The Guide to Never Feeling Low Energy on Your Plant-Based Diet

Vegetable Tagine in Morocco

If you’re confused about the term “plant-based,” you’re not alone.

It means a diet of mostly, or ALL fruits and vegetables. You don’t have to be a vegan to call yourself plant-based. You could be a flexitarian, pescatarian, or vegetarian and still identify with the term “plant-based.” 

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about a big problem on these diets. 
While I identify myself now as a flexitarian (eating mostly plants but small amounts of meat), I did go vegan for a month. 
While I felt consciously aware and good about myself, I had very low energy. 
I felt light for sure because I lost weight, but I also felt light-headed. Which is not such a great thing when you’re driving the Malibu canyons delivering food. 
At the time I was a personal chef for a family and cooking lots of amazing vegan foods like vegetable sushi with brown rice, coconut curry, and teriyaki tofu. I was eating it too. 
But, as I felt great, mostly, I didn’t know why I was feeling low energy. (I thought this feeling was normal on a vegan diet, right? – The answer is no)
It wasn’t until researching it more that I found out why. 
Why did I have such low energy?
I wasn’t eating enough. 

So simple, I wasn’t getting enough calories from plants.

It seems to be a common problem among vegans especially. So, I was curious to learn more, and to finally find an explanation for my low energy. 
While my solution was to start eating meat, if I had known more information at the time, I probably would have stuck with the vegan diet longer. 

The Solution

You have to eat a ton! 
Just check out the amount of food these vegan vloggers eat for lunch!

All those veggies are her going to be her lunch
or this one at Shredded Vegan
looks like a lot of calories!
Take a look at these two charts from Forks over Knives below, for a second. 
It shows the calorie densities of different foods. What it basically says is that you have to eat a TON more vegetables to get 500 calories, as compared to eating oil, meat, or cheese. 

For instance, if you eat 1 pound (that’s a lot!) of cooked spinach you’re at a little over 100 calories.
For the same 100 calories, you could just have a spoonful of olive oil. Much easier, right?

Now, you see what I mean. Getting your 100 calories from spinach is going to take a little more planning and chewing than a spoonful of olive oil.

But, you didn’t switch to a plant-based diet to drink olive oil, I’m sure.

This is where the key to an amazing plant-based diet comes in.

You need to vary your diet. And, this will take planning. 

To have a balanced plant-based diet, you need to add a big variety to your plate.

Instead of eating boatloads of spinach, you can add sweet potatoes which give you more bang for your buck. Vegetables vary greatly on the calorie scale.

Some vegetables have lower calories than others, like beans (150 calories) per pound as compared to  sweet potatoes (380 calories) per pound.

Adding a variety of vegetables will not only make your plant-based diet easier to maintain, but also make it more exciting and give you the varied vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you need to keep your energy up. 

The great news…

You don’t have to count calories when you eat vegetables!! It will make loosing weight so much easier if that’s your goal. 
The other thing is that when you eat a TON of vegetables, your stomach will signal to your brain that you’re full faster than if you are filling up with meat or cheese. If you’ve ever eaten a lot of vegetables you know what I mean- you feel full fast!

The Challenge

Get enough calories when switching to a plant-based diet if you want to sustain your energy. 
It will take planning, because the biggest key here is always adding variety to your diet. Don’t expect just throwing some pasta sauce on zoodles (zuchini noodles) will keep you energized. You need fats from nut and seed sources, and good whole grain sources too. 
Here’s one last infographic to help. Notice that the foods in the “green” and “yellow” lists generally give you the long-lasting energy, and the ones in the “red” will give you a boost of energy, but then take it away. 
I hope this article helped you. 

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The Takeaway: If you’re feeling low energy, make sure you’re eating enough! And, make sure to add variety.

Extra Credit: 
If you want to ideas on what a vegan eats in a day, I found a great vlogger and noted her menu below. Thank you! 

She has great variation in her diet, plenty of seeds, nuts and varied vegetables. Only thing I would add would be some whole grains like buckwheat or whole grain bread. Her menu is  gluten-free and low carb too. Some notes are included in how to make them. 


Quinoa with almond or oat milk, with RAW cocoa and cinnamon topped with pecans, granola- sunflower or pumpkins seeds, frozen berries, banana, maple syrup 
(has essential amino acids, protein, cocoa is high in IRON and MAGNESIUM)


Kelp noodle salad with broccoli, red cabbage, red pepper, spirialized carrot, ginger, garlic, green onions, kelp noodles sitting in green tea (low carb)
Dressing- almond butter, chili paste, tamari, water, lemon
Top with macademia nuts, and coriander and green onions, and half an avocado


Vegetable Lasagna (Gluten-free)
Tomato sauce: garlic, water, oregano, black pepper, canned tomatoes
Cheese- soaked cashews, blended with water, garlic granules, nutritional yeast, lemon, then basil and salt
Base of lasagna: zucchini, eggplant
Topping: macadamia nuts with nutritional yeast on top, black pepper
Served with salad, pumpkin seeds, sprouts

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Need more help?

Join the ‘Cook to 100’ program to learn more about plant-based cooking basics. Or check out 80% plant-based meal plans. 

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My favorite minestrone soup. . Lunch is always better outside 😄 . Forever Young Minestrone Ingredients (Makes 8 servings): 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided 1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped (about 1 cup) 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped (about ⅔ cup) 2 medium celery stalks, chopped (about ½ cup) 2 teaspoons minced garlic One 28-oz. crushed tomatoes 3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced (about 1 ½ cups) 1 ½ cups chopped fennel ¼ cup parsley, chopped 2 tablespoons chopped basil 1 15-oz. can fava beans (or ½ cup dried) ½ 15-ounce cranberry or kidney beans (or ½ cup dried) ½ 15-oz. can chickpeas (or ⅓ cup dried) 6 to 8 cups water ⅔ cup Israeli couscous, acini de pepe, or small pasta ½ tsp salt ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper 1 parmesan rind (optional) Directions: Warm 3 tbsp. olive oil in large soup pot. Add onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring often until soft, but not browned, 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 20 seconds, or just fragrant. Stir in tomatoes, potatoes, fennel, parsley, basil and drained beans and chickpeas. Add enough water (6-8 cups) to cover everything by 1 inch. Add in the Parmesan rind if using. Raise heat to high and bring to full boil. Then, reduce heat and simmer slowly, uncovered. For canned beans, simmer 10 minutes only. For dried, cook 1 ½ hours or until beans are soft. Then, stir in the pasta, salt and pepper. Add 2 cups water if soup seems dry. Continue to simmer, uncovered until pasta is tender, about 10 minutes Serve with drizzle of olive oil.

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