Vegetarian/Vegan Weight Loss: Difficult Because of High Carbs in Most Vegetarian Plans

Low carb vegetarian diets are often difficult for many vegetarians.  The general accepted definition of a vegetarian is an individual who does not eat protein from animals, including beef, pork, fish, or chicken, but does eat dairy products and eggs. Vegans, like vegetarians, exclude eating animal proteins. However, they take it a step further by excluding all animal products such as dairy, eggs, honey, rennet, and gelatin.

Despite  avoiding high calorie  meats and animal products, many vegetarians seeking a “healthy” diet end up consuming too many high calorie carbohydrates . Few good low carb vegetarian weight loss diets exist.  Although not a vegetarian/vegan diet, one can adapt Weight Watchers to the vegan lifestyle. Since the emphasis in Weight Watchers is on fruits and vegetables with low points, there are not  a lot of low carb vegetarian food offered.

Sugar and complex carbs such as rice, pasta, beans, potatoes are some of the important vegetarian products. The difficulty is that they are quickly broken down into sugars and absorbed quickly into the blood as sugar. The blood sugar quickly rises provoking an insulin response which leads to fat accumulation and further hunger. Protein on the other hand, is quickly absorbed and prevents hunger and maintains a stable blood sugar for long periods of time. With the recent introduction of many non-animal protein products  such as the Impossible Burger weight loss may no longer be so difficult.  You can often substitute these non- animal proteins for chicken, fish and red meat in low carb vegetarian/vegan diets.                                                                                     Comparison of low carb vs low fat weight loss

Why Low-Carb  Weight Loss Program are so Effective:

The effectiveness of low carb weight loss programs has been proven again and again over the past 25 years.  There are multiple explanations for the fast and weight loss see in low carb diets, including:                                     

  • Reduction of hunger leading to less food ingestion over the day.
  • Reduction in sugar with less sugar spikes all day and less food intake.
  • Increase in Metabolism
  • Reduction in LDL levels, triglycerides and blood pressure

    How Many Carbs Should You Eat?

    This is a difficult question because every individual is different and responds differently to carb intake. Even more important is the  individual variation between vegetarian  and vegan food preferences: Vegans eat no animal products, while vegetarians don’t eat animals, but may eat products that come from them (such as dairy, cheese and eggs). In addition there is no perfect definition how many carbs in a low carb diet (whether vegetarian or non-vegetarian.) You need to match your goals and your food choices and intake to your preferences.

    Here are some guidelines:

    • 100-150 net carbs/day: This is a moderate low carbohydrate intake. The 100 carb intake per day might be the best level for most vegans. (a cup of white rice is about 50 grams of net carbs).
    • 50-100 net carbs per day: This lower intake of net carbs, especially the 50-75 g of net carbs will lead to faster weight loss, but is difficult for most vegans. Some vegetarians who eat cheese, dairy and especially eggs can do this.
    • 20-50 net carbs/per day: This is the level of the Atkins and Keto Diets. This involves a lot of food preparation and shopping. Its possible especially for vegetarians.

    I suggest you use an app that counts you carb intake such as  Cron-o-meter in the beginning.

Worried About Inadequate Proteins?

If you’re worried about getting enough protein on a low carb vegetarian diet, you may be in for a surprise. Most Americans get way too much protein! Also, vegetarians can easily get more than enough protein in their diet. Many people still believe that protein is only available from meat and animal sources, and we will all fall over dead without animal protein! Unless you’re pregnant or an Olympic bodybuilder, you will likely get more than enough protein without even trying.

Low Carb Vegetarian Noodles Substitutes for Many Higher Carb Foods:

Shirataki (she-rah-TAH-kee) noodles, also known as konnyaku noodles, are thin, low carb, chewy, and translucent traditional Japanese noodles. They are a game changer for dieters. Giving up pasta is often one of the hardest parts of low calorie vegetarian (or regular) diets. This tasty, low-calorie substitute is a great addition for the following reasons.

  • Made of naturally water soluble fiber with no fat,  sugar, or starch
  • Contain zero net carbohydrates and almost zero calories
  • Gluten-Free and Wheat-Free – made of a healthy natural fiber called Glucomannan
  • Kosher
  • Easily absorbs the flavors of any soup, dish, or sauce
  • Instant and come in a variety of styles: macaroni, spaghetti, fettuccine, angel hair
  • Beneficial effects backed by medical studies for diabetes, constipation, obesity

Shirataki noodles are thinner than wheat noodles, do not break as easily, and have a different texture. They are composed primarily of a dietary fiber called glucomannan and contain very few calories and carbohydrates (sometimes even zero). They do not have much flavor by themselves, but absorb flavors well from other ingredients you can combine them with.

Shirataki noodles are packaged “wet”, that is, you purchase them pre-packaged in liquid. They are ready-to-eat out of the package. You can prepare them by boiling them briefly or running them under hot water, then combining them with other dishes, or adding things like tofu, garlic, spinach, or soy sauce to enhance the flavor. If you’ve never eaten Shirataki noodles before, try a small amount initially to ensure you won’t experience any stomach or intestinal distress.

The “NO” Foods in Low Carb Vegetarian Diets and  Vegans and Vegetarians

Carbs: No starches, sugar, rice, pasta, potatoes and beans-lots of carbs, calories, difficult portion control.

Fruits: No banana, pineapple, grapes, watermelon, mangoes, or avocado–all high or high sugar

Vegetables: No carrots, corn, peas- higher carbs.

Oils: NO OLIVE OIL, no cooking oils, no traditional salad dressings

Drinks: No juices, regular sodas, or milk (even low fat)

Other: NO NUTS, peanut butter, seeds, or cheese (except no-fat cheese)

Shopping for Vegan and Vegetarian Products on the HCG Diet

You must always read labels when shopping for vegan and vegetarian products.  What appears as the perfect vegan product might have too much sugar, starch, or fat. Manufacturers often add or increase these ingredients to replace flavoring normally provided by animal products. Remember, no sugar, grains, pasta, rice or potatoes

You can read and  Download a Vegan Low Carb Shopping List for low carb vegetarian/vegan products.

You can find a wide variety of vegan foods and vegetarian foods at Amazon which is especially convenient if the supermarkets near you have a limited selection.

You can also vegetarian products and retailers on the The Vegetarian Resource Group’s web site at http://www.vrg.org/links/products.htm.