Super Easy Keto/Low Carb Meal Prep!
How to Follow a Low Carb Vegetarian Diet
Following a low carb diet is a great way to lose weight and control blood sugar. Reducing your carbohydrate intake can also be beneficial for people with metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and some neurological disorders. Carbohydrates consist of the sugars, starches, and fibers that are found in vegetables, fruits, grains, and milk products.As a result, most low carb diets, such as the Atkins diet, rely heavily on meat products. This is not possible for vegetarians. That being said, there are a variety of ways to reduce the carbohydrates in your diet, and the best thing to do is find your carbohydrate tolerance. You can follow a low carb diet and eat vegetarian by finding alternative protein and fat sources and by reducing or eliminating added sugars and refined carbohydrates.
Reducing Refined Carbohydrates
Watch for added sugar.Many vegetarians do not realize how much added sugar (i.e. refined carbohydrates) they are consuming. This is because food manufacturers add sugar to almost everything, including soy-based products, beverages, yogurt, and salad dressings. In order to reduce the amount of carbohydrates and added sugars in your diet, you should read nutrition labels carefully.
- Look for words that end with "ose" to detect added sugars. For example, added sugars can appear as fructose or lactose, which are natural sugars that usually come in small doses and are easy to identify on food labels.
- Some added sugars will be harder to detect than others and may even appear to be healthy. For example, organic brown rice syrup, barley malt syrup, and agave nectar are all types of added sugars that are essentially refined carbohydrates and should be avoided.
Avoid white grains.Not all carbohydrates are considered “bad” and cause weight gain or increase blood sugar. A certain amount of carbohydrates are actually recommended because this is one of the best sources of energy for your body. Refined carbohydrates, however, should be avoided. This is often considered the “no white foods” strategy. Eliminate or significantly reduce all sugar, white flour, white rice, white pasta, as well as potatoes from your diet.
- Refined carbohydrates are created when whole plants, such as grain, are stripped of all nutrients but the easily digestible carbohydrate.
- The majority of fiber and nutrient in the plant is removed, leaving only refined sugar or refined starch.
Reduce the amount of processed food you eat.Processed foods contain refined sugars and refined starches and, therefore, are high in carbohydrates. These foods are typically those that are found in boxes or bags at the grocery store. For example, cereals, breads, pastries, cookies, crackers, and muffins are all considered processed foods that contain refined carbohydrates.
- Try steel-cut oatmeal instead of boxed cereal for breakfast.
- Make homemade baked goods, such as muffins and cookies, so that you can control the ingredients being used.
Eating Alternative Protein and Fat Sources
Include eggs in your diet.Many vegetarians rely on whole grains as a major source of protein in their diet. This is not possible if you are trying to follow a low carb vegetarian diet because whole grains contain carbohydrates that are easily digested and broken down into glucose. Eggs only contain trace amounts of carbohydrates and provide an excellent source of protein for vegetarians. They also contain nutrients that can not be found in plant foods, such as vitamin B12.
- Try omega 3-enriched or free range eggs, if possible, for the healthiest option.
- Add eggs to your diet by making an omelette with fresh vegetables for breakfast. For lunches and dinners you could try eating a vegetable quiche or a salad with hard boiled eggs.
- There are multiple ways to include eggs in your diet. Search online for low carb vegetarian recipes with eggs.
Eat dairy products as a source of protein.Dairy products, such as yogurt, cheese, and milk are also high in protein and low in carbohydrates making them perfect for individuals following a low carb vegetarian diet.
- Try yogurt mixed with fruit and nuts or seeds for breakfast, a cheesy cauliflower bake for lunch, or a chili with beans, sour cream and cheese for dinner.
Add fatty foods to your diet.As you reduce the amount of carbohydrates in your diet, you will need to add fat. This is because carbohydrates are a major source of energy in your diet and can be replaced by consuming protein and fats. Fat is most easily obtained by eating meat, however, there are a variety of vegetarian foods that contain fat. Try out these low carb and high fat vegetarian foods:
- Olive oil.
- Flax and chia seeds.
Use soy supplements.Soy-based foods are an excellent source of protein and can be used by both vegetarians and vegans who are looking to reduce their carbohydrate intake. Make sure that you read the labels on soy-based products carefully to ensure that they do not contain refined sugars.
- Make a veggie and tofu stir fry with whole grain rice or quinoa.
- Try rolled oats with soy milk for breakfast.
Finding Your Carbohydrate Tolerance
Reduce your carbohydrate intake.Each individual has a different carbohydrate tolerance level. For example, as you age you may find that your carbohydrate tolerance decreases and you have a greater blood glucose response to carbohydrates. In order to find your optimal carbohydrate tolerance, you should begin by drastically reducing the amount of carbohydrates that you consume.
- Optimally you should reduce your carb intake to about 30-40 grams per day.
Add carbohydrates back into your diet.Once you have significantly reduced your carbohydrate intake begin to slowly add carbohydrates back into your diet. Some people will respond better when you add starches first and other will feel better when sugars are added first. Monitor how your body responds. Continue to add carbohydrates until you begin to notice adverse side effects, such as:
- Weight loss stops.
- Weight gain takes place.
- Carb cravings begin.
- Blood glucose control diminishes.
- Poor concentration and/or low energy levels.
- High blood pressure.
Determine your personal carbohydrate tolerance.As soon as you begin to notice one of the adverse side effects, you should reduce the amount of carbohydrates you ingest until you begin to feel healthy again. At this point, measure the amount of carbohydrates you are consuming in grams in order to determine your personal carbohydrate tolerance.
Talk with your doctor or nutritionist.If you are drastically changing your diet in order to cut down on carbohydrates and meats, you should talk with a doctor or nutritionist to make sure that you are receiving all of the vitamins and nutrients necessary for a well-balanced diet. For example, they may recommend taking vitamin and mineral supplements to ensure that you do not develop any nutrient deficiencies.
- It is always a good idea to speak with your doctor about your diet, especially if you are experiencing low energy levels, high blood pressure, or severe weight fluctuations.
- Look online for recipes and meal plans to help you get started on a low carb vegetarian diet.
- If you are a vegan and want to follow a low carb diet, you should look into the Eco-Atkins diet, which is designed for vegans.
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