You hear it all the time. Eating a balanced diet is important. But every now and then, there are reasons for us to limit our carb intake – and now here comes the dilemma. How can you successfully follow a low-carb diet when you’re a vegetarian?
See, vegetarians have limited alternative options to carbs. Generally, the go-to protein is considered to be meat, so what’s left for vegetarians to eat?
Know that a low-carb diet is indeed possible for vegetarians. Whether you just want to stay fit, maintain your healthy BMI, or simply want to make sure you’ll still fit in your wedding dress when your special day comes. Low-carb diets can make sense for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike.
Challenges of a Low-Carb Vegetarian Diet
Carbohydrates are central to our bodies' health. But why?
They supply us with glucose, which our bodies then turn into cellular energy. And we need cellular energy for our bodies to operate properly allowing us to exercise, function, and go about our daily activities.1
The challenge with low-carb diets for vegetarians is that most diets that limit your carb intake, shift to higher amounts of protein for you to consume instead. And increasing your protein as a vegetarian can seem tricky at first.
But let us put your mind at ease – there are vegetarian high-protein options available, so you can actually commit to a low-carb vegetarian diet.
Just try to minimize your carb intake at first. Rest assured, there are plenty of mouthwatering vegetables suitable for a low-carb diet.
Bear in mind that you should always check with a qualified health care practitioner like your family doctor or a nutritionist prior to implementing any dietary changes or following dietary restrictions. After all, we need many different nutrients to unlock our bodies’ full capabilities. You may or may not be a good fit for dietary limitations.
Increase Your Intake of Vegetarian Protein
We have established that a vegetarian low-carb diet oftentimes goes hand in hand with a higher protein intake. In fact, there are quite a few options available outside of the meat department.
Hoping to increase your vegetarian protein intake? Let’s find out what that could look like:
- Eggs – With as little as 75 calories and 0.6 g of total carbs, one egg can yield 7 grams of protein making it a great option for a low-carb breakfast that keeps you full.2
- Soy – Soy comes in various forms and shapes from soy milk to soybeans, giving you a multitude of options. Soy is considered a high-quality protein and 100 grams of soybeans can contain around 18.2 grams of protein and only about 2 g net carbs.3 Net carbs are calculated by taking your total carbohydrates and subtracting the dietary fiber content.
- Dairy – Dairy products are versatile and include milk, cheese, and yogurts. The sheer variety of dairy products is a plus – you’ll definitely find something you’ll like.
- Tofu – Originally from Asia, tofu has taken over the Western cuisine and makes for a good vegetarian meat alternative. Tofu is made out of bean curds, soybeans to be exact, and is on its own, rather flavorless which makes it really adaptable in recipes. Marinated or seasoned well, tofu can make a yummy protein for any meal. For 100 g of extra firm tofu, there is around 10.1 g of protein and only 2.6 g carbs!4
Easy enough, many of the protein options that are able to complement your vegetarian low-carb diet are everyday kitchen staples – so you don’t need to go looking for anything overly exotic.
Vegetables for a Low-Carb Diet
Remember how your mama told you to always eat your greens? “Finish your veggies, so you’ll get big and strong,” she said. Valid point.
Yet, what if you don’t just want to get the veggies’ nutrients but also maintain a low carb intake? There are options, friends. In fact, there are countless vegetables for a low-carb diet. Let’s take a look at some examples:
Leafy greens are incredibly versatile and nutritious – they can easily be cooked into a powerful meal that’s both healthy and delicious. With a huge variety of minerals and vitamins when raw, leafy greens also provide our bodies with some fiber and a bit of protein too.
So, what are leafy greens exactly? Well, the list is long, giving you plenty of options to choose from. From spinach and kale to turnip greens, leafy greens can be sautéed as a side or main dish.
Greens like arugula can be tossed together and served as a salad with tomatoes and cucumbers. Or you can mix up your salads with other low-carb diet vegetables, such as romaine lettuce or watercress.
Broccoli has emerged into a superfood for individuals on diets like the keto diet. Why?
It’s a great example of a nutrient-dense veggie with low carb content. In fact, 100 grams of broccoli contain only about 6 grams of carbs, out of which a little over 2.5 grams are dietary fiber.4 So, if you’re on a low-carb diet as a vegetarian, broccoli is perfect for you.
With its soft texture once cooked, broccoli makes a great vegetable for a low-carb diet in stews or simply steamed as a side dish. Drizzled with olive oil and baked, broccoli can also be served crisp and crunchy and fresh out of the oven.
Mushrooms are certainly not everybody’s thing. With their chewy texture and strong earthy taste, mushrooms are a unique kind of vegetable. You either hate them or you absolutely love them.
Making the ideal low-carb diet vegetable, there are many types of mushrooms and just as many ways to prepare them at home. To absorb all their flavor, mushrooms are best sautéed and served on the side. By adding just the right spices, you can accentuate their flavor even more.
Ever tried getting two birds with one stone? If you’re looking for the perfect food for a low-carb diet, why not find one that comes with a decent protein content as well?
Technically a fruit, avocados are known for their creamy thick texture and are mainly eaten raw – supplying you with a full load of nutrients.6 Popular in salads, avocados can also be added to tacos, added as a topping on toast, or made into a rich dressing or dip.
Becoming more and more popular lately, edamame is a convenient fresh snack that you can easily pack for on-the-go. In 100 g of edamame, you’ll get only about 4 g of net carbs and it also has almost 12 g of plant-based protein.7
Primarily served on the side, edamame can be steamed with its shell left on. Just add a pinch of salt and a little bit of pepper to the beans for some extra flavor.
Another good low-carb diet vegetable for you to consider eating more of is asparagus. Filled with countless vitamins, the green spears contain little amounts of net carbs but provide you with a bit of protein too; about 2 g per 100 g serving.8
You can roast fresh asparagus in the oven, adding only a small amount of oil, salt, pepper, and a dash of fresh lemon juice to finish. But asparagus can also be added to salads after it has been chopped and blanched. It’ll make for a crunchy and filling addition you can enjoy.
What Are Your Favorite Vegetables for a Low-Carb Diet?
You’ve learned all about a low-carb vegetarian diet – if you want to limit your carb intake, you’ve got the tools. Just be sure to maintain a balanced diet, after all diversity is important.
Now that you’ve gotten to know multiple vegetables that are great for a low-carb diet, which one’s your favorite? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
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- The Nutrition Source – Carbohydrates. Retrieved August 3, 2022. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/#:~:text=Foods%20high%20in%20carbohydrates%20are,bodily%20functions%20and%20physical%20activity.
- Good Eggs: For Nutrition, They’re Hard to Beat. Retrieved August 3, 2022. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/good-eggs-for-nutrition-theyre-hard-to-beat#:~:text=One%20egg%20has%20only%2075,nutrients%20like%20lutein%20and%20zeaxanthin
- Soybeans, mature cooked, boiled, without salt. Retrieved August 24, 2022. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/174271/nutrients
Vitasoy USA, Organic Nasoya Extra Firm Tofu. Retrieved August 24, 2022.
- Broccoli, raw. Retrieved August 4, 2022. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/747447/nutrients
- Avocados, raw, all commercial varieties. Retrieved August 24, 2022. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171705/nutrients
- Edamame, frozen, prepared. Retrieved August 24, 2022. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168411/nutrients
- Asparagus, raw. Retrieved August 24, 2022. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168389/nutrients