Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How to Do a Vegetarian Low-Carb Diet

The driving principle behind a low-carb diet is to correct insulin resistance and fix any problems with the body's ability to mobilize it's fat stores for energy. A high-meat diet is not necessary to do that. In fact, you don't have to eat any meat at all. You can certain do a vegetarian low-carb diet if that's the way you like to eat.

What's essential when it comes to following a low-carb diet isn't the meat. It's getting an adequate protein intake, which means that if you are trying to do a vegetarian low-carb diet, you need to make sure you are getting all of the essential amino acids necessary to repair daily tissue damage, and a few extra protein grams that the liver can use for glyconeogenesis. Typically, a low-carb diet contains about 60 to 120 grams of protein, depending on how much lean muscle mass you have. A good rule of thumb is .8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, but your protein needs will go down a little once you lose some of the weight.

Vegetarian Low-Carb Protein Sources

Vegetable protein is not adequate, so while vegetables can contribute a tiny amount to your protein needs, it's best to get your protein allotment from more complete protein sources. Getting enough protein is essential to the diet's success. For that reason, many vegetarians do eventually convert to eating small amounts of fish and meat because it's easier and more varied to do a low-carb diet that way, but you certainly don't have to. You can get all of the protein you need from the following sources:

Eggs: Eggs are one of nature's most perfect foods. They come with 6 grams of protein and weigh in at less than 1 carb each. They make a great meat substitute in casseroles, crustless quiches, and salads, as well as more traditional deviled eggs, creamed dishes, and egg scrambles.

Milk: Normal milk is a bit carby, but Hood Calorie Countdown milk only contains 3 grams of carbohydrates per 8-oz serving. It's made by simply removing the lactose from the milk, so it still carries a nice 8 grams of protein per serving.

Soy milk: If you like soy milk, make sure you pick a brand that is unsweetened, and if you care about GMOs, it needs to also be organic.

Yogurt: There are a few low-carb yogurts on the market today that are thick and rich. Dannon and Blue Bunny are the two that I'm familiar with. They come in very small 4-ounce containers though. Many low-carb dieters use plain Greek-style yogurts. Others just use any brand that is plain and sugar free. The controversy surrounding yogurt has to do with how much milk sugar (and therefore carbs) is actually left in the product after it's been cultured. Many people believe it only contains about half of the carbs listed on the label. Yogurt does come with a very low glycemic index response, so a lot of low-carbers have been able to eat it quite often and still stay in ketosis.

Cottage Cheese and other Cheeses: The biggest problem with cheese for vegetarians is the rennet used in the processing. While all Horizon organic cheeses are rennet free, there are lots of suitable brands for those who want to do a vegetarian low-carb diet. Joyous Living has a very lengthy list of cheeses and Amish butters suitable for a vegetarian diet, listed by brand names for easy reference. These are real cheeses, made with cow's milk, but they also have a list of soy cheeses at the bottom of the list for vegans.

Edamame: These are fresh green soybeans that you can sometimes find in the frozen vegetable section in grocery stores. Our local Walmart carries them, but you should also be able to pick up an organic, GMO-free variety of Edamame at your local health food store. They do not taste anything like the yellow soybeans. These are just like a green vegetable. Since they are high in fiber, the carbs are quite low. A cup of Edamame is only 8 net carbs but has 17 grams of protein. That's comparable to 3 eggs.

Black soybeans: Black soybeans are the king of low-carb beans. They are made by Eden Organic, GMO-free, and available at your local health food store. They are also available online from Netrition or Amazon. They are al la dente right from the can, probably due to all of the fiber, but you can put them into a crock pot and cook them for several hours if you want them to be as soft as regular beans. These beans do not taste like soybeans. They taste very similar to a black bean. 1 cup is only 2 net carbs. If you prefer dried beans rather than canned, Eden Organic sells the dried variety from their website. You cook them just like regular dried beans, but it takes a very long time to get them soft. When I used to make mine that way, it took a couple of days in the crock pot before they were soft enough for salads and chili.

