Q. I've always been overweight, and I recently committed to being a vegan. How can I lose 30 pounds without sacrificing the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients my body needs?

A. When you cut out all animal products, weight loss is practically inevitable. "Most people who've been on a vegan diet for a while tend to be lean because the food choices available to them are less calorie dense," says Cindy Moore, R.D. Make sure that fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes are the mainstay of your diet; these foods are nutritious, fiber rich and relatively filling. Cut back on potato chips and other processed snack foods that, while technically vegan, are nutritionally void and high in calories.

Make a concerted effort to get enough protein in your diet, through foods such as beans, tofu, nuts and soy milk. Protein will help you stay satisfied so you're not tempted to gorge on junk food. Vegans also are at risk for deficiencies in calcium, vitamin D, zinc, iron and other nutrients, so you may want to consult with a registered dietitian who specializes in vegan eating. "Since this is a new lifestyle for you, it's important to think about what types of foods you need to add to your diet, not just what you're giving up," Moore says.