Weight loss, reduced risk of chronic disease, affordability, social conscience, and environmental sustainability are just a few reasons we’ve seen a shift towards a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. However, a vegetarian diet can have consequences for your health, if you start replacing meat with refined carbohydrates. Note to self: Summer bodies are not made of large servings of bread, pasta and rice!
If you’re considering a plant-based lifestyle to boost your health and wellness, we’ve prepared five top tips for stocking a healthy, low-carb vegetarian kitchen to help you get started.
Meeting your 2 servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables each day is a good place to start, when planning a healthy diet. We suggest you meet these targets with low-carb options, where possible. For veggies, these include leafy greens, asparagus, sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, capsicum and mushrooms (to name a few!). For fruit, think berries, kiwi, mandarin, grapefruit, passionfruit, and everyone’s favourite - avocado! Higher carb fruits and vegetables, including bananas, mangoes, dates, legumes and potatoes, are best enjoyed in small portions every 1-2 days.
Regardless of whether you are a meat eater or a vegetarian - if your goal is to shed some extra weight, this is some of the best advice you will hear. Why? The more you fill up on low-carb veggies, and the less on starchy grains and proteins, the less calories you will consume. Less calories in - you know what that means!
Doesn’t matter how you prepare your low-carb veggies – stir fried, sautéed, roasted, baked, steamed, spiralised, as a soup or as a salad - just make they dominate your plate. Make them taste delicious with herb-infused olive oils, crushed nuts, a sprinkle of cheese, tinned tomatoes or homemade dressings – we love miso and satay! To help boost the veggie content and lower the carb content of your meal - get creative! Replace spaghetti with zucchini noodles, rice with processed cauliflower, mashed potato for mashed pumpkin, and rice noodles with sautéed wombok.
Legumes are a staple protein source for many vegetarians, but if you team them up with rice or pasta, the carbohydrate content of your meal will skyrocket. If you would like to prepare a low carbohydrate meal, and are planning to include a small serve of whole grains, choose a low-carbohydrate protein to match it. We recommend using tofu, tempeh, eggs, or dairy - think ricotta, cottage cheese, or natural yoghurt. If you decide to incorporate legumes as your protein, for example a lentil bolognese or dahl, serve it with spiralised zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice. Serve lentil burgers in lettuce leaf ‘buns’.
A low-carb diet doesn’t mean a carb-free diet. Adding small portions of low GI carbohydrates will help to stabilise your blood sugar levels, boosting your focus and cravings between meals. High fibre options can also reduce cholesterol and support gut health. Sick to either 1 slice of wholegrain bread, or a ½ cup portion of low GI whole grains, starchy vegetables or higher-sugar fruits at breakfast and lunch. For a true low-carb diet, reduce your portion size or grains at dinner to ¼ - 1/3 cup, with some carb-free nights per week.
To avoid running out of low-carb vegetarian ingredients, or being stuck for ideas on what to cook, create a menu plan for the week. Make sure you buy enough low-carbohydrate fruits and vegetables, and vegetarian proteins. We also suggest buying frozen veggies and low-carb veggie burgers for your freezers, in case of emergency. If you’re super organised, start your week on a good note by preparing bulk low-carb vegetarian meals over the weekend – think soups, roast veggies, veggie curries and frittatas. You don’t want to be stuck ordering a pizza or preparing microwave mac-and-cheese!