Whey or Soy Protein Powder: Although I normally recommend whole foods, protein powders are an excellent way for a vegetarian to boost their protein intake. They make an easy morning breakfast shake when made with low-carb milk, soy milk, almond milk, or heavy cream; or you can mix them with flaxmeal or other low-carb flours to make muffins. Look for a brand that is unsweetened or sweetened with stevia or Splenda. Stay away from the powders sweetened with fructose.

Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds are high in fiber, so their carbohydrate content is low. 1-ounce of walnuts, for example, come with 4 grams of protein and only 2 net carbs.

Tofu or other soy products: Tofu can be a nice meat substitute in stir fries or casseroles. Some people like it whipped into their protein shakes for breakfasts or snacks.

Wheat Gluten and Seitan: Before going gluten free, I used wheat gluten and home ground black soybeans in some of my low-carb baking experiments, but it's a bit difficult to work with due to the sponginess. Wheat gluten is the protein portion of the wheat, so it's very low in starch and carbohydrates when compared to regular flour. 

Low-Carb Products: Many of the low-carb products and mixes on the market today use wheat gluten, high-protein wheat starch isolates, and other high-protein flours. Low-carb tortillas, pastas, and flat wraps can help boost your protein intake while making your diet more manageable to live with.

Vegetarian Products: Many vegetarian products, such as veggie burgers, sausage, imitation hamburger crumbles, and even Quorn products are surprisingly low in carbs. Not as low as meat, of course, but low enough to work into your diet. Just make sure to read the labels carefully and try to avoid added sugars and starches.

Quinoa: This is the only grain that I know of that is a complete protein, but carbohydrate wise it is similar to brown rice. Quinoa weighs in at 17 net carbs per half-cup serving with 4 grams protein, so most low-carb dieters wait until pre-maintenance to add it to their diets.

How to Do a Vegetarian Atkins Diet

The rules for a Vegetarian Atkins Diet are quite different from the traditional Atkins Diet, which might be why so many vegetarians who have started low-carbing have either quit or switched to eating meat. A 20-net carb Induction can be quite difficult using only vegetarian sources of protein, and working your way up the carb ladder could take weeks to get to healthier vegetarian sources.

If you're willing to eat fish, you can do a standard Induction Diet of less than 20 net carbs for 2 weeks, before adding additional carbs to your diet, but if not, Atkins suggests you avoid their Induction Diet completely as it won't give you the nutrients you need.

Vegetarians are told to start out with 30 net carbs per day and include eggs, all unsweetened dairy products, nuts, and seeds from Day 1. That's in addition to the salads, vegetables, healthy fats, and miscellaneous items such as sour cream allowed on Induction. Simply count up your daily carbs, and make sure that you stay beneath 30 net carbs per day. After 2 weeks, you can evaluate your weight loss. If you're losing more than a pound a week, you can add a few more carbs per day if you want to. For example, move to 35 net carbs per day rather than 30.

Also remember, that vegetarian sources of protein tend to be lower in saturated fats than meat is, so you might want to use more healthy fats such as coconut oil in your meals and breakfast shakes.

The idea is always to make the diet work for you. If you need more carbs and are willing to settle for a slower weight loss in order to stick with the plan, then that is what you do. There are no absolutes other than to find what works for you and then do that for the rest of your life.

Vegetarian Recipes and Additional Help

If you need some inspiration or want to seek out some fabulous vegetarian low-carb websites, take a trip over to Pinterest and type "vegetarian low carb recipes" into their search bar at the top. What you'll get in a huge page of assorted vegetarian low-carb recipes from many different Pinterest boards that you can check out. For example, someone made pizza on top of a zucchini sliced lengthwise and someone else used eggplant slices. There are casseroles, salads, egg muffins, lettuce wraps, stuffed mushrooms, and more. A lot of the recipes comes from sites that are not focused on vegetarian low-carb diets, but it might give you some good ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

And while you're looking around the web at regular vegetarian sites, don't forget to visit Linda's Low Carb Recipes. She has a special meatless section with a star by all of the recipes that are suitable for Induction. But don't just stop there, click on the yellow "home" at the bottom of the page and check out her vegetable section, salads, breads, and miscellaneous recipes, for additional ideas and inspiration.

Also check out Splendid Low Carbing. Jennifer is not vegetarian but is a low-carb cookbook author that bakes the low-carb way without soy or gluten.

