talk about calories and the calorie density of foods, we don’t recommend you count calories. It doesn’t take the components we just listed into account (i.e. a whole food meal may take around 20% of its energy to be digested whereas processed foods only take around 10% of the provided calories) and the numbers you find on nutrition labels may also be up to 20% off!
Nobody can really know how many calories they need every single day — because the amount will always vary depending on a ton of variables!
What Influences Calorie Needs
- How much do you (involuntarily) move, i.e. twitching
- How warm or cold is it
- Does your body have to fight off disease
- How much fat or muscle mass do you have
- How much stress & sleep did you have the night before
We also want to take into account how satiating a specific food is — even though an apple and a glass of apple juice may have the same amount of calories on paper, you will probably consume less food after the fibrous apple later in the day.
So, no need to fear calories or track them meticulously — they are what keep us alive and thriving. The trick is to choose the health-supporting “calories” found in whole plant-based foods.
That’s what the following tips are all about!
Introducing The WFPBNO Diet
Wait, what’s a WFPBNO diet? The acronym stands for “whole food, plant-based, no oil,” which is a pretty straightforward way to explain this perfect way of eating that sets you up for a healthy and lean body.
It’s free from all animal products, drastically reduces processed foods and omits “free oils” as much as possible.
Granted, you still eat fat in its healthy, whole form — following a WFPBNO diet means that you can definitely top your nourish bowls or oatmeal with healthy nuts and seeds.
This plant-based weight loss plan has been shown in large studies to work wonderfully for easy and sustainable weight loss while also coming with a ton of health benefits — it’s not something that we personally came up with!
WFPBNO is more than just a “vegan diet,” which can be ethically motivated and not have any health component at all. It’s the answer for all people who have gone vegan but not been able to reach or stay at a healthy weight.
Here’s what the WFPBNO diet consists of.
Whole Food Plant-Based Diet Food List
Find our full guide on all things whole food plant-based, our favorite resources, lists and more below.
Full WFPB Diet Guide →
WFPBNO Diet for Plant-Based Weight Loss
Okay, let’s see exactly why this plant-based diet is perfect for easy weight loss! Remembering the top tips by experts and health organizations for how to create a healthy and weight loss-friendly eating pattern, you’ll soon see why we love WFPBNO so much.
Most diets consist of eating only small portions of food, leaving us feeling hungry and frustrated soon after eating. The simple solution to eating enough food to feel satiated but consuming fewer calories than on your old diet is to simply increase the fiber on our plate!
The average human stomach can expand to fit about four cups of food (about 3 pounds) per day — and 3 pounds of burgers and fries is very different from 3 pounds of potatoes, fruit, salad and beans in terms of calories and nutrients.
Dietary fiber, which is by definition only found in plants, is not just one huge missing piece to healthy weight management, but also regulates appetite, controls blood sugar, lowers cholesterol levels and feeds our good gut bacteria — which offers a whole host of benefits apart from helping us to stay at a healthy weight.
Unfortunately, most people don’t even consume the recommended minimum daily fiber intake of 25-30 grams — and once they bump their dietary fiber up to that amount, they experience about a 10% drop in daily caloric intake without even trying.
On a WFPBNO diet (or a similar plant-based weight loss diet), it’s almost impossible to eat less than 30-40 grams of fiber per day. Colorful fruits, veggies, whole grains and beans offer a plethora of both soluble and insoluble fiber.
This means that you should definitely not skip on those healthy grains and whole starches on a plant-based weight loss diet!
The stretch receptors in your stomach will welcome the bulk of food, helping you feel satiated way sooner and naturally supporting your weight loss.
That’s the principle behind how you can eat more and weigh less! Calorie density is a term that simply refers to the amount of calories per volume of food.
Vegetables are on the lowest end of the calorie density scale due to their high fiber and water content — adding bulk and essential nutrients but only a few calories to your meals. Up next on the list of low calorie density foods is fruit, then starchy foods like grains and legumes, which are the four main food groups on a plant-based diet.
The concept of calorie density helps you let go of counting calories and having to restrict your portion sizes!
The water content of foods is especially important to adding bulk without any calories and is the number one predictor of how filling a food will be! Vegetables come to around 90%, fruits to 80% and whole starches to 70% water composition.
Filling your plate with these nutrient-dense and low-calorie foods helps you reach a healthy weight effortlessly and without having to starve yourself!
