When was the last time you tried a new diet and felt great, got to eat what you loved, and successfully lost weight? It may have never happened. Most diets leave you feeling hungry, deprived and then when you inevitably "cheat" and eat satisfying food, you end up defeated.

Yet it is possible to fill up on healthy, satisfying foods, have energy, and successfully lose weight, according to nutrition expert Nicole Osinga, a Registered Dietician who created The VegStart Diet as a way of helping you lose weight the healthy way, while still eating what you love, and filling up on plant-based meals and snacks that are so full of healthy ingredients, energizing antioxidants and filling fiber, that you never feel deprived, hungry or sluggish, and you lose weight in a sustainable way that makes it easy to keep it off.

Last week, we hosted Osinga on Facebook Live to discuss the health benefits of a plant-based diet, weight loss, and everything you need to know about our most popular meal plan, The VegStart Diet.

Osinga, a well-known nutritionist, created healthy, filling, low-calorie recipes for the VegStart Diet, which are designed to help you lose weight while eating the foods you love, like pasta and bread, comfort food like soup, and even tasty sweet or crunchy snacks. The recipes are delicious, as confirmed by the 1.2 million TikTok viewers who loved the Roasted Carrot and White Bean Soup. Osinga doesn't believe in extreme dieting and considers The VegStart a "sustainable weight loss program," so there's no worry of going hungry.

The program also includes a full meal plan with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and snacks for Monday through Sunday, helpful shopping lists, and expert tips, plus a supportive community group, and live videos with Osinga so you can ask her one-on-one questions.

Aside from the diet questions, Osinga speaks the truth about the importance of indulgences like wine, chocolate, and desserts. She shared her go-to cheat meals, how to treat yourself the healthy way, plus the tastiest plant-based proteins, and the most useful ingredients that everyone should have on hand. If this is your first approach to a plant-based diet or you started eating plant-based a while back, when meat alternatives weren't around, you probably have a lot of questions. Here are the top questions about weight loss and plant-based dieting, explained and answered by Nicole Osinga.

The Beet: What is The VegStart Diet? Is it a detox? Is it a program anyone can do at any time?

Nicole Osinga RD: I don't believe in extremes. I believe in sustainable changes. I have a lot of conversations with people today about this topic. If we're looking to lose weight, The VegStart diet program is designed for weight loss but certainly, everyone's individual needs are different. The diet focuses on sustainable weight loss that is still going to keep you feeling satisfied and meet your nutrition needs because we don't want to become nutrient deficient when we're sort of trying to follow something. There's definitely a lifestyle change aspect to the diet if you're not plant-based already.

The Beet: Ok, let's back it up a bit. What are the health benefits of going plant-based?

Nicole Osinga RD: It's a great evidence-based way of eating that has been shown to reduce the risk of various conditions like cardiovascular diseases, and a number of cancers. I'm working part-time at the hospital in the cancer care clinics. So, I deal with people often who have various diagnoses and I recommend those patients eat plant-based foods.

The Beet: What advice do you have for someone who is starting a plant-based diet?

Nicole Osinga RD:  It might be overwhelming to find different ways to cook those plant-based proteins and how to incorporate them into your family's meals, but find those proteins you like and focus on incorporating them into your diet.

The Beet: What are some of your favorite plant-based proteins?

Nicole Osinga RD: Probably my favorite is tempeh, followed by tofu which is a big one, and edamame...I love the ease of cooking it like typically I buy it frozen. I might just thaw it or put it in like a stir fry.

The Beet: What are your top five spices that you always have on hand?

Nicole Osinga RD: I'd have to say basil and oregano. Those are definitely my go-to spices. I also love paprika, cumin, and cinnamon. I certainly have a sweet tooth so I like to add cinnamon into my overnight oats.  I like the smoky flavors of cumin and paprika on my tempeh.

Question From The Beet's Followers, Who Ask About Protein, Wine and More:

Is there a specific supplement you take that is lacking in a plant-based diet?

Nicole Osinga RD: I take a B12 supplement and an iron supplement. I mean, just because you follow a plant-based doesn't mean you're going to be low in iron, but I'm a runner as well. I'm a female of childbearing age. So, I'm sort of at a higher risk for iron deficiency. But you can also get the B12 from nutritional yeast and plant-based milk instead of taking a supplement. Sometimes I will take a plant-based omega-3 supplement, but again, you can get omega-3s in flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. The bottom line is, you certainly don't have to supplement, you can get enough nutrients through food– but those are just ones I take for extra assurance.

The Beet:  Should we avoid desserts? If you were to have a cheat day, what would it look like?

Nicole Osinga RD: Whenever we're enjoying desserts, I call them fun meals. They sure don't have a ton of nutrients as our other meals do, but whenever we're enjoying them, eat them without guilt because if we have guilt we won't have acceptance then that's when it turns into you eating the whole bag of chips or chocolates. When we feel good about eating something we're likely to acknowledge it quicker. I normally say to aim for 90% regular meals and 10% fun meals. It's ok to have three fun meals per week, and the rest should be healthy meals. Definitely leave some room for un!

The Beet: Do you have tips for weight loss?

Nicole Osinga RD: The biggest thing you want to do is to feel sated. Of course, you want to meet those nutrient needs because we're not going to hit those long-term weight loss goals if we're feeling deprived. Whatever changes you're going to make, just make sure you can sustain them. I see so many people in my practice that are yo-yo dieters give up. That cycle is going to continue if we do things that are so, so restrictive. I saw someone yesterday in my practice who was eating one meal a day, just, that's it. That system worked for them, but, for most people, that's not going to be sustainable.

The Beet: Do you think it's expensive to go plant-based?

Nicole Osinga RD: Not necessarily. If you're eating a whole food plant-based diet, you're eating beans and tofu for protein, and tofu costs $1 or $2 for a block, and you can get beans for less than a dollar. If you live in a warmer climate you obviously have better access to fresh produce all year round, but it's okay if to use frozen produce like I do because I live in Canada. I think it's cheaper to eat plant-based and it's a great way to save money.

The Beet: What do you recommend someone to do after they finished?

Nicole Osinga RD: Just keep going. The best part is, you can keep mixing those recipes into your day-to-day routine and use those lessons and tips you learned from The VegStart diet. If you started meal prepping and planning, keep going with that. The calorie level of the diet is around 1,400 a day and if that works for you, continue doing that buy you can always make modifications to the recipes. I would recommend making more plant-based meals. The Beet posts new recipes every day so you know where you can get them. Try to make a plant-based diet part of your lifestyle.

Question From the Audience: How long does it take to feel better after eating a plant-based diet?

Nicole Osinga RD: Personally, when I first went plant-based, about 10 years ago or so, I had a slow transition but it only took a month after eating this way to feel a noticeable difference.