Losing Weight on a Low Carb vegetarian Diet
I must start this article by stating that I am not any type of medical professional nor do I profess to be highly knowledgeable about the exact amounts of vitamins and nutrients your body needs. I am simply a mother of 5 children who as always worked a more than full time job and one who needed to lose a bit of weight.
I have been a vegetarian for 5 years or so and did at first have a significant weight loss. As I started my trek into the vegetarian lifestyle I went for the healthiest options and while I am not a fan of most vegetables out there (long list of dislikes) through exploration, I found many vegetables that I loved and was also excited to learn and develop my meatless cooking skills. I can't tell you how many times I tried to pass off tofu for meat to my family! Epic Fail! Well, as time passed and the number of my children in the home increased.....my diet made a change to what I lovingly call a "BAD-Vegetarian". I quickly realized that cooking 2 separate meals wasn't always going to happen. So I progressed to only eating side dishes like rice or mashed potatoes with a dinner roll as my meal. I ended up with full plates of CARBS! Mashed potatoes, rice, corn, bread and cheese were the mainstays of my diet. After many holiday functions..I also learned that desserts were almost always vegetarian therefore safe. On a side note- I would like to thank the person who started the Bacon-dessert trend...turns me off just to see it but I imagine its fantastic. After the holiday meals, the gift baskets, cookie plates, and birthday celebrations were all said and done, I realized that I couldn't even call myself a "bad-vegetarian". I was now a "COOKIE-TARIAN". So, needless to say, the weight began to creep back on.
I had no clue what to do. I was increasing my gym trips to 2 a day. I was reducing my calories to less than 900 a day and still there was no positive scale movement. I understand that you can add muscle, its heavier than fat, and that can add weight but that wasn't the case. I realized the problem was HOW I was eating my calories. I am not the best at measuring and tracking so I signed up for an online program where I was able to better gauge what I was eating. Yes, I was eating a low calorie diet but very high in carbs....so still gaining. I tried the well known fat-burners, diet pills,weight loss shakes, and even herbal weight-loss remedies...STILL GAINING!
After some thought, I decided to go back to the only diet that ever worked for me-the low-carb diet. I was able to lose a lot of weight (about 40 pounds) that way when I was a meat-eater! I was never one of those "bacon&cheese only" dieters so I was able to execute the low-carb diet in a healthy way. My only concern was that I knew that being a low carb-vegetarian (who hates most vegetables) would require a little more thought. Hey- I had nothing left to lose other than weight.
By following the Lifestyle (I call it it this because for me it wasn't a quick-fix! I needed to make positive long-term changes), I was able to drop 20 pounds. I still exercised a few times a week but it mostly was all diet related. I avoided all carbs initially then re-introduced them after the weigt-loss on a limited basis. Here are some of the tricks that I learned along the way as well as a sample day for me. I would certainly consult a doctor before trying any weight loss program and especially before making the move to a low-carb or vegetarian lifestyle!
- I learned that it was pretty expensive to buy the low-carb and vegetarian products on the shelves at the store. So, used them sparingly. I also note that they are pretty over-processed and some not that tasty anyway! Making your own dressing and buying fresh items (bigger yields) was healthier and cheaper!
- To track success, you can purchase Ketone test strips. These are usually used by diabetics to track their sugar. They look for Ketones which in short are the result of the body burning fat for energy or fuel. I plan to go more in depth about these in my next blog. Basically, they let you know that the diet is working!
- Eat safe foods until you are full. Try to avoid over-snacking. Once you are used to the diet, you can add in more snacks.
- Don't eat late and DON'T SKIP MEALS!
- GIVE THE DIET AT LEAST 3 DAYS! The first three days of a low-carb diet are the worst! After that, your body seems to regulate.
- Take a weekend off every 10 days or so. Also, don't be afraid to have a cheat meal every few days! This is more of a lifestyle than a diet and missing out on important events like a birthday or office party aren't part of lifestyle plans for me!
- On salad dressing--I prefer to make my own. Ranch and other creamy dressing are usually low in carbs but not always the best for you. A little vinegar, oil, and seasonings Goes a LONG WAY.
