How to Do the Eco-Atkins Diet Plan Correctly


Egg and Veggie Omelette
Are you a vegetarian that wants to go Keto?
Here's everything you need to know
for a successful Eco-Atkins diet

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If you've been curious about keto, but don't eat meat, the Atkins Diet is not off limits. People have been doing a variety of low-carb vegetarian programs for as long as I have been on the Internet.

The driving principle behind a low-carb diet is to correct insulin resistance and fix any problems with the body's ability to mobilize its fat stores for energy. This has nothing to do with eating meat.

Being in ketosis will help control your appetite, improve cardiac markers, and balance blood glucose levels, but you don't need a high-meat diet to do that. In fact, with the Eco-Atkins Diet Plan, you don't have to eat any meat at all.


When it comes to following a low-carb diet, what's essential is to get an adequate amount of protein foods. If you're trying to do a vegetarian keto diet, you need to make sure that you are getting all the essential amino acids necessary to repair any daily tissue damage.

You'll also need a few extra protein grams that the liver can use for glyconeogenesis, if needed. Popping a few fish oil capsules or flaxseed oil is also a good idea. 

Typically, a low-carb diet contains about 72 to 120 grams of protein, depending on how much lean muscle mass you have. A good rule of thumb is to eat .8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, especially if you're using non-meat sources, but your protein needs will go down as you carve off the pounds.

At first glance, a vegetarian low-carb meal might appear to be tricky, but a little creativity and some ingenuity can make the program quite doable. The key is to adequately prepare ahead of time, before you dive into the program, so here's everything that you need to know to make the Eco-Atkins Diet successful.


Pinterest Image; Stuffed Mushrooms

What are Vegetarian Low-Carb Protein Sources?



I'm starting with protein because it's so vital to a keto diet, and because many vegetarians struggle to get enough, even without cutting back on the carbs.

The proteins in traditional vegetables is not adequate by itself. Most sources lack one or more essential amino acids, so while vegetables can contribute to your overall protein needs, it's best to get most of your protein from more complete sources.

Since low-carb diets use the alternative metabolic pathway, getting enough protein daily is essential to keto's success.

For that reason, many vegetarians do eventually convert to eating small amounts of fish and meat because it's easier and you'll have a more varied low-carb diet that way, but you certainly don't have to.

With the advent of the Egg Fast and Meatless Mondays gaining in popularity, finding vegetarian recipes and keto meal ideas isn't as difficult as you think.

And neither is finding adequate protein sources for your Eco-Atkins program. You can get all of the protein you need from the following low-carb sources:

Eggs: 

Fried Eggs Sprinkled with Herbs
Boost Protein Intake with Lots of 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, egg salad, and egg scrambles.

For a unique twist on sandwich wraps, heat a bit of fat in a skillet until the pan is hot. Beat an egg until well mixed, then pour the mixture into the pan and twirl it like you were making a crepe. Cook the egg for a minute or two, until barely set, then carefully flip it over and continue cooking until cooked through.

Fill with your favorite sandwich filling and roll up.

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.

For a simple white sauce, you can thicken the milk using cornstarch, a pinch of xanthan gum, or other vegetarian thickener. Add a bit of butter, and toss in some veggie sausage-flavored crumbles or chopped hard boiled eggs.

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. Soy is a complete plant protein, so it contains all of the essential amino acids in the right proportions. An 8-ounce glass of soy milk contains 9 grams of protein

Yogurt: 

Dish of Yogurt Dip with Cucumbers
Greek-style yogurt is thick and rich.
Carbmaster yogurt is a smoother type of Greek yogurt.

There are a few low-carb yogurts on the market today that are thick and rich. When I first wrote this article in 2014, Dannon and Blue Bunny were the only two brands that I was familiar with. They came in very small 4-ounce containers, though.

Since then, we have discovered Carbmaster yogurt at our local Smith's grocery store, also known as Kroger in other states. The container is a more generous 6-ounces, reasonably priced, and only costs you 5 carbs. The 6-ounce container also provides 9 grams of protein.

We like the flavored yogurt mixed into fresh berries and a bit of chopped apple for a nice-and-refreshing summer salad.

Many low-carb dieters use plain Greek-style yogurts. Others just use any brand that is plain and sugar free, then add their own sweetener, fruit, and/or flavorings.

The controversy surrounding regular yogurt has to do with how much milk sugar (and therefore carbs) is actually left in the product after it has been cultured. Since the volume shrinks down to about half of what it was and the bacteria consumes some of the lactose in the milk during processing, many people believe it only contains about half of the carbs listed on the label.

This controversy has never been settled, and probably differs from brand to brand, but yogurt doesn't upset my lactose intolerance the way the same amount of cow's milk would.

