Can vegetarians do low carb and succeed?

This is a little explored topic when it comes to keto I believe. Most people who do low carb are so excited about “bacon everything!” that you don’t really hear much about doing this without shoveling meat into your mouth with abandon. Can it be done? Sure, of course, but can it be as satisfying as nigh-unlimited meat and seafood? Well, absolutely!

Truthfully, a large amount of the keto comfort foods that I see posted all over the internet are usually vegetarian. Any keto pancakes, muffins, quiches, egg poppers, etc – they’re almost all without meats or fish, and I think there’s a fairly simple reason for this. Most people know how to cook meat; it’s not difficult (in the broadest sense), but creating new and exciting versions of carby staples takes some creativity and technical knowledge. There are some amazing recipes out there that call for psyllium husk – that’s right, unflavored fiber powder. It adds a chewy, binding component to dishes like pizza that help make it more like the “real deal”, but I don’t think in a million years I would have considered that as something I’d think to try out.

The easiest low carb vegetarian meal I can think of would be a huge salad, covered in a high-fat dressing (there’s a lot of oil-based dressings that utilize the healthy fats found in olive oil or avocado oil). I’ll link a few that I love personally below, and you can start there. Salad is great because it’s a great way to get a ton of nutrition and a lot of filling fiber. As a vegetarian, you may struggle with protein here, but you can always add hardboiled eggs and use spinach as your base.

I guess, along those lines, perhaps a look at vegetarian sources of protein would be good. Remember, getting at least 50g a day, but closer to 100 (more if you’re active) will help prevent muscle loss during weight loss. We want to lose fat not weight. Weight means water, muscle, and fat. We need those first two things.

Spinach – 1g per cup (raw, so a cup is voluminous and not a ton of spinach)

Hemp seeds/”hearts” – 3g per tablespoon

Walnuts – 5g per 1/4 cup

Egg, large – 6g each

Peanut butter – 7g per 2 tablespoons

Almonds – 8g per 1/4 cup

Chia Seeds – 8g per 1 tablespoon

Tofu – 21g per cup

Greek yogurt, 2% – 23g per cup (with about 9-10g carbs. The protein and fat included with greek yogurt will help blunt the insulin spike, but I find yogurt is probably best in 1/2 cup amounts, or on a workout day. 9g of carbs isn’t a ton but it might mess up your macros, particularly in the beginning of a low carb diet when you should be sticking at no greater than 25g/day)

Cottage cheese, 4% – 24g per cup (same deal with cottage cheese as with greek yogurt)

 

This is obviously not an extensive list but it’s a good group of staples to keep on hand. I like to mix 1/4 cup walnuts with 1 cup cottage cheese and hit it a few times with some hot sauce. It’s a quick, easy meal that’s full of healthy fat and protein, with a negligible amount of carbs. Cheese in general is a good source of protein, but it’s best to get blocks of cheese (which are often cheaper anyway) and grate it yourself. There’s a bit of added carbohydrate in the anti-caking agent they use to package the shredded cheese (usually potato starch). It adds 1 or 2 carbs per serving of cheese, which can really stack up.

There are a myriad of meat-alternatives out there as well – Boca, Gardein, etc – that make burgers, “chicken”, meatballs, and these are decent sources of protein also, but you need to be careful. I find most of the veggie burgers are fine – lots of fiber and low carbs, since it’s basically ground vegetables with some texture added. A lot of the “chicken” alternatives are breaded, so probably a no-go, and in general, it all tastes pretty good. I can’t say it replaces real beef, but it’s good as its own thing, which is fantastic. Since there may be wheat added to these, you need to gauge if they stall you and cut them out accordingly. I’ve never had issue, but it’s possible that I could have lost weight faster if they were out of my diet, but the convenience factor makes it hard to give up. Plus my son loves them, so we always have them on hand.

In any case, I will have a lot of vegetarian keto recipes posting here, so keep an eye out. There’s always room for improvisation, and if you see a recipe that would be good without the meat, try it. Sub in mushrooms (you can cook mushrooms in butter for a fairly decent amount of time and they get chewy and delicious), or veggie “meat”, or tofu (in sparing amounts) and give it a whirl. You can only fail, and that means you’ve learned. Lord knows I’ve “learned” a lot on this diet.

 

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