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This guide explains the different types of calorie-dense foods and the best one to consume for healthy vegan weight gain.
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In my vegan weight gain article, I listed 7 Tips on How to Build Curves on a Vegan Diet. The first tip in that article talked about calorie density and in this blog post, we are going to dive deeper into this topic.
What Are Calorie Dense Foods?
Calorie density is a term used to describe how many calories (a unit of energy), are in food via weight or volume. So calorie-dense foods are foods that have a high-calorie density but are smaller in portions, weight, and/or volume.
I categorize them down to 3 main types:
- Empty Calorie Dense Foods
- Animal Calorie Dense Foods
- Plant-Based Calorie Dense Foods
1. Empty Calorie Dense Foods
You’re probably no stranger to Empty Calories. Some examples of these include…
- potato chips
- fast food
- pasteurized fruit juices
- high sugared cereals
These foods are dense but nutrient-poor which makes them “empty”. They lack vitamins, minerals, fiber, and anything else that might be beneficial for your body. All that they contribute are calories.
In fact over long periods of time, when eaten in abundance, those types of foods cause inflammation and can leech vitamins and minerals from your body.
Luckily, us curvy vegans tend to get rid of those type of foods when going vegan in order to be healthier.
But wait there is a problem. Once those empty calories are dropped, so does the weight and curves and you might want to blame that entirely on a vegan diet.
But realize that if it was the junk food that gave you curves, it wasn’t healthy weight in the first place. It was “excessive waste” that needed to leave your body. What you must do is replace those foods with a healthier plant-based option.
2. Animal Calorie Dense Foods
And then you have Animal Calories. Now generally speaking animal flesh does carry more density than plant-based foods.
And one of the biggest common mistakes you can make is applying the same concepts of “health” while eating animals, over to a vegan diet.
One of those concepts is restrictive portion control. For example:
- Typical “Healthy” Omnivore Meal: Limit to only 4 ounces of grilled chicken breast, ½ cup of cooked brown rice, 2 cups of steamed broccoli
- Typical Substitute Vegan Meal: Limit to only 1/2 cup of black beans (to substitute for the chicken breast), ½ cup of cooked brown rice, 2 cups of steamed broccoli
So what’s wrong with this substitution?
It won’t be as filling as the omnivore’s meal because beans are not as dense as chicken. So with this type of thinking you can end up losing more weight than desired PLUS still feel hungry and unsatisfied.
Again, instead of realizing this flaw, you might think you need to add back the bacon, ham, and steak to keep your butt and hips.
But that is not true. There is another way.
3. Vegan Calorie Dense Foods
So based on the information above, you don’t want to use empty calories nor animal products. This brings me to the 3rd type which is, Vegan Calorie Dense Foods. These types of foods are both nutrient-dense and calorie-dense.
And what is the best source of Vegan Density Foods?
Healthy Vegan Fats.
I coin the term “Fat Full” (instead of Fat-Free) because fats make you feel full and satiated, plus fats are full of nutrients and calories. Sure you can have high plant-based foods that are high in carbohydrates or plant-based protein, but fats trump them both when it comes to density for the following reason:
- Protein and Carbohydrates both contain 4 calories per gram
- Fat contains 9 calories per gram
For instance, if there are 10 grams of carbs and protein in a dish, that’s 400 calories (4 multiply by 10). However, if there are 10 grams of fat in a dish, that’s 900 calories (9 multiply by 10)!
So with the example, I gave early with the chicken vs beans, the reason you feel fuller with the chicken is that it has saturated fat. Beans have zero fat and are just protein and carbohydrates. So you add healthy fats to your dishes like avocado slices, tahini dressing, or healthy oils to bulk it up.
That will make your meal more satiated and give you more calories helping you gain or maintain a healthy weight and feel full!
List of High-Calorie Vegan Foods
Here is a list of the vegan calorie-dense foods I add to my diet regularly to keep my curves. All these foods are high in healthy fats. Read 7 Vegan Foods for Weight Gain for more information.
- Coconut Milk/Cream
- Nut/Seed Butter (particularly peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, sunflower seed butter, walnut butter, etc.)
- Nuts and Seeds (all kinds especially hemp seeds!)
- Healthy Oils (mainly grapeseed, olive, avocado, flaxseed, and Udos Oil)
Vegan Calorie Dense Recipes
Recipes with Avocado, Olives, & Oils
Recipes with Coconut Milk or Coconut Cream
- Vegan Chickpea Curry
- Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
- Vegan Yellow Split Pea Soup
- Alkaline Pasta
- Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese
Recipes with Peanut Butter
- Crockpot Steel Cut Oats
- Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars
- Homemade Peanut Butter Cups
- Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream
Recipes with Nuts and Seeds
- Almond Green Beans
- Vegan Candied Pecans
- Cajun Peanuts
- Parsley Smoothie (uses hemp seeds)
- Instant Chia Pudding
- Cashew Cheese Recipe
- Don’t rely on empty calories for density. The weight that these foods give you is nothing but inflammation and excessive waste disguised as curves.
- You don’t need animal flesh to fill satiated. Stick to your curvy vegan goals! Animals are our teachers and guides, NOT FOOD. Leave those previous ideas of healthy eating as an omnivore (like strict portion control) in the past and embrace your new lifestyle.
- Embrace healthy fats. This is your saving grace. This will not only give your vegan meal a calorie boost, but also help you stay full. It’s the KEY to vegan weight gain.
MORE WEIGHT GAIN ARTICLES YOU WILL LOVE
- 7 Tips on How to Build Curves on a Vegan Diet
- 7 Vegan Foods for Weight Gain
- Vegan Weight Gain Meal Plan
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