Yogurt also comes 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 Eco-Atkins. They are 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: 

Pile of Edamame Green Soybeans
Edamame (fresh green soybeans) taste similar
to artichoke to me. They do not taste like soy.

Edamame are fresh green soybeans that you can sometimes find in the frozen vegetable section in grocery stores or in oriental markets. Just steam them like any other vegetable. 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.

To me, they taste similar to an artichoke.

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 complete protein. That cup is comparable to 3 eggs.

While I loved them steamed and served with butter, you can also chop them up and toss them into your scrambled eggs, quiches, omelets, and other low-carb casseroles.

Black Soybeans: 

Black soybeans are the king of low-carb beans. One cup will only set you back 1 or 2 net carbs, depending on the brand. These beans make a mean chili.

Originally, they were only grown and processed by Eden Organic, but today, other brands are also available. Eden black soybeans are GMO-free and available at your local health food store. You can also find them online at Netrition, Amazon, and even Walmart



In addition to the canned Eden black soybeans, Amazon also carries organic dried black soybeans from a variety of companies. Eden Organic also sells them direct from their website.

You cook these beans just like regular dried beans. However, if you live at a higher altitude, it will take a very long time to get them soft.

When I used to use these exclusively, I tossed them into the crock pot for a couple of days with my favorite seasonings. And yep, that is not a misprint. They took two days when I lived in Utah to reach the texture and softness of a standard black bean.

I don't know how long they will take here in Texas, since we are now at sea level, but the canned black soy beans cooked up very quickly when I used them to make a pot of beans.

These beans are al la dente right from the can, similar to cheap brands of canned fruit, but you can also put the canned beans into a crock pot as well, and cook them to make them as soft as regular black beans. Toss in some flavored TVP, chili powder, cumin, garlic, and onions.

You can even smash these to make your own low-carb refried beans!


These beans do not taste like soybeans, so don't ignore them just because they're soy. They taste very similar to a standard black bean. If you serve them to company, I guarantee you that your guests won't know that they are not regular black beans.

One-half cup of cooked beans provides a whopping 11 grams of complete protein.

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.

Plant-based protein powders make an easy morning breakfast shake when combined with low-carb milk, soy milk, almond milk, cottage cheese, or heavy cream. Protein power can also be mixed with:

flaxmeal
almond flour
coconut flour

or another low-carb flour alternative to make muffins, pancakes, and waffles.

Look for a brand that is unsweetened or sweetened with stevia or Splenda. Stay away from the powders sweetened with fructose. They are much higher in carbs. Protein content will vary by brand.

Nuts and Seeds: 

Mixed Nuts
Nuts can help boost the protein content of your
meals and snacks. While they are not a complete protein,
they do contain lots of healthy fats.


Nuts and seeds are high in fiber, so their carbohydrate content is quite low. One-ounce of walnuts, for example, contains 4 grams of incomplete protein and only 2 net carbs.

You do have to watch out for the calories, though. Although most nuts are low in carbs, with cashews an exception to that, in general, nuts can cause stalls if you overeat them.

If you can measure out a realistic portion and don't eat them mindlessly, nuts can be a good source of healthy fats, as well.

They also make a great alternative flour. Simply pop them into a coffee grinder or nut grinder for a simple meal you can use to make one-minute muffins or a low-carb substitute for a graham-cracker pie crust.

You can also purchase almond meal or almond flour at Amazon, Netrition, Costco, your local health food store, and the healthy section of some major grocery stores.

Tofu or Other Soy Products: 

Tofu can be a nice meat substitute in stir fries or casseroles. Some people also like it whipped into their protein shakes for breakfast or snacks. I don't really have experience with tofu because hubby doesn't care for it, but 1/2 cup supplies a nifty 20 grams of protein.

Wheat Gluten and Seitan: 

Before going gluten free, I used vital wheat gluten and home ground black soybeans (electric wheat grinder) in some of my low-carb baking experiments, but gluten is difficult to work with due to the sponginess of the finished baked good. It also is not a complete protein.

Wheat gluten is the protein portion of the wheat seed, so it is very low in starch and carbohydrates when compared to regular flour. A tiny bit of vital wheat gluten added to a low-carb muffin recipe can give your low-carb baked goods an extra lift, especially if you sub some of the flaxmeal with almond 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
Low-carb pastas
and low-carb flat wraps

can also help boost your protein intake while making your diet more manageable to live with.

Vegetarian Products: 

Many vegetarian products, such as:
  • veggie burgers
  • sausage crumbles
  • hamburger crumbles
  • not-chicken strips
  • and Quorn products
are surprisingly low in carbs. Not as low as meat, of course, but low enough to work into your low-carb vegetarian diet. Just make sure to read the labels carefully and try to avoid added sugars and starches, if possible.