The recipe section at Low Carb Friends might also be helpful. They have breakfast recipes, salads, vegetables recipes, and low-carb baked goods that would fit a vegetarian style of eating. Plus, if you join the site, you can also ask for vegetarian food ideas in their recipe help section.

In addition, the Active Low Carber Forums has a special section set up for vegetarian low carbers that might be helpful. Although vegetarian low-carb dieters are few, they have a lengthy list of threads you can read through for more information and ideas.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Follow Kickin Carb Clutter on Pinterest!

I am so excited! I just figured out how to get around the new link policy at InfoBarrel!

InfoBarrel is an article writing site where I have published several in-depth low-carb articles and guides over the last year. I used to include a link to those articles inside my blog posts whenever one of them was extremely relevant to what I was talking about. I also had a listing of those articles in a special section called "Infobarrel Articles" at the top of this blog page that readers could easily get to. But I had to remove all of those links recently because Infobarrel's link policy has changed, and they asked me to take them all down. I'm no longer allowed to link from my blog to their website. At all. Not even no-follow links.

However, I CAN link to their website from Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest! While I do have a Kickin' Carb Clutter Fan Page at Facebook, it doesn't always work. A lot of the time, it won't allow me to post a link to my articles, so I haven't been to that page in a while now. I do plan to check it out again, but Facebook doesn't show new updates to all of my followers there, unless I pay them to do that, so that Fan Page really hasn't been all that practical in helping all of you find my low-carb stuff on the web.

Yesterday, while doing the dishes, it dawned on me that I could simply pin my InfoBarrel articles to the Kickin' Carb Clutter Pinterest board that I started a few days ago. By doing that, I can simply link to those pins whenever an article would be relevant to my blog post, and make it easy for you to get from here to InfoBarrel.

The path won't be direct. You'll have to find the article title I give you among the pins and then click on the picture. That will take you to a separate page where you can click on the "visit this site" button at the top of the picture, but I think that will be easier than the copy and pasting into a new browser window that you have to do now. Plus, I can make the links look nice in a "Related Articles" section at the bottom of my blog posts. This will only be for my in-depth articles at InfoBarrel, because Bubblews, Daily Two Cents, and Writedge all allow me to link directly to them - even though I haven't done that yet.

I do have an article on "Why Am I Not in Ketosis" that I just pinned a few minutes ago to see if it would work, so I'm really happy that it did. I also have a link in the right sidebar here at my blog that links directly to the Kickin' Carb Clutter Pinterest board, so the board will be easy to get to whenever you want to take a look at what I have going on there.

So if you're interested in taking a look at the Kickin' Carb Clutter Pinterest Board, don't be shy. I'd love to have some company while I try to figure it all out.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Do You Have Nightshade Sensitivity or Allergy?

Do you have nightshade sensitivity or allergy? How about an autoimmune disease? Arthritis? Fibromyalgia? If so, you might not be able to eat certain vegetables, fruits, and spices without suffering pain, inflammation, and other health complaints. You can even stall in your low-carb diet because inflammation can interfere with weight loss.

I didn't realize that nightshades were so common among low-carb recipes and menus until I actually looked at which vegetables and spices are nightshades, and then at what most people eat on a low-carb diet. When I did that, I was literally shocked! Low-carb recipes and menus are chock full of nightshades. For that reason, even if you are not allergic to nightshades, you might want to pay attention to just how many you're eating and cut back on them a little bit -- especially if you're having problems losing weight.


This is going to be a basic nightshade primer, which I'm hoping a lot of people will find helpful, especially since nightshade sensitivity is not uncommon. A lot of people have trouble with the nightshade family.

If you are not losing weight on your low-carb diet, have autoimmune conditions or leaky gut syndrome, are experiencing a lot of aches and pains, arthritis flare-ups, sensitivity to weather changes, fibromyalgia, early morning stiffness in your muscles and joints, heartburn, insomnia, or have noticed that cuts and bruises don't heal quickly, you might be sensitive or allergic to nightshades.

What are the Nightshades?

