Eating low-carb as a vegetarian or vegan: Best foods plus meal plan

In this article, we describe how vegetarians and vegans can go low-carb and suggest a variety of meat- and dairy-free foods and meals. We also look at what following a low-carb diet entails and give some general guidelines.

Can vegetarian and vegans go low-carb?

Vegetarian and vegan people do not eat meat, poultry, fish, or shellfish. Vegetarians tend to eat other animal-derived products, including dairy, eggs, honey, and gelatin, while vegans do not.

Vegetarian and vegan diets can be heavy in carbs, from grains, bread, starchy vegetables, and fruits. However, following a low-carb vegetarian or vegan diet is entirely possible.

The following are examples of foods rich in protein and fat, low in carbs, and free from animal products:

  • tofu
  • tempeh
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • coconut oil
  • avocados

Results of a 2018 study indicate that, when following a low-carb diet, proteins and fats from plant sources are more healthful than those from animal sources.

Products derived from plants can better promote healthful aging, cardiovascular health, and weight loss.

Vegetarians can enjoy low-carb vegan options and incorporate dairy and egg products. Pescatarians and omnivores may also benefit from adding low-carb vegan and vegetarian meals to their diets.

Vegetarian sources of protein and fat include:

  • eggs, with a large egg, weighing 46 g and fried, containing 6.26 g of protein and 6.83 g of fat
  • full-fat cheese, with a slice of Swiss cheese, for example, weighing 28 g and containing 7.55 g of protein and 8.68 g of fat
  • Greek yogurt, with 100 g containing 7.33 g of protein and 3 g of fat
  • whole milk, with an 8-oz glass of cow’s milk containing 7.99 g of protein and 9 g of fat

Vegetarian sources of fats:

  • ghee, with 100 g containing 100 g of fat
  • unsalted butter, with 1 tbsp containing 11.52 g of fat

A 2-day low-carb meal plan for vegetarians

Day 1:

  • breakfast: green smoothie with berries and peanut butter
  • lunch: salad with avocados, eggs, and feta cheese
  • dinner: crustless vegetable quiche

Day 2:

  • breakfast: omelet with vegetables
  • lunch: broccoli with cheese sauce
  • dinner: cheesy vegetable gratin

Vegetarian low-carb snack ideas:

  • nuts
  • seeds
  • vegetable sticks with hummus, nut butter, or an avocado dip
  • a green smoothie or juice
  • berries
  • kale chips
  • low-carb granola bars
  • an egg
  • cheese
  • yogurt

There is no clear cutoff for what constitutes a low-carb diet. The amount of carbs a person can eat varies from plan to plan. It is important for each person to find a diet plan that suits their needs and goals.

Consider talking to a doctor or dietician before making significant dietary changes. A healthcare professional can take into account an individual’s health and advise about the suitability of a low-carb diet.

Counting the number of carbs in each meal is an important part of following the diet. Developing meal plans can make this simpler.

Nutrient calculator apps can also help a person monitor their carb intake and meet their daily goals and nutritional requirements. Read our review of a range of calorie counter apps, some of which also keep track of carb intake.


Low carb diets are becoming increasingly popular. They may aid weight loss and provide other health benefits.

Traditional low-carb diets tend to include a lot of meat. However, the wide variety of meat-free and plant-based alternatives makes following the diet easy for vegans and vegetarians.

Consider speaking with a doctor or dietician before making significant dietary changes.

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