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How to go low-carb, vegetarian style?
December 28, 2003 6:36 AM   Subscribe

AtkinsFilter! Okay, not really. I am not doing a low-carb thing nor do I wish to. I'm a vegetarian, which makes it hard. But therein is my dilemma, my analyses of my daily intake(s) show that I'm a little more carb-heavy in my diet than I need or would like to be. So I turn to the low-carbers for suggestions on foods that I can eat to help balance me out a bit. [More inside]

I am fairly skitchy about a lot of the commercial low carb products because they seem rather fake. I saw a similar question on a forum I frequent and the suggestions were for recipes loaded with faux thickening agents and odd low-carb replacement items, many of which were highly processed products or stuff that simply could not be recreted in a home kitchen, like "sugar free maple syrup" which is a greater oxymoron than jumbo shrimp, IMO.

So what I'm asking is, other than meat, what do those of you on a low-carb diet eat for quick meals or for side dishes without all the convoluted trickery of trying to turn pureed cauliflower into an analog of mashed potatoes or stuff like that? I'm especially looking for stuff that's not too high in fat/cholesterol (IOW, eggs are nice but not for me at the moment) not complicated to make, and doesn't include ingredients made from 30 different multisyllabic laboratory products. Natural foods are what I'm looking for, ideas that transcend my very boring -- and not really carb light -- broccoli habits.
posted by Dreama to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
When did carbohydrates become such a bad thing? I'm pretty sure a few years ago when I did Food Tech GCSE, they were the best thing since sliced bread. Hell, they ARE sliced bread. What about that fake meat stuff made from some kind of yeast/mold?
posted by Orange Goblin at 7:03 AM on December 28, 2003


Carbs aren't a bad thing at all, in my case I'm looking for them to be about 35% of my daily food intake. However, they're running closer to 50% of my daily food intake and that's bothersome to me. I need to dial it down a bit, but I still need to eat and keep up my caloric intake, which is why I'm looking for lower carb ideas. Hence the question.
posted by Dreama at 7:25 AM on December 28, 2003


I lost 60 lbs. from March to July this year on Atkins. Green salads with abundant non-starchy veggies are always good. Non-starchy vegetables with butter or melted cheese are good on a low carb diet, however, if you're not doing a low carb diet which induces ketosis and lipolysis, then the fat in butter and cheese is not good for you, as per common wisdom.

Orange Goblin, the main point of Atkins is low carb (not "no carb") because carbohydrates cause your blood sugar level to go up and down too much, leading to the what is now a Type 2 diabetes epidemic.
posted by planetkyoto at 7:25 AM on December 28, 2003


Orange Goblin: the fake meat stuff is mycoprotien.
posted by the cuban at 7:29 AM on December 28, 2003


I need to dial it down a bit


Why? The idea of cutting carbs to lose weight is to drastically reduce them to about 5% of your diet. I'm not sure going from 50% to 30% would make any change, either in weight or how you feel. If you aren't going to eat meat or eggs, you pretty much have to stick to grains and veggies. I would definitely stay away from the stuff labeled "low carb" because it's usually very high fat.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:13 AM on December 28, 2003


Could you be more specific about the macronutrient balance you would like in a snack? Roughly how many calories, and with what proportion of protein, fat and carbs?

As for side dishes, I just use lots of veg.
posted by suleikacasilda at 8:14 AM on December 28, 2003


What about fish? A nice seared tuna steak is good for all diets and takes all of 5 minutes to prepare.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:22 AM on December 28, 2003


Mycoprotein, AKA 'Quorn' in the UK.

Funnily enough, I've been thinking along the same lines, Dreama. So much so, that I am considering how to adapt the Atkins diet to my form of vegetarianism (no flesh of any sort, no eggs, dairy is ok). It's horribly difficult. I am rethinking my eating habits along the lines of permitting some fish (which I've consumed twice in the past 15 years), but excluding all other flesh ( I no longer justify my diet on ethical grounds, I can only make sense of it in terms of 'taste').

I also want to reduce carbs, but without allowing some animal protein, I may not be able to satisfy my appetite.

To be honest, the answer for me is more likely to come from more exercise to burn it all off - whereas 2-3 years ago I cycled everywhere, I no longer do a significant amount of scheduled exercise (essential car user for work, makes me lazy all round).


Hard choices, I guess.
posted by dash_slot- at 8:34 AM on December 28, 2003


For the past two years I've been fighting metabolic syndrome's onset with a very low fat, low glycemic index approach, and based on that, have found that glycemic index (the measure of your insulin response to foods) to be a better measure than total carbs of metabolic impact.

For me, this has meant elimination of most grains, potatoes, rice, as well as meats, cheeses, eggs. What does that leave? I eat fruit, nonfat dairy (since I am not an ethical vegetarian, simply a fat-avoiding one), beans, and most vegies. A lot of my meals are multi-veg and bean soups with a dollop of nf sourcream or bowls of vegies and beans and nf cottage cheese. Best quick-and-dirty snack: garbanzos, whipped with seasonings and vinegar on slices of carrots and other vegies (think: chip & dip).

Through experimentation, I am gradually evaluating whole grains--a small amount of oats seems not to derail me; barley might as well be sugar, for how I clearly feel after eating it. Once you get your system stabilized without the big insulin zings (that make you cravingly hungry as soon as you've eaten), you can fairly easily identify when you are running amuck. Eventually, then, I'll have a couple of these carbs, along with beans, while still not getting back into what was looking like, for me, a lethal, traditional food-pyramid-style metabolic meltdown. Depending on your own goals, something like this may be where you are meaning to go as well.