The nightshade family is botanically known as the Solanaceae species. They are toxic, as they contain a high level of alkaloids, lectins, saponin, capsaicin, and other problematic substances. These substances help to protect the plants against insects and other predators. In fact, there are over 2,000 plant species in this family, but luckily, most of them are not edible.

Even so, they are not usually dangerous, but they do cause inflammation and pain in those with immune issues, an unhealthy gut flora, or nightshade allergy and sensitivities. The most popular vegetables, fruits, and spices in this family are:
  • potatoes
  • eggplant
  • tomatoes, including tomatillos
  • sweet bell peppers and pimentos
  • spicy hot peppers, such as jalapeno or cayenne peppers
  • all chili-based spices (not cumin, just the pepper kind)
  • non-hot peppers, such as paprika (black and white pepper is okay)
  • garden huckleberries (not standard huckleberries)
  • ground cherries (not regular cherries)
  • cape gooseberries (not regular gooseberries or blueberries)
  • pepinos
  • goji berries
  • tobacco

At first glance, this list might make you think that it's no big deal, except for maybe the smoking. Potatoes and those strange-sounding fruits should be easy to avoid on a low-carb diet. The tomatoes and peppers are a bit tougher, but still should be relatively easy. However, looks can be deceiving. We're not talking about just avoiding a potato, tomato, or chili powder-based spice, such as paprika or seasoned salt.

You have to look out for the potato starch in pre-grated cheeses, avoid the brands of yeast grown from potatoes, never eat fresh fruits and vegetables that have been waxed with shellac, give up catsup, tomato sauce, and barbecue sauce, avoid the Palmitate Vitamin A in margarine and milk, and never go near anything on a food label that says "starch," "vegetable starch," "modified food starch," "flavors," "natural flavoring," "spices," or "vegetable protein," without first checking with the manufacturer for nightshades (particularly potato starch and paprika).

Basically, all processed foods and many fresh fruits and vegetables are suspect, including low-carb products.

Low-Carbing Without Nightshades

(*Disclaimer: Even though I have several autoimmune diseases, I do not avoid nightshades at this time. The connection between autoimmune problems and nightshades is something that I have only been introduced to while doing the research for this blog post. Therefore, the information below might not be 100-percent accurate. If it's not, please feel free to correct me in the comments. I would greatly appreciate that, so I can correct any inaccuracies.)

The easiest way to follow a low-carb diet without including nightshade vegetables, fruits, and spices is to first look over the list of acceptable foods for Induction found in Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution or take a trip to the official Atkins website and look at the foods allowed in Phase 1 of the Atkins Program. From those lists, you can create a new list that eliminates what you can't have. That will greatly simplify the process for you. However, keep in mind that these lists are only for Induction. There are lots of additional low-carb food choices that are not found on those lists.

Meat, Eggs, and Cheese: Fresh meats and eggs should be nightshade free. For cheese, simply buy the block type and grate or slice it up yourself. I often cut up my own cheese sticks. Meats are regulated by the USDA, which requires a grain product to be listed on the label. Nightshades are not a grain, so you do have to ask the manufacturer about natural flavorings or spices found in frozen meats or meat products, since spices almost always include paprika.

Watch out for ham, sausage, seafood, imitation seafood, and luncheon meats. Paprika is normally added to improve the color. Luckily, in the U.S. most flavorings are corn or barley based, but with gluten-free diets becoming more popular, potato starch is becoming more common than it used to be. For example, almost all packages of pre-grated cheese contain potato starch now, and it's also found in some taco seasoning mixes. American cheese slices (even the real American cheese that doesn't come in individually wrapped slices) contain milk, so you would have to contact the manufacturer to find out if they use Vitamin A fortified milk, and whether that Vitamin A was made from potatoes or not.

Meat, eggs, and cheese are the mainstay of a low-carb diet. They are the center or focal point of your meal. However, you don't have to eat eggs for breakfast and meat for lunch and dinner. Toss out the out-dated notion that there are breakfast foods, luncheon foods, and dinner foods. That will make planning your meals so much easier. For example, last night, I made a large chicken, cheese, and green onion omelet for dinner with a lettuce salad on the side.

