Quality low-carb protein for vegetarians can be hard to find. These are my top 10 sources and a handy infographic – scroll below to see the comprehensive guide of 33 protein sources for low-carb vegetarians and pescatarians.
Many vegetarians are unknowingly high carb, low protein, especially those who don’t have well formulated meals.
Traditional foods many vegetarians eat, such as grains, bread, pasta, rice, fruit and legumes, are high in carbs. Quinoa for example – 1 cup of cooked quinoa provides 8g protein but an astounding 35g carbs.
Soy, another classic vegetarian protein source, is generally avoided by many due to the increasing research that is showing a link between their phytoestrogens disrupting both male and female hormones.
The debate over the health benefits/harm from soy and tofu can be a polarising argument due to the conflicting research (and who has paid for it to be published).
Soy, tofu and protein powders are highly processed, that is another factor to be taken into consideration.
So what are some healthy low carb protein options that vegetarians can enjoy? And how can you formulate a balanced low-carb vegetarian diet?
It can be done with a little planning and forethought. You may not be as low carb as some, but you can enjoy a balance of vegetarian ideals, with a lower carb goal.
10 SOURCES OF LOW-CARB PROTEIN FOR VEGETARIANS:
All nutrition values are sourced from cronometer.com
To become a low-carb vegetarian, begin by simply cutting back on the bread, pasta, rice, fruit, dried fruit that many vegetarians rely on, and all sweet dishes. No more juice, fruit based smoothies and bliss balls. No more tomato sauce and pasta. These are not well formulated meals.
Go for fully loaded salads with cheese, nuts, eggs and fish (if you are pescatarian and happy to consume this, I will write a post specifically for vegans in the future). Add some seeds, enjoy some natural yoghurt, sprinkle chia seeds or hemp seeds over the top.
Add plenty of healthy plant based fats on your meals. Read this article Ultimate Guide To Healthy Fats, and start using liberally – avocado oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, macadamia oil, mayonnaise (if you eat eggs).
THE TALE OF TWO VEGETARIANS
Vegetarian #1 – gluten free pasta, tomato sauce, tofu, bread, crackers, bliss balls, fruit, dried fruit snacks, smoothies, protein powder shakes, protein bars = high carb, high sugar, high processed meals.
Vegetarian #2 – salad, nuts, avocados, natural yoghurt, blue cheese, seeds, vegetable smoothies, nut butters, tahini, fish and eggs (if allowed) = balanced, lower carb, unprocessed meals. Diversity is the key.
1: LOW-CARB PROTEIN FOR VEGETARIANS – EGGS
Eggs are packed with healthy fats AND protein! While many people used to believe eggs would raise cholesterol and give them heart disease, studies have shown that cholesterol is not to be feared, inflammation is! Eggs make for a great snack or meal.
Eggs can be used in an easy egg salad, devilled eggs or egg wraps.
13g protein per 100g (2 eggs) & 1g net carbs
2: LOW-CARB PROTEIN FOR VEGETARIANS – NUTS
Nuts are another great snack option. Keep some in your car for an on-the-go snack. There are so many options! Try macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds. Check out my Ultimate Guide To Low-Carb Nuts and Seeds.
Nuts are perfect to be sprinkled over salads, into an avocado, or into vegetable based smoothies.
6.2g protein per 10 walnuts & 2.8g net carbs
3: LOW-CARB PROTEIN FOR VEGETARIANS – CHEESES
Who doesn’t love cheese? And there are endless varieties to choose from. Full fat cheese is the easiest way to add protein and healthy fat to any meal.
Anything topped with melted cheese makes life good. Eggplant parmesan bites, broccoli and cauliflower bake (omit the bacon of course), and then there are cream cheese stuffed baby peppers – the perfect vegetarian low-carb snack.
7.5g protein per 30g serving Edam cheese & 0.4g net carbs
4: LOW-CARB PROTEIN FOR VEGETARIANS – GREEK YOGHURT
Greek yoghurt is packed with protein, which makes it a much better option over normal yoghurt. We all know protein and healthy fats keeps you fuller for longer.
So enjoy some Greek Yoghurt for breakfast alongside grain-free granola with added coconut cream, nuts and berries.
25g protein per cup & 8.8g net carbs
5: LOW-CARB PROTEIN FOR VEGETARIANS – CHIA SEEDS
Chia seeds contain healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants and calcium.
Sprinkle some chia seeds into your salad, in your smoothie or yoghurt, or into your water.
Or how about a chia breakfast 4 ways – mocha, berry, cinnamon and chocolate. Just throw everything together the night before, and breakfast is sitting ready for you in the fridge when you are bleary eyed and half asleep.
3.3g protein per 2 tbsp chia seeds & 1.5g net carbs
6: LOW-CARB PROTEIN FOR VEGETARIANS – NUT BUTTERS
If nuts are a great snack then nut butters are even better! You can buy single serve packets that are perfect for spreading over vegetables like celery.
Nut butters are a quick and easy dip, especially if you mix them with cream cheese or yogurt. Add some spices such as chilli, and you’re set.
6.6g protein per 2 tbsp almond butter & 2.7g net carbs
7: LOW-CARB PROTEIN FOR VEGETARIANS – HIGH PROTEIN VEGETABLES
Did you know vegetables can contain high amounts of protein as well?
- Kale contains 4.3 g of protein per 100g
- Brussels sprouts contains 3.4 g of protein per 100g
- Spinach contains 2.9 g of protein per 100g
- Mushrooms contain 3.1 g per 100g
8: LOW-CARB PROTEIN FOR VEGETARIANS – SEEDS
Many seeds are high protein, just choose wisely and don’t over eat them (soooo easy to do).
Take a look at this article and full infographic showing The Ultimate Guide To Carbs In Nuts And Seeds .
Seeds are the perfect go-to for snacks, salads and low-carb baking flours.
10g protein per 3 tbsp (30g) hemp seeds & 1g net carbs
9: LOW-CARB PROTEIN FOR VEGETARIANS – LEGUMES
Vegetarians rely heavily on legumes because they are touted to be high in vegetable protein. Unfortunately, along with the protein, legumes are incredibly high in carbs. In fact, generally they are 1:2: protein:carb values.
Because legumes are the main source of protein for many vegetarians, to start living low carb, it is imperative to cut back on other obvious high carbs foods first.
- Peas – 1 cup cooked will yield 8.2g protein, with 17.2g net carbs. So peas are to be limited.
- Lentils – 1 cup cooked yields 17.9g protein & 28.3g net carbs
- Chickpeas – 1 cup cooked yields 14.5g protein but a whopping 32.5g net carbs
10: LOW-CARB PROTEIN FOR VEGETARIANS – FISH
If you’re a pescetarian, then you can enjoy the many benefits of fish! It’s an excellent source of complete protein and healthy omega 3’s.
Need a quick on-the-go snack? Try canned tuna or salmon. Add it to your salad and voila, you’ve got a delicious, low-carb meal.
Why not pour a tin/can of tuna into an avocado, sprinkle with some seeds and nuts, drizzle over some macadamia oil – and you’re done.
78.4g protein per 14oz/308g fillet & ZERO carbs
While vegetarians might feel like their low-carb options are limited, they truly do have many alternatives!
There are so many low-carb protein packed foods out there, it simply takes a little planning and fun cooking. Try these vegetarian recipes, it’s easy plan a weekly meal plan from them.