How to follow intuitive eating as a vegan

9 min reading time

How can vegans practice intuitive eating? The vegan lifestyle is founded on the principle of banning animal products from the diet. Although veganism is based on the exclusion of certain types of food, it does not mean that vegan diets have to be restrictive. 

Gentle and intuitive nutrition makes it possible to consume a variety of balanced foods and prevent the risk of nutrient deficiencies while respecting the moral values of a vegan person.

Here’s how intuitive eating allows us to liberalize a vegan diet and avoid a diet mindset.

What is Intuitive Eating? 

Firstly, intuitive eating is an eating approach based on one’s instincts, emotions, and thoughts. 

Put simply, intuitive eating is the opposite of dieting, as it does not impose food rules.

Intuitive eating focuses on health by paying attention to the body’s internal signals and recognizing the body’s natural abilities to express hunger and fullness.

10 principles of intuitive eating 

Altogether, the framework of intuitive eating is based on 10 principles developed by two registered dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch:

  1. Reject the diet mentality 
  2. Honor your hunger 
  3. Make peace with food 
  4. Challenge the food police 
  5. Feel your fullness 
  6. Discover the satisfaction factor 
  7. Cope with your feelings with kindness 
  8. Respect your body 
  9. Movement – feel the difference 
  10. Honor your health 

These principles are meant to guide you toward achieving body attunement and removing obstacles that prevent you from listening to your body’s internal cues.

intuitive eating vegan

Who can benefit from intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating can be adapted to almost everyone, regardless of the stage of life, health state, and objectives. 

To know how intuitive eating could help you heal your relationship with food and cultivate self-care, reach out to our team of plant-based dietitians. 

Why do we need intuitive eating as vegans?

One of the main reasons intuitive eating is gaining in popularity is because studies show that most dieters regain the weight they lost through a restrictive diet. 

Furthermore, diets can lead to eating disorders, food and body preoccupation, reduced self-esteem, and weight cycling, all of which can lead to diminished health

Although the ultimate purpose of intuitive eating is not to achieve weight loss, it can help you normalize your relationship with food and weight.

Can you practice intuitive eating as a vegan?

For most individuals, being vegan is a lifestyle choice motivated by ethics and not by restrictive food rules. 

Consequently, while excluding animal products, it is possible to eat intuitively as a vegan and make sure your body has all the nutrients it requires.

Here are some tips to help you practice intuitive vegan eating every day.

vegan intuitive eating

5 ways to help you practice intuitive eating as a vegan

1. Let go of the vegan diet mentality and challenge the food police

Not only does dieting not work in the long run, but it also actually increases the risk of gaining additional weight

Restricting calories through dieting triggers the body’s survival mechanisms by slowing down the metabolism, eliminating muscles, and increasing fat storage. 

It also enhances the feeling of hunger and leads to more preoccupation with food. 

Altogether, these mechanisms make it difficult to sustain weight loss, and hurt our psychological health and well-being.   

Get rid of your dieting tools 

The diet mentality can include counting calories, describing foods as ¨good¨ or ¨bad¨, or weighting ourselves too frequently. 

Dieting tools can take many forms and can be hard to recognize. 

Internalized beliefs and negative thoughts about food can be as difficult to identify as external food rules. A dietitian expert in vegan diets and intuitive eating can help you identify the hidden forms of dieting that can impact your eating behaviours.

Vegan diet and food restrictions

People choosing a raw vegan diet often believe that raw or minimally heated foods are more nutritious than cooked ones. This type of vegan diet is low is processed food and rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains. Although rich in nutritious foods, raw vegan diets can also feel restrictive, be lacking in certain key nutrients such as vitamin B12, and result in less energy. 

When choosing a particular type of vegan diet,  such as a raw vegan diet, ask yourself whether you are motivated by how the diet makes you feel or by the pressure of diet culture.

2. Honor your hunger and make peace with all vegan foods

If you have ever tried to follow a diet or skip a meal, you know that denying hunger often leads to overeating. 

Usually, the urgent and intense desire to eat occurs when we ignore our hunger for too long. 

It can also happen when we observe strict food rules, such as no snacking between meals no matter how hungry we get. 

