Low Carb Vegan?

I was asked a pretty interesting question recently: Is there such a thing as a healthy Low Carb Vegan?

My answer: No, not really. But there is lower carb vegan cuisine. Or better carb vegan cuisine. By their nature, vegan foods are pretty darn high in carbs. And that’s ok. Carbs are not the enemy!

Let’s back up a bit. In the simplest terms, there are only three kinds of foods: protein, fats and carbohydrates (your only source of fiber fyi).

There are absolutely vegan sources of protein, however most have a fair amount of carbs. For example tempeh, which is a fermented soy product, has about 31 g protein and 16 g of carbs per cup. One cup of almonds has 24 g of each protein and carbs. And one cup of lentils has about 40 g carbs and about 17 g of protein.

If you’re vegan and looking to reduce carbs, here are a few tips… (heck, we can ALL use these)…

Limit High Carb Grains.

Combining a small amount of grains with beans can be a great way to get your protein- but too much will ramp up your carbs quickly. I know you’re no stranger to quinoa (which is actually a seed, not a grain). Be sure to enjoy a variety of higher protein “grains”.  Try amaranth (another seed) or buckwheat (which is actually not wheat at all). Keep portions moderate. Focus on vegetables being the stars of your meals.

Eat Fats.

Low carb doesn’t necessarily have to mean mega protein. So… that could mean you get the bulk of your calories from fat. Pure fat (like extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil) has absolutely no carbs. Nuts are carbs. protein, and fats. By eating more fat, you’ll need less quantity of food to feel satisfies, and that will in turn, lower your carb intake. Please be sure to eat lots of veggies too!

(Some people actually go on an all fat diet, and you can imagine that the spectrum of nutrients is very limited to make this a long-term lifestyle choice.)

Lower Carb Veggies. 

If you’re determined to lower your carb consumption, be a bit choosy regarding the veggies on your plate (or in your blender). Hug your greens! If it tastes sweet, it means more carbs. So carrots, bell peppers, beets… might be taking a back seat for a while.

Limit Fruit.

Fruits are awesome! And if your goal is to go lower carb, try eating at least twice as many vegetables as you do fruit. See how you feel. Tropical fruits like papaya, mango, pineapple are higher in carbohydrates than dark berries like blueberries and blackberries.

I tend to work with a lot of “recovering” vegans. Well intentioned clients who adapted a vegan diet but ended up eating lots of packaged foods, lots of grains, and frankly waaaaaay too much sugar. Their cravings were out of control, and the health benefits they hoped for never materialized. I hope these tips help!

I absolutely respect all the reasons one way may choose a vegan lifestyle- including the reverence for our animal brothers and sisters. It’s my mission to bring that type of deep respect to EVERYTHING we eat (including our fruit + veggie brothers and sisters). NOTHING is separate from us. EVERYTHING on Earth has been touched by Spirit, and we have the opportunity to celebrate that with every single bite.