Top 10 Vegan Foods to Help You Gain Weight

Photo of Daisy Whitbread Written by Daisy Whitbread
BSc (Hons) MSc DipION
Evidence Based. References sourced from PubMed.
Powered by USDA Nutrition Data.
Top 10 Vegan Foods to Help You Gain Weight

Vegan or plant-based diets are gaining in popularity as there are many health benefits associated with this way of eating. A plant-based diet reduces your risk of many of the common diseases of today, including obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and various types of cancer (1,2,3).

When trying to gain weight on a vegan diet, there are a couple of factors to consider. Firstly, it is necessary to increase your calorie intake, so that you consume more energy than you burn. Secondly, ensuring you are eating adequate protein, in combination with some form of resistance exercise will help you to build muscle mass.

As a general rule, around an extra 500 calories per day is a good "benchmark" and when you exercise, you can increase this a little more. It is important to obtain the extra calories from across the range of food groups; protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

Resistance exercise is any type of exercise that causes muscles to contract against a force or resistance; this can be free weights, weight machines or your own body weight. For example, weight lifting, squats, lunges, push-ups, and even yoga. Resistance exercise builds and tones muscles and makes muscles stronger, it also increases bone strength. For general health, it is also recommended to include 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week, but keep this light when trying to gain weight.

Many bodybuilders and gym-goers are convinced that you need animal protein to build muscle. There are however many successful vegan bodybuilders and athletes. There is also a new school of thought that the inflammation caused by animal proteins might actually hinder athletic performance.

If you are following a plant-based diet and want to gain weight, this article may be useful for you. It includes high-calorie vegan foods, along with high-protein vegan foods for supporting muscle building.

Printable One Page Sheet

Click to Print
A printable list of vegan foods for weight gain including granola, tofu, smoothies, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, and peas.

Tips For Vegan Weight Gain

  • Eating many little snacks throughout the day is key for encouraging a higher food intake. This means breakfast, lunch, dinner and 2-3 snacks each day. Also aim for a slight increase in portion sizes of about 25-30%.
  • Regular meal times are also important for regulating appetite. Eating within a 2-hour window whenever possible is advisable, for example breakfast 8-10am, lunch 1-3pm etc. as the body gets used to these times and eventually you will feel hungry at these times, even if you don't at first. Irregular eating patterns can disrupt appetite control and lead to over/under-eating.
  • When not possible to stick to a mealtime, make sure you have a substantial snack and then eat as soon as you can.
  • Caffeine can suppress appetite, so is best either avoided or drunk only after meals and limited to 1-2 coffees or teas per day.
  • As mentioned above, include resistance exercise 2-4 times per week for muscle building. You might find it beneficial to consult a personal trainer who can create a program for you to follow.

Use the ranking tool links below to select foods and create your own food list to share or print.

View more nutrients with the nutrient ranking tool, or see ratios with the nutrient ratio tool.

Data Sources and References

  1. Ros E. Plant-based diets and cardiovascular health Trends Cardiovasc Med. 2018 Oct;28(7):442-444. doi: 10.1016/j.tcm.2018.04.008. Epub 2018 May 9. 29793834
  2. Olfert MD, Wattick RA. A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes Curr Diab Rep. 2018 Sep 18;18(11):101. doi: 10.1007/s11892-018-1070-9. 30229314
  3. Thomas TL. Nutritional Status and Diet in Cancer Prevention Semin Oncol Nurs. 2016 Aug;32(3):273-80. doi: 10.1016/j.soncn.2016.05.007. Epub 2016 Jul 29. 27539281
  4. Gilani GS. Protein digestibility-corrected amino acid scores (PDCAAS) for soy protein isolates and concentrate: criteria for evaluation Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 2:S168-82. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512002383. 23107528
  5. Proll J, Petzke KJ, Ezeagu IE, Metges CC. Nutritional quality of the protein in quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa, Willd) seeds J Nutr. 1998 Nov;128(11):2014-22. doi: 10.1093/jn/128.11.2014. 9808658
  6. Hulmi JJ, Laakso M, Mero AA, Häkkinen K, Ahtiainen JP, Peltonen H. The effects of resistance training with or without peanut protein supplementation on skeletal muscle and strength adaptations in older individuals J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 Dec 16;12:48. doi: 10.1186/s12970-015-0109-4. eCollection 2015. 26677350
  7. Davison K, Howe PR. The Impact of Cocoa Flavanols on Cardiovascular Health Phytother Res. 2017 Jan;31(1):165-166. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5729. Epub 2016 Oct 9. 27723148
  8. Ros E. Health benefits of nut consumption Br J Nutr. 2015 Apr;113 Suppl 2:S111-20. doi: 10.1017/S0007114514003924. 26148914
  9. Duarte NM, Cruz AL, Silva DC, Cruz GM. Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. Whey protein J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2020 Jan;60(1):75-84. doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707.19.09741-X. Epub 2019 Sep 23. 31565912
MyFoodData provides free nutrition data tools and articles to help you organize and understand the foods you eat.

Try the recipe nutrition calculator, or daily meal planner.

Create a free account to log and track foods.