Low carb foods - the vegetarian secrets
Adopting a low carb foods approach means looking at familiar ingredients differently, as well as discovering some new ones that can make all the difference. Here are some superfoods that can help you achieve excellent vegetarian low carb weight loss:
Soya in its myriad forms needs no introduction to any vegetarian! Choose soya milk over dairy to reduce carbs and fat, and use soya flour to replace wheat flour in baking (best to stick with
low carb weight loss recipes
at first till you become comfortable with the right proportions, as you need to add extra liquid when adapting from regular recipes).
Stevia may be a less familiar ingredient, it is a herbal product over 300 times sweeter than sugar, and a great way to add a familiar sweet flavour to low carb foods and recipes.
However it is controversial - banned in the EU for use in foods due to inadequate testing results... results that are unlikely ever to be forthcoming, as research costs money that will not be recouped, as it is a natural substance that can't be patented. It was banned in the US till 1994, though is now permitted as a 'dietary supplement' (NOT as a food additive). Many low-carbers swear by it, and as it is distributed in small packages the transatlantic online trade in this 'dietary supplement' is extensive. It is available freely to buy throughout most of the rest of the world.
Always try to buy pure stevia extract, as bulking ingredients will generally be carb based (which rather defeats the point of this being an excellent low carb food!). Use in the tinyest amounts initially as the flavour of the pure extract is VERY concentrated, and some people dislike a slightly bitter/licorice-like aftertaste that it can produce.
Almonds are a versatile low carb food ingredient highly useful for vegetarians, particularly almond flour which is useful in baking and can add low carb sweetness to your baking. It is made from ground almonds and is a lot coarser than wheat flour. You can try grinding your own in a food processor (but careful not to overdo it or you wind up with almond butter instead, also very delicious but possibly unexpected!) You can use it to put a crispy coating on for baking or frying, eg a marinaded tempeh steak (dipped in egg white first), but be careful as almond flour will burn at a lower temperature than wheat so watch you don't cremate your dinner!
Peppers/Capsicums are a brilliant low carb food for vegetarians, as they pack a highly flavourful punch for a low carb ratio, and can be included in a range of savoury meals and salads. The green peppers, which are actually unripened but have a flavour all their own, are lower in carbs than the sweeter red/yellow/orange ones, which should be used more sparingly. Don't neglect the visual aspects of food though, a sprinkling of red pepper makes a salad look wonderfully fresh and delicious, especially if you've been having one of those green and brown veggie dieting days!
Flax is one of the healthiest fats available to you, and your very best vegetarian source of omega 3 oils. Without getting into too much technical depth, it's really helpful in balancing your omega 3 vs omega 6 ratios, which can get skewed when you eat a lot of soya, as us veggies tend to do whether low carbing or not. Whole flax seeds store well, and can be ground or used as-is on a salad etc, and are very high in fibre - for this reason introduce them to your diet slowly at first as it can have a powerful laxative effect! They are jam-packed with B-vitamins, phytochemicals and antioxidants, and should be part of every vegetarian diet. If you buy flax oil, store it carefully in a dark container in the fridge and use well in-date, as it goes rancid rapidly. It is a delicate flavoured oil that goes well in a salad with lemon juice and light seasoning, and is neutral flavoured enough to add to smoothies (unlike that famous non-veggie omega 3 source, cod liver oil - eurgghh!)
Shiratake noodles (sometimes spelled shirataki) are new to western cuisine, despite being part of Japanese traditions for years. They are strands made from a plant related to the yam, so wholly vegetarian (even vegan), yet have scarcely any net carbs at all - you can
order them online
if you can't easily purchase them locally).
The noodles come either as pure shiratake or a product containing tofu (pictured), with slightly higher carbs but a far more pasta-like consistency. The pure shiratake divides opinion widely - it can smell awful when you open it (it's sold in a bag in liquid, that you must rinse very thoroughly, as it has an off-putting fishy smell), and the texture is very rubbery, especially if overcooked. You want to boil it VERY briefly, and serve it with any low carb pasta sauce, eg a nice pesto. They are not easy to buy everywhere, try your oriental foodstore rather than health or diet outlets. I think this one of the most significant 'new' low carb foods to have reached Western markets in years, and hope to see it more widely available soon.
Other important low carb ingredients for vegetarians include all the
vegetarian protein sources
as well as supplementary products such as protein powders. There are a wide range of these that can be bought from health food stores and sometimes gyms, mainly soya based, and widely varying in carb levels - so as ever, check those labels carefully, and look for unsweetened versions. They taste every bit as bland as they look and sound, but can be combined with smoothies etc for a powerful protein blast. They tend to be sold in expensive tubs, but the portion sizes make them good value on that basis, if you are going to use them regularly.
Green vegetables all tend to be low carb foods, as well as providing other vital nutrients - spinach, lettuce, cress, asparagus, parsley , broccoli etc. Mushrooms too are good, providing a chunky (dare I say it, 'meaty') taste. Other sweeter tasting vegetables (such as carrots, parsnips etc) are higher in carbs - see the
for details. Berries and citrus fruits provide good lower carb sweet tastes.
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