Vegan intuitive eating enables us to acknowledge our body’s need for energy without questioning the timing or the frequency of our hunger. 

It also reminds us that hunger feels different for everyone and can vary from day to day. 

Recognize your hunger

When hungry, our body tries to get our attention through a combination of changes in our mood, energy level, and physical sensations. 

Thus, recognizing and paying attention to your body’s cues will help you honour and feed your body before reaching a level of painful hunger, which could lead to overeating and obsession with food. 

To avoid excessive hunger, keep vegan snacks handy, especially when you’re away from home and vegan food options are less accessible. 

At home, make sure you always have access to some staple foods to nourish your body adequately whenever hunger kicks in.  

Check out our article on the ultimate vegetarian grocery list for more. 

Recognize your fullness cues

Similarly, recognizing our fullness can also be difficult, particularly when we use external cues to stop eating, such as finishing all the food on the plate. 

Instead, listen to your internal fullness cues and stop eating when you are comfortably full or when the food is no longer satisfying.

Develop awareness of your fullness sensation by eating without distractions and by pausing in the middle of a meal to evaluate your fullness level.  Don’t feel obligated to clean your plate. 

Make peace with all types of vegan food

Furthermore, giving yourself unconditional permission to choose from a variety of vegan foods whenever you’re hungry will prevent uncontrollable cravings and the feeling of deprivation. 

However, it can be difficult to recognize and honour your hunger if you have ignored it for too long. A plant-based nutritionist expert in intuitive eating and vegan diets can help you become more attuned to your hunger cues.

vegan intuitive eating

3. Choose enjoyable vegan foods 

Acknowledge your taste preferences and ask yourself what you really like to eat. Nowadays, there are tons of nutritious vegan recipes and food products available to vegans. You might find some foods unsatisfying or unappetizing and enjoy other foods more.

Ask yourself what food aromas, tastes, and textures are pleasant to you. Don’t settle for foods you don’t love and savour the ones you love. 

Start with the food you like the most on your plate.  Remember that the closer you get to fullness, the less appealing the food will feel. Check-in throughout the meal to assess if the food is still enjoyable.

Whenever possible, try new vegan recipes to find what you enjoy to eat and discover new flavours. If you haven’t tried it yet, check out my easy and delicious vegan Moroccan soup recipe!

4. Cope with your feelings with kindness 

Food is often used to celebrate, comfort, and bond with others. Consequently, we learn to connect feelings to eating and food can become a coping mechanism. 

Although food can provide a short-term distraction, remember that it does not fix negative emotions or make them disappear.

Vegan intuitive eating can help you heal binge eating by identifying your triggers and developing helpful distractions. 

When you’re feeling overwhelmed and feel the need to eat even though you are not hungry, it can help to take a minute to identify your emotion and think about what you actually need to feel better. 

Then, ask yourself if this need can be fulfilled without turning to food. Other coping mechanisms can include taking a walk, calling a friend, or taking a warm bath.  

Recovering from emotional eating can be complex and often requires the help of a registered dietitian.

intuitive eating vegan

5. Honor your health and your body

Lastly, it can be difficult to reject the diet mentality and the pressure of achieving a certain body type and following a perfectly balanced vegan diet at all times. 

Just as not everyone wears the same shoe size, we cannot expect all bodies to look alike. Nevertheless, all bodies deserve dignity through adequate food, and healthy lifestyles, including gentle physical exercises.  

Allow yourself to enjoy all types of vegan foods, including nutritious food and play food.

Get rid of body-assessment tools if they contribute to negative body thoughts, such as scales and ¨goal clothes¨ that don’t fit your body comfortably.

Final words

In conclusion, acquiring an intuitive approach to vegan eating can take time. This involves identifying your eating patterns and beliefs, connecting with your internal signals, and developing healthy and lasting coping mechanisms while rejecting the culture of diets and food rules. 

Although this is a step towards a healthy and wholesome life, it is obvious that the journey can be demanding. 

Thus, I invite you to book a free  discovery with a plant-based nutritionist

To find more about vegan intuitive eating and how this approach could help you improve your vegan diet, checkout our answers to frequently asked questions about intuitive eating.