You can google to find out more background on the glycemic index. I suspect you can find some worthwhile recipes and hints in the South Beach Diet material, since that is more or less the underpinnings of that approach (even though it's a more formal "program"). To me, looking at the physiology, rather than the old-style blanket "carb" designation, makes sense as well as giving me more to work with. And after two years, I'm not terribly oppressed by the limitations of this approach, even though it can be socially awkward (generally I simplify and tell people I'm a diabetic, since they accept that with less explanation and fuss) and, at the holiday season, fraught with a few wistful desires for lethal goodies.
posted by salt at 10:00 AM on December 28, 2003 [2 favorites]


Why? The idea of cutting carbs to lose weight is to drastically reduce them to about 5% of your diet. I'm not sure going from 50% to 30% would make any change, either in weight or how you feel.

I'm not cutting carbs in order to lose weight. (MeFites who have met me can pull their hot little fingers off of their keyboards right now!) I'm cutting carbs to bring better balance to my diet overall, I've already done my damnedest to focus my carb intake on very complex carbs that digest slowly and do not cause the wild glycemic swings of stuff like white potatoes, I'm just trying to refine things even further. I want the carbs that I do eat to come from things that will stick with me over the long term, helping me avoid the need to munch constantly, which is not only time consuming but inefficient and making me prone to eating more than I'd like.

My big trouble is that I'm limited in my imagination and I do need to keep my overall caloric count at a pretty stable level because I have the added interest of being a nursing mom.

Could you be more specific about the macronutrient balance you would like in a snack? Roughly how many calories, and with what proportion of protein, fat and carbs?

I don't have specifics, really, because I'm fairly flexible about what I eat over the course of a day and I compensate for eating more protein, carbs or fat in one meal/snack by eating less of whatever in other meals/snacks. I'm looking for lower carb ideas to work within that structure, when I need a lower carb meal/snack, I'm really limited in my knowledge and repetoire and celery with cream cheese and sauteed tofu with mustard are getting old.

As for side dishes, I just use lots of veg.

Which veggies, and how do you prepare them?

dash_slot and I are in the exact same quandry, same dietary limitations as well. The difference is that I'm not considering adding fish to my diet. I cannot tolerate eating any flesh products.
posted by Dreama at 10:13 AM on December 28, 2003


Veg dishes; mainly from the brassica family but also green beans, runner beans or even snowpeas. And I love spinach. You can braise cabbage for a long time with some oil, a little acid and some flavourings. You can add chopped roasted nuts to these dishes. You can drizzle a little hot chili oil over the brassica's, or garlic butter. Add a side salad as well to fill your plate.
posted by suleikacasilda at 1:18 PM on December 28, 2003


answering the question - how about nuts, olives, crisps (not sure if they have another name in the usa - slices of potato, deep fried, with salt or flavourings)? and maybe chocolate?
posted by andrew cooke at 1:43 PM on December 28, 2003


Also, a lot of the non-carb products will contain some animal products, which won't be good for a vegetarian.

Some of them contain gelatin, and others contain god-knows-what. And I mean that literally, only god could tell you what that stuff is.

I tried the whole low-carb thing recently during a plateau in my weight loss (from April to Now, 90 pounds so far), and lowering my carbs meant I had a lot less energy for my weight training and cardio work outs, and for me at least, it caused some rather, well, disconcerting side effects that I won't really go into here. It actually caused my blood sugar to go too low.

Some of my favorite things in the world are carbs. Breads. Those italian breads. And French Bagettes are my favorite. Pastas, love those things. And I know that I was eating an excess of that stuff. So while I did bring my carb intake down, I won't be bringing it down to low-carb diet levels again.
posted by benjh at 4:18 PM on December 28, 2003


My absolute favorite side dish is rosemary-lemon green beans. Boil fresh green beans until they're cooked but not soggy/squishy. Puree a couple sprigs worth of fresh rosemary, a couple splashes of olive oil, a couple cloves of garlic, and a tablespoon or so of lemon juice in a food processor. Drain the green beans and toss with the mixture and some black pepper. You can easily adjust all the ingredients according to your preferences.
posted by gatorae at 9:52 PM on December 28, 2003 [1 favorite]


I'm cutting carbs to bring better balance to my diet overall, I've already done my damnedest to focus my carb intake on very complex carbs that digest slowly and do not cause the wild glycemic swings of stuff like white potatoes, I'm just trying to refine things even further.

Dreama, it's not as straightforward as simple carbs vs. complex carbs. I highly recommend the work of registered dietician Brenda Davis (I couldn't find a good, all-encompassing link, so that one will have to do), who stresses that the real carb issue is about refined vs. whole foods. Most vegetables, after all, are simple carbohydrates, and most of the peoples of the world eat a carbohydrate-rich diet without our levels of obesity or disease. What they don't eat (other than a lot of meat) is a lot of refined, processed food. Try to eat as close to the source, as close to intact, as possible.

gatorae, you're making me hungry...
posted by soyjoy at 8:15 AM on December 29, 2003 [1 favorite]


What soyjoy said. Also, avoid all foods with high Fruc Syrup., which ironically eliminates almost all whole grain breads in your supermarket.

Qorn, btw, is made with egg whites, which makes me wonder how protein rich this protein rich foodsource would be without it.

Seitan is low carb, high (but incomplete) protein. Some are allergic to it tho.

I'm veggie and when I wanna cut back on my carbs, Stir ries in their many forms are what I often fall back on.
posted by Fupped Duck at 8:32 AM on December 29, 2003


egg whites, soy, nuts, seeds, milk, yogurt, cheese(including cottage,) whey protein powder, etc. plus your usual veggie fare.
posted by callmejay at 9:57 AM on December 29, 2003


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