Animal products, on the other hand, are high in calorie density because they mainly consist of protein and fat — the latter of which features an unbelievable 9 calories per gram.
The other two macronutrients, carbs and protein, only offer 4 calories per gram. They also stack up better in terms of thermogenesis.
What’s more, animal products are devoid of filling fiber and often low in water content.
Full Calorie Density Guide →
Low in Sugar & Fat
To comply with the “whole food” in WFPBNO diet, added sugar and fat should be kept low or avoided as much as possible (no need for perfection).
What’s funny is that most people agree that we shouldn’t eat sugar on a healthy diet or if we want to lose weight, but the same doesn’t seem to apply to oil.
Instead, it’s encouraged to eat large salads bathed in olive oil or to use coconut oil when sautéing your vegetables. That can easily add up to an extra 200-300 calories in just one meal, and processed fats like oils which have been extracted from the original food source and stripped of their fiber, have a very easy time to end up as fat storage on our bodies.
This doesn’t mean that refined sugar has a free pass — while it can make healthy food taste better, which is definitely a bonus, it can keep you from enjoying natural sweetness in fruit and lead to involuntary overeating.
The combination of high fat and high sugar is what makes us feel like we’re especially addicted to specific foods (hello, chocolate cake!) — this combination of macronutrients and high calorie density has never existed in nature before and really excites our brains.
If we take a look at the studies we listed above, there’s often an emphasis on the “low fat” part of a plant-based weight loss diet. Lowering fat not only reduces calorie density but also improves blood sugar levels.
Whole vs Processed Foods
On a WFPBNO diet, we want you to focus on whole foods — which doesn’t mean that there is no room for processed foods! Adding condiments like soy sauce, mustard, nutritional yeast or dairy-alternatives such as soy milk to your food makes this diet a lot more pleasurable for most people without taking away any of the healthfulness or weight loss results.
We already mentioned most of the reasons why processed foods aren’t optimal on a plant-based weight loss diet — the 3 pounds of food your stomach asks for each day can vary widely in calorie content when you fill it with steamed potatoes or white bread.
Another way of processing your food that’s often seen as weight loss-friendly is to make smoothies. We’re actually on the fence about this topic because smoothies can be a great way to consume more produce and thus lower your overall calorie intake for the day.
But just imagine eating all those fruits and veggies instead of blending them mechanically! You would probably feel stuffed for hours. The same goes for whole, intact grains such as wild rice compared to rice flour or puffed rice. The closer a food is to its original form, the more satiating it will be.
What’s more, if the fiber is still intact, it can act as a fat- and sugar-blocker in your digestive system, letting your body absorb fewer calories from the food!
Whole foods are much richer in essential nutrients and antioxidants, which often work synergistically to increase nutrient absorption and therefore healthfulness of your food.
Best Plant-Based Weight Loss Tips
Weight loss doesn’t have to be super complicated and actually isn’t too controversial! Although we get bombarded with lurid headlines demonizing or celebrating specific foods for their weight loss properties, the scientific community is mostly on the same page about what a healthy and weight loss-friendly diet looks like.
Eat the Rainbow
Fill your plate or bowl with 50% non-starchy colorful fruits and vegetables! They are bursting with essential nutrients — each color offers a different phytonutrient composition.
Creating a nice variety of food helps to prevent nutrient deficiencies, keeps your plant-based weight loss meals more exciting and helps with compliance.
Focus on green vegetables which are very low in calories but high in essential nutrients like calcium, magnesium and folate. One pound of non-starchy vegetables has fewer calories than 1 tablespoon of olive oil — so load up!
Dark leafy greens such as kale, cabbage, spinach, and lettuce are especially beneficial: A compound in dark green leaves called thylakoid can actually turn off your hunger switch and help fight cravings for unhealthy foods!
Don’t Fear Carbs
Okay, let’s tackle today’s number one diet craze: low-carb. Like we established above, healthy carbs are low in calorie density, full of fiber, water and essential nutrients — there’s no reason why we should reduce or avoid them!
In fact, basing your plant-based weight loss diet on potatoes, oats, brown rice and legumes (in terms of calories, not volume) is the quickest way to a healthy body! Make sure to pair them with at least an equal amount of non-starchy vegetables and skip the oil.
The reasons why people can lose weight on a low carb diet are that they restrict their overall calorie intake, cut out sugary junk food and lose a bunch of water weight.
