Low Carb Vegan Meal Ideas
September 26, 2015 7:10 PM   Subscribe

My recent blood work came back with a high fasting blood sugar. I need to cut out as many carbs and sugars as possible. A low GI diet that does not include animal products is the goal. This is a long-term thing, not a temporary diet

I'm committed to getting this under control naturally. I need meal ideas that are animal and animal by-product-free. Are there any vegans here who have some staples they love and that aren't incredibly time-consuming to prepare? I need to avoid fruit for a while, and slowly integrate berries (lowest sugar content) and other fruits in time. For now the focus needs to be on leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and cold pressed organic oils.
posted by Avosunspin to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not vegan but what about curry (mostly fat) with tofu (mostly protein, low carb) and your choice of veggies (mostly low carb)? I make different combinations of curry all the time and it's great by itself without eating it on top of rice. You can also make it with any combo of veggies you like and adjust the flavor/spiciness to your liking. Maybe there's something different or better than tofu that you can use for protein, but I'm not familiar with soy besides tofu.

*note - a lot of curry recipes call for a Tbsp of butter but it's totally unncessary. I never use butter and my curries comes out fantastic. All you need is coconut milk and curry powder or a jar of paste. Flour is used to thicken it up but is also verifiably unnecessary.

I don't know if you consider beans low-carb or not, but if you buy dry beans and properly soak them, it reduces the starch content and is said to increase the protein. Beans can be a part of your diet if they're not already, and re-fried beans are fantastic.

Have you ever had beet greens? If you like beets, you'll love the greens. They're also filled with tons of good-for-you stuff and are a great way to eat more greens. I boil them for a couple of minutes until they're soft and salt them a little but I'm sure you can find beet green recipes if that is something you think you'd like. I only mention them because I don't think most people are aware of how amazing beet greens are.
posted by atinna at 7:27 PM on September 26, 2015

I'm not a vegan but I'm a diabetic. One thing I eat regularly that might fit your needs is hiyayakko, basically a slab of tofu with whatever your favorite toppings are. I particularly like dried apricots combined with more Japanese stuff, though of course you don't want to go too heavy on the dried fruit.

Pickled stuff is good too and you can eat it right out of a jar or put it on a salad. My two favorite pickled things are full of seeds: pickled okra and caper berries. (Not capers, which are flower buds, but the berries from the same plant which are pickled.)

There's a spectrum of Americanized recipes based on African dishes that involve kale or another leafy green cooked with peanut butter or peanut flour and seasonings, which I'm fond of.
posted by XMLicious at 7:34 PM on September 26, 2015

You can find some useful stuff on /r/vegetarianketo.
posted by callmejay at 7:49 PM on September 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

For now the focus needs to be on leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and cold pressed organic oils.

Well, it seems simplistic, but eat those things.

When I first started eating to get my blood sugar under control, I had to strip it down to the absolute basics and forego the sauces and preparations and eat foods in their simplest forms at first.

You will need to decide if things like tofu, squash (summer and winter), beans etc have a place in your diet - and you may have to determine this using a blood glucose meter, because the glycemic reaction you have to these things is going to be genetic and situational. Your response to them may be different based on cooking method, and also on cooling/storing method (look into "resistant starch" for more info).

Right now, I think Ottolenghi's vegetarian cookbooks and the old Moosewood standards are probably a great jumping-off point for inspiration, but you will have to make modifications. You can also look to rely heavily on spice-based preparations for flavor (curry, dry rubs and sugarless marinades). Once you get your legs under you, you can start looking at wheat substitutes for lower GI options (coconut flour, for example, and almond flour).

I think it would probably be worth buying a slightly better than entry-level blood glucose meter, one of the ones with the smallest sticks, so you can use real data to figure out what works. This stuff is legitimately hard to do without animal protein unless you have some additional information about what works and what doesn't.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:40 PM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Have your sugar tested again. Make sure you drink plenty of water the day and night before your test. If you are dehydrated then all values will be higher. Get the A1C because it deals with weeks of sugar levels, rather than one moment. If you have anxiety about medical tests, that can also raise blood sugar. Make sure your hands have no sugar on them, and your lotion has no honey in it. Sugar on the skin surface can skew lab values.

Green soybeans, thai red cargo rice, because it is higher in protein and fiber. Chew your food really well so the enzymes in your saliva go to work on it, and the neural effect of taking time with your eating, is that your body gets time to signal for insulin release. Staying properly hydrated with water makes all interface surfaces more permeable, with less confusion at receptor sites and all.
posted by Oyéah at 8:51 PM on September 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Here is a meal I'm lately addicted to. Try cauliflower rice. . Most recipes suggest microwaving the chopped cauliflower, but I think it tastes best if you roast it first in florets and then put the roasted florets into the food processor. Use this "rice" as a base for sauteed or steamed greens like kale or spinach, add frozen vegetables like okra or mushrooms; tofu, nuts and/or beans; and some mustard. Throwing some seaweed sheets into the sauteeing greens gives the whole dish a deliciously complex taste.
posted by flourpot at 9:39 PM on September 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

I was going to suggest cauliflower rice too! I'd pair it with Indian curries. A lot are low carb and dairy free. If you look specifically into South Indian vegetarian cuisine there are a lot of 'dry curries' which are basically made with (mostly non starchy) vegetables, spices, and a little oil that you could totally make work, and if you can eventually eat lentils and beans, you have a whole world of international cuisine at your fingertips, and it won't be boring or sad to eat at all.