- Watch out for items labeled LOW-FAT!!! These usually get extra flavor from sugar which isn't a fat but does become one in the body. These are usually higher in calories and carbs. For instance---ranch dressing--its better to go for the full flavor version than the low fat. Look at the labels and it will make sense!
- Eat for COLOR! If it's pale or white---it's likely a carb! Just kidding but it is kinda true!
- Diet sodas are okay but go lightly!
- If you accidentally overdo it on a "carb-y" item. Head to the gym or get a jog in. It's okay! The long term goal is to get healthy!
- Fresh and dried seasons are your best friend! They are all low in carbs. Also things like mustard and hot sauces are pretty safe. Sour cream is also low in carbs.
Some safe foods:
Asparagus, Onions (preferably red), Mushrooms, Green Beans, Certain Squashes, Cheese (in moderation) go for whole cheeses not processed, Cucumbers, pickles, Nuts (don't get the sugar coated ones:)) , SPINACH!, Peppers, broccoli, lettuce (again, go for the better ones like Bibb, romaine, endive, mixed greens), cabbage, mayo (sparingly for health), tomatoes, Celery, eggs, etc. , even Berries in moderation. Some people also add a small glass of milk at this meal.
Yes....a traditional low-carb diet allows for mayo, cheese, creams, BUTTER in any amount and it is true that you may still lose weight BUT again, this is a Lifestyle and adding that all day everyday can not be good for your heart and body!
Potatoes, Breads, Corn, Croutons, Chips, Crackers, Yogurts, Desserts, Sugars, Butternut and Acorn Squash, Carrots, Bananas, Most fruits actually are pretty sugary so avoid them in the initial weight loss portion, etc.
Sample Day for me:
Omelet (eggs, mushrooms, spinach, onions)
3 strawberries and tablespoon of peanut butter
a small amount of nuts and a few strawberries
BIG SALAD (load it up with safe foods)
Cup of Soup (I make my own-vegetarian french onion or chili (recipes to come later)
Veggies! Cucumbers, peppers, and broccoli with ranch dip and 2 ounces of cheddar cheese
Choose some safe foods sauteed in a little butter. Add a tablesppon of peanut butter, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes,and top with chopped peanuts if you want and its pretty darn good!
A few strawberries with a dollop of real whipped cream! Low-carb vegetarian isn't always bad!
This is just a sample of what I eat on a daily basis.Over the next few blogs, I plan to talk more about what you can eat and even give some recipes!
Making the switch to a low-carb vegetarian lifestyle isn't for everyone. For me, it was much easier than counting, measuring, and LIMITING MYSELF. It was so easy and unlike other diet and meal plans it was healthier, CHEAPER, and easier to maintain long term. I know that some people will question if I get enough protein...that's why I add the peanut butter and daily vitamins! I feel better and look better. After the initial loss, I added in black beans once a day and even a doughnut or bagel on occasion and haven't gained the weight back. I think this is why the diet works for me! I can eat with family and enjoy myself without counting numbers or bringing small pre-portioned salads!
I hope that my experience may help others who are struggling with weight loss and getting healthy. I think this lifestyle and even a HEALTHY low-carb diet for meat eaters is a great option! If you like your meat...add in meat on each meal. Stay with grilled lean meats like chicken, pork, fish, even a lean steak. Avoid the processed meats. You will get all of the benefits of a low-carb diet and not the added FAT that people sometimes add in---remember seeing the guy ordering the double bacon burger on a plate...it works for weight loss but can't be healthy in my opinion.
Remember that being LOW-CARB can be healthy!! Its not the LOW-CARB diet that it bad, it's what people have done to it. Follow this plan guideline and you will usually lose a pound a day while you are on the diet. If you have a cheat meal (in moderation...I mean a piece of pizza not a whole one) you may not lose your pound that day but you shouldn't add it either. Don't expect the results day one! As is typical with most plans, it will take a few days but I promise if you do it correctly, you WILL SEE RESULTS!
Good luck with the lifestyle and stay healthy!