Slow digesting carbs have a low glycemic load, give us steady energy and are more easily burned compared to fats.
Weight Loss & Protein
We wouldn’t be able to write about plant-based weight loss without at least mentioning protein! It’s the one magic ingredient everyone seems to focus on to get lean and strong.
When following a whole food plant-based weight loss diet, you don’t specifically need to focus on protein because it’s abundant in many plants from chickpeas to black beans, lentils, tofu, green veggies, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Our requirement is only about 50-60 grams per day for women and 70 grams per day for men (calculated as 0.8 g per kilogram of ideal body weight), which generally isn’t a problem for most people following a WFPBNO diet.
Plant-Based Protein 101 →
Don’t think that just because a food is labeled as “vegan” or “fat-free” it’s beneficial to your health or plant-based weight loss.
Companies have found many marketing tricks to make us believe their product is everything we want it to be by creating nice packaging and a healthy halo.
So, make sure the food you buy is mostly from the produce aisle and therefore doesn’t even have a label — and the items that do come with a label don’t have a lot of added sugar, oil or salt.
Especially when you’re just starting a plant-based weight loss diet, you might want to keep eating your favorite meals and just incorporate more vegetables or legumes.
This trick works most effectively if you start with a green salad, some (oil-free) steamed vegetables, vegetable soup or even fruit before moving on to more calorically dense foods like pasta or pizza.
Your stomach expects a certain amount of food, and if vegetables take up half of its size, then you can only end up eating so much pizza.
This means you are still able to enjoy your favorite foods and feel satiated while consuming fewer calories and a whole lot more essential nutrients!
If you don’t want to be stuck with calorie counting, it’s good to not only get a feel for the calorie content of the foods you put on your plate but also how much of a difference your beverages can make.
Sticking to mostly water, tea and black coffee is best for easy plant-based weight loss because these drinks are almost calorie-free. Now, if you add a bunch of sugar and cream to your daily coffee, things can add up quickly!
This also goes for sodas, alcohol or any juices (no matter their healthy halo), which should mostly be replaced with water.
Your stomach receptors don’t notice liquid calories, so go for the fibrous goodness instead!
Plan for Success
Evolutionarily, our brains are set up to seek out the most calorically dense foods available for us — that’s why the muffins in your kitchen keep calling your name.
If you have foods like cake, chocolate or potato chips at home, you will at some point eat them — and probably more than you intended to.
That’s why you can set yourself up for success if you instead fill your kitchen and pantry with lots of healthy plant-based foods that naturally support your weight loss!
Check out our guides on the top plant-based staples and a complete list of WFPBNO diet foods that you can print out and take to the store!
Realistically, you won’t lose a bunch of weight overnight or be able to follow your plant-based weight loss diet 100% of the time — no problem.
Just try to have healthy meals and snacks on hand as often as possible and learn about this lifestyle along the way.
Creating Habits & Sustainability
Remember, if you want to stay healthy and lean long-term, you need to change your diet and lifestyle long-term.
Small habits, like snacking on air-popped popcorn instead of potato chips or making a bean burger instead of a beef burger, are easy to create and stick to — one day, you will have made the shift to WFPB which will then feel like second nature to you.
The plant-based diet is by definition restrictive, but it is also full of weight-loss friendly, healthy and tasty goodness you can focus on!
For a wonderful lecture and deep dive on sleep, stress levels, insulin reaction, inflammation and chronobiology, we highly recommend Dr. Michael Greger’s book “How Not To Diet” as well as his free talk which you can watch here.
Most importantly, don’t get lost in all those details, and focus instead on eating a sustainable plant-based diet.
How to Start a WFPBNO Diet
Are you excited about starting a WFPBNO diet and setting yourself up to be healthy and lean by default? Great, let’s see how you can transition to this wonderful plant-based weight loss lifestyle!
Lucky for you, we can provide you with tons of information and a fully laid-out meal plan to get you started on your plant-based weight loss journey.
Vegan Transition Guide + Downloads →
Easy Plant-Based Weight Loss Recipes
Our website is full of delicious recipes that work great for plant-based weight loss! Many of them are naturally low in fat and added sugar, high in fiber and completely oil-free.
Here are some easy and tasty low calorie density WFPBNO recipes!
Plant-Based Weight Loss Meal Plan
Want more guidance and support? You can join our free online plant-based weight loss program where you receive real-life tips as well as a full 3-day plant-based weight loss meal plan and grocery list to download!