I think burrito bowls sans rice could also work well and are low on time and prep. And honestly I straight love plain salted lightly-fried tofu and stir fried vegetables, even sauce free. I'd also take the time to find a low-sugar vegan salad dressing of sorts that you love (esp. if vinegar and oil gets boring) and use it liberally.

ALSO I'm sure you know this but this is something exercise will help with TREMENDOUSLY. You say you are committed to getting it under control naturally--if you mean medicine free, then exercise is really important (not for weight loss purposes, in itself).
posted by hejrat at 12:27 AM on September 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

For a specific anti-Diabetes plan with a focus on green leafy vegetables see Dr Fuhrman's The End of Diabetes.
posted by blub at 1:04 AM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love eating a simple bowl of soba (or brown rice, though soba might be better for you) with tofu and a big pile of spinach or chard and whatever other vegetables happen to be in season. I could eat this indefinitely, though that might just be me. There are a bunch of ways to vary the flavor (green curry, or peanut sauce and red chiles, etc), but my favorite is to saute the vegetables with sesame oil, peanut oil, soy sauce, and garlic, and then throw in some green onions, sesame seeds, and salt. If I make rice I cook it with the oils, soy sauce, and garlic, and then add the vegetables in.
posted by three_red_balloons at 6:58 AM on September 27, 2015

Oh, meant to say, I usually buy Trader Joe's savory tofu to save time on marinating my own.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:00 AM on September 27, 2015

So people either love them or hate them, but Shirataki noodles are cheap, vegan, quick to fix and low carb. Many people will tell you to blanch them or stir fry them for better texture, and you must rinse them to get the weird smell off. I personally pretty much only like them with peanut sauce, but if you're a noodle lover you might like them with other things too.
posted by genmonster at 12:05 PM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am not a vegan, but have a special diet and some of my food tricks might help you.

Definitely embrace the cauliflower, it is more versatile than tofu (imo, super cheap frozen in bags, substitute for rice when ground up, as a mock cream base for soups when purreed, as faux macaroni, as faux humus when you purree and add tahini and lemon, etc.)

But also purchase a vegetable spiralizer! With it, you can make all sorts of low carb vegetable pastas that can be frozen ahead of time for easy meals during the week. This little $14 tool has really changed how I eat vegetables!

As for berries, I use frozen cherries as a stealth replacement for tomatoes. (Including in homemade bbq sauce.) No one has every been able to tell the difference. You can use marmite or coconut aminos to boost the umami if you want.
posted by skye.dancer at 12:25 PM on September 27, 2015

In addition to reducing sugars and carbs, increase your fiber. Beans, oatmeal, and if you eat any grains, make them whole grains.
posted by theora55 at 2:52 PM on September 27, 2015

Best answer: I'm in a very similar position as you - high blood sugar, high A1C, want to correct the problem naturally though diet and lifestyle changes. I'm very close to having everything back to normal after a year-plus of clean eating and exercise.

Two cookbooks that have helped me out are End of Diabetes and Forks over Knives. End of Diabetes gets a little questionable in its medical information, but the underlying message is eat more veggies, and gives some good (albeit stringent) dietary guidelines. Forks over Knives is somewhat similar in its approach to diet, and equally stringent, but is a bit more medically grounded. Also, Mark Bittman's VB6 has been very helpful for me, although not entirely vegan.

All that being said, here are a few favorites that have become staples in my diet...
• Over roasted vegetables: broccoli is my favorite, but works great with almost any veggie, including heartier leafy greens like kale or collards. Prep your veggies into bite size pieces, toss in olive oil, salt and pepper and any other seasoning you want (I use lots of garlic powder). Roast under high heat, 400'F or higher, tossing every 10 minutes until edges char.
• Baked tofu: press a couple blocks of tofu for at least 20 minutes, then dice into medium cubes. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or olive oil and arrange tofu cubes and sprinkle with salt. Bake under high heat, 400'F or higher, tops start to get golden brown.
• Beans: get in the habit of cooking dried beans, a pound at the beginning of the week lasts a good while, and you can freeze what you don't use. I love chickpeas. Plus the pot liquor is a great stand in for stock.
• Grains and brown rice: I find using the pasta method of cooking these is much better. Fill a pot of water and salt very liberally. Boil your grains until tender. Great for wheat berries, spelt and other larger whole grains.

Once you start keeping a good amount of all these on hand, it's easy to make great, healthful meals. Top veggies, rice and tofu with peanut sauce and it's a great bowl. Or mix in roasted tomatoes, fresh garlic and oregano and you got something vaguely Italian that tastes great. Mix and match, and the possibilities are endless.

Finally, my daily breakfast has become a kale smoothie: hemp seed, chia seed and flax meal, dates, apple cider, a pear, and several fists full of kale all go into a high speed blender.
posted by slogger at 8:27 AM on September 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

I hate to recommend this because it’s not real food, but soy powder has found a place in my diet. As a vegetarian, when I reduce carbs, I’m STARVING if I don’t get a lot of protein, no matter how many vegetables I eat. Hopefully that’s not your experience, but if it is, you may find that soy powder is a useful addition (along with tofu, seitan, nuts, beans if they’re allowed, etc.)
posted by metasarah at 10:44 AM on October 5, 2015

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