Salads and Dressings: Cucumbers are waxed, but they can easily be peeled. Other salad vegetables, such as lettuce, celery, radishes, green onions, and mushrooms are never waxed. Tomatoes are obviously out, but if you think about the types of items you would find at a salad bar, the possibilities for fresh summer salads are endless. Bacon bits, sunflower seeds, minced hard-boiled eggs, and even some minced fresh cilantro or gingerroot would add interest to a boring salad. Try to think outside the box: cold black soy beans, fresh spinach, grated carrots, cubed avocado, sliced olives, radishes, snap peas, dried cranberries, blueberries, and strawberries are all nightshade free.

Salad dressings are a bit harder. Our favorite dressing is a homemade Thousand Island dressing, which contains catsup, so it is not nightshade free. However, there are dozens of ways to make tasty, low-carb dressings that don't contain catsup.

A caesar salad dressing, for example, is just lemon or lime juice, mustard, mayonnaise, some sugar substitute, and a bit of salt and black pepper. While you do have to watch the type of mustard and mayo you use for paprika, you can easily make your own yellow mustard. Or try substituting some horseradish instead. Dry mustard is also nightshade free. Homemade mayonnaise is also very easy to make, if you can't find a safe brand, and a lot more healthy than the prepared kind, anyway, since you can use a different oil than soy.
Blue cheese dressing is simply mayonnaise and sour cream mixed together with bits of cheese. Watch out for paprika in the mayo or starches on the label of the sour cream. A lemon dressing is lemon juice, some grated rind (make sure the lemon wasn't waxed), a little sugar substitute, salt, black pepper, and olive oil. You can even take an avocado and whip it up in the blender with some lemon juice, garlic, mustard, onions, fresh parsley, salt, and black pepper.

Other Vegetables: Look over the list of acceptable vegetables, and pick out the ones you like. We are partial to asparagus, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, pumpkin, spinach, and summer squash. Those particular vegetables are not waxed in our area, but if they do happen to be waxed, you can always use frozen or canned varieties instead. Salads are delicious made with cold steamed broccoli, green beans, spinach, mushrooms, chopped red onions, and even asparagus. Try serving them with a rich cheese sauce or creamy-based alfredo. Just make sure your cream cheese is starch free and use heavy cream instead of milk.

Instead of your typical potato or macaroni salad for summer, try combining several vegetables that you like really well, and then toss in some mayonnaise, lemon juice, and safe herbs. You can also use a homemade Italian dressing. While Italian dressing mix is low carb, be aware that it does contain wheat, so it is not suitable for a gluten-free diet. Many low carbers love their vegetables roasted. Spritz with a little olive oil and bake in the oven until they are as tender or charred as you like them. Simple stir-fries are another way to keep yourself nightshade free. They can be made with a wide variety of meats, vegetables, oil, and soy sauce. If you like your sauce sweet, just toss in a little sugar substitute, some minced garlic, and some minced fresh ginger.

Herbs and Spices: Learning to cook without nightshade spices can be a bit different at first, especially if you are used to spicy food like we are. But the trick is to not be afraid to experiment. We normally use a lot of seasoning salt, but seasoning salt is made with paprika, so that's out.

Try basil, cilantro, dill weed, freshly minced ginger (it's fantastic in chicken soup), oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon, garlic powder, or thyme on your meats and vegetables. Cumin is the characteristic spice of Mexican-based dishes, and since it's not a pepper, you can use it freely. Stick to single-packed spices and make up your own combinations. Also take advantage of healthy cinnamon, allspice, or flavorful extracts in your protein shakes and smoothies.

Seek out recipes for spice mixtures, such as this Nightshade Free Curry mixture, or use a regular recipe and simply eliminate the spices with nightshades or substitute something else. Experimentation is the key. Don't be afraid to experiment. Try something new. My hubby doesn't cook using a recipe. He simply opens up the spice or herb jar and smells it, to see if it might be something he may want to try in a pot of soup or beans. That may or may not work out well for you, but you'll never know if you don't give it a shot.

Living without nightshades can be difficult at first if you're used to eating lots of Mexican food, curries, chilies, and processed foods, but if you're suffering with joint pain, arthritis, or fibromyalgia, it will be well worth the effort to switch to a low-carb diet that is free of nightshade vegetables, fruits, and spices.