Quinoa: 

Small Bowl of Quinoa Cereal with Strawberries and Blueberries
Quinoa has as many carbs as brown rice does.
Unless you have a high carbohydrate tolerance,
save Quinoa for the Pre-Maintenance Phase of Atkins.

Quinoa is the only grain that I am aware 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 cooked serving with 4 grams protein, so most low-carb dieters wait until pre-maintenance to try adding it into their diets. Although, with the new Atkins 40 diet plan, you could toss some quinoa into your scrambled eggs, quesadilla, or stuffed peppers.

How to Do the Eco-Atkins Diet Plan (Vegetarian Atkins Diet)


The rules for the Eco-Atkins Diet Plan (the vegetarian alternative offered by Atkins Nutritionals) are only a little different from the traditional Atkins 20 and 40 diets. On the surface, the main difference between a vegetarian Atkins and their regular diet is your protein sources.

However, a 20-net carb Induction can be quite difficult using only vegetarian sources of protein, which is why many vegetarians have either quit keto or switched to eating meat.

The ANA says that:
  • eggs
  • tofu
  • textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  • cheese and other dairy products
would supply all the protein a vegetarian needs to do Induction, but vegetarians have personally told me that the menu gets boring really quick, which is why they decided to go with fish and chicken. Working their way up the Carb Ladder was going to take several weeks to get to healthier vegetarian sources, so they switched to eating meat.

If you are 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 like nuts and cottage cheese.

However, Atkins Nutritionals says that even though you can do all four phases of the Atkins Diet, it's better to avoid Phase 1 completely because it won't give you all the nutrients you need. Vegetarians are told to start out with 25 to 30-net carbs per day (Phase 2) and include:
  • eggs
  • all unsweetened dairy products
  • nuts
  • seeds
the very first week. This is in addition to the salads, vegetables, healthy fats, and miscellaneous items such as sour cream allowed on the Induction Diet I linked to above.

The how-to is easy.

Just count your daily carbs, using the standard net-carb calculation, (subtract fiber grams from total carbohydrate grams, and you get net carbs) and make sure that you stay beneath 30 net carbs per day.

After 2 weeks, you can evaluate your weight loss and adjust your carbs up or down as needed.

If you're losing more than a pound a week, you can add a few more carbs per day if you want to. Move to 35 net carbs per day rather than 30. If you have less than 40 pounds to lose, you also qualify for the Atkins 40 plan, which starts out at 40 net carbs a day.

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 keto 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.

Additional Vegetarian Keto Diet Resources


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 is 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 keto recipes come from sites that are not focused on vegetarian diets, the same as our own low-carb recipes section in the navigation bar at the top of this site, 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.

She also writes a review for each recipe on her site, since most of them have come from other bloggers and low-carb forums.

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.

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

Here's a link to a 4-day Low-Carb Vegetarian Menu.

While creating a suitable low-carb vegetarian program will take a bit of creativity, as well as effort, you'll be able to carve off those pounds without having to change your preferences.


Vegetarian Atkins Recipes and Meal Ideas:


Armadillo Eggs (Egg-Salad Stuffed Jalapenos) - Just skip the bacon, and bake them whole or halved.

Real Strawberry Popsicles - Made with real strawberries!

Chicken-Alfredo Bake - This is a nice vegetarian Alfredo sauce. Skip the chicken and use sliced hard-boiled eggs with the broccoli instead. I'd also add some grated cheese to the top before baking.

Eggplant Lasagna - Use TVP sausage crumbles, instead of beef, and you'll have a dish that's fit for company.

Atkins Revolution Rolls - These make a great bread substitute.

Pumpkin Casserole - Made with pumpkin or real sweet potatoes, if you can tolerate the extra carbs, this makes Thanksgiving or any pot luck special.

Tangerine-Walnut Coleslaw - Works with an orange too!

Fresh Cucumber and Tomato Salsa - Great with crispy "just cheese" crackers or cucumber slices.

How to Make the Perfect Low-Carb Salad and Homemade Salad Dressings - Even on Eco-Atkins, salad will be a staple.

Fake Honey Mustard Sauce - My favorite dip for hard boiled eggs.

Easy Strawberry Pie - Made with sugar-free pudding mix and jello, this recipe also teaches you how to make a low-carb almond meal/flour crust.

Strawberry Shortcake - Don't stop at shortcake. Make sure you try the cupcakes too!

Comments

  1. Awesome vegetarian info. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're welcome. I tried to make it as informative as I could.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I found dried black soybeans (not from Eden Organic, thank goodness) and they are a fantastic addition to my weekly menu. They are delicious boiled with red onion and then baked with salsa and a small dribble of maple syrup. To die for!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm glad to hear that you found the dried black soybeans. We really liked them.

    ReplyDelete

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