Monday, July 18, 2011

Vegetarian and Low-carb are not mutually exclusive

Let's talk about diets. Diet is one of those 4 letter words that your mother use to wash your mouth out with soap for (your mom didn't do this? I'm turning mine in to the authorities.) to me. Diets mean sacrifices and not eating stuff you really like and learning to eat stuff you hate. Seriously, the list goes on. But, to me diet means a change in lifestyle not a punishment. Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, low-fat, low-carb, Paleo or just all out carnivore that's a diet/lifestyle choice.

Take my vegetarianism. I started out giving up meat because meat made me sick. Like migraines for 3 days, 3 times a month sick. The more types of meat I gave up the better I felt. Now, I don't eat meat of any kind (yes, seafood is a meat. yes, chicken broth is meat because it's made from, well, chickens. And, please do not cook my veggie burger in the fat from your ground beef burger because you think it will taste better. It might but it will still make me sick to the point where JR packs me up to the hospital to stop me from vomiting. And yes, these are arguments  conversations I've had with people). And, while statistics say that vegetarians are leaner than those that eat an omnivore diet we can still be overweight. Granted very few of us are obese we can be chubby. I blame pasta. Let me esplain.

Since, taking this new job and moving to Texas I've put on 20 pounds. Granted I was still under what is considered healthy for my height but I didn't feel good and I didn't feel good about myself. So, how come I added all this weight? I believe that it is because I haven't been getting as much exercise and (this is the biggy) I travel a lot. I don't cook any differently than I did in Phoenix so that can't be the reason. I haven't been eating any more than I did in Phoenix so that can't be the reason. But, I do travel and eat out a lot more than I did in Phoenix.

As a vegetarian eating out can be problematic. Most restaurants feature one thing on their menu for vegetarians. Pasta. It seems that is as clever as they can get. So unless I want Indian food everyday that I'm traveling (good luck finding that in Waco, TX. Nothing against Waco but they are not known for their culinary offerings. Unless, it's steak.) then I'm pretty much relegated to pasta dishes.

Breakfast is usually eggs; please hold the bacon/ham/sausage, thank you. What does that leave? Eggs, potatoes and bread. Try asking for tomatoes slices instead of the meat, see what kind of response you get. It usually consists of, "huh? You don't want the meat? Any meat?". Some restaurants and some wait staff are better than others but I always have to  ask. It is never assumed or there is rarely anything automatically on the breakfast menu (or really any meal menu) for vegetarians. I pity the poor traveling vegan. My ordering is a study in frustration and sending things back or just living with what comes out of the kitchen (not always the best choice).

This has lead me to eating a lot more bread, pasta, potatoes and rice than I ever have. Thus, the 20 pound weight gain. Can I change what is on the menus of restaurants around the country? Not so much. What I can do is change what I eat at home and be very selective and mindful of what I eat out. 

Here were my options:
Eat less? I don't eat that big of servings anyway so not really an option. 
Exercise? I barely have any free time as it is and the gym at the school is a pain to get to, a pain to get a warm shower in the morning, and a pain to stop off at on the way home because I JUST WANT TO GO HOME!
Change my diet? Or as I like to call it; change my lifestyle. This was the best option for me and where low-carb eating comes into play.

As a librarian the first thing I did was search for information about eating vegetarian low-carb. You'd think that I'm the only one interested in this topic. There is scant information, only one cookbook and it is 5+ years old and almost no websites out there. It's like we don't exist. So, I did what I always do...punt.

I use a combination of recipe adaptation and a website that my friend Sher turned me onto ( to count calories and carbs. Though I don't worry about the calories so much because it takes a lot of vegetables to rack up a ton of calories but not so many to rack up a lot of carbs (carrots, while I love you, you are now not on the menu as a side dish. Look, we can still be pals but now you are a garnish.)

I'm not a big tofu eater so I save my carbs during the day in order to have beans (more fiber and nutrients) plus I like them better. I've pretty much given up bread, pasta and potatoes when not traveling and when I do travel I keep them to a minimum. I find that the appetizer menu works really well. Cauliflower takes the place of potatoes and I'm trying it out as a risotto substitute this week. 
Has all this helped? You bet! I've lost 18 of those pesky pounds in 3 1/2 months. I probably could have lost them faster but for the amount of travel I've had in the last 3 months (grueling). It looks like I'll be home for the next couple of months so the last 2 should be a piece of cake. Then it will be a matter of maintenance. I figure the learning curve on that is going to be pretty steep and pretty painful.

Staying on a vegetarian low-carb lifestyle while not as easy as an omnivore it is doable. You just have to be a little more creative but then if you are a vegetarian to start with you have to be creative, so no big deal. Plus, cooking is a creative endeavor (at least in my opinion) anyway.

This post was just to give you all a heads up about the fact that from now and in the foreseeable future most if not all of the recipes that I post will be lower in carbs than before. It is just the way I have to roll for awhile. 


PS: I'm calling this my Spin for this week. We were tasked with writing about food. There are others posting about food/cooking/eating food this week. Stop over to Jen's place to read what others have to say. I suspect Jan will have at least one post about her Paleo lifestyle.


  1. I can see your frustration with eating out.
    Congrats on the weight lose. Sounds like it was better than going on the dreaded D-word.

  2. Oh, I feel your pain on eating out. Those looks you get when you ask for no meat? We get when we ask for no bread. Or pasta. Or potatoes. Or rice. You really want to throw your waiter a curve ball? Tell him you don't eat wheat, rice, corn OR dairy. Wheeeeee!

    I hadn't thought much about blogging about the challenges of a paleo diet, but you know, now I think I will.

  3. Vandy: I hate the D-word. It is entirely over used and leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    Jan: I dare you to write about the challenges! No, I double dare you!

  4. Just two things. One, check the calcium levels in the water you use. I couldn't figure what was cutting a hole in my guts at certain times of the year. And found out that they change the source between a ph of 5 to one of 8 and a bit. It's one of the reasons why people went to the mountains for The Cure. But if you change to a water like volvic with low calcium you will find it easier to hold the weight to a level
    Two, Cinnamon is very good as a digestive aid. But with veg you need to be careful not to overdo it. A few grains on the tip of the teaspoon will do for that veg stew concoction you showed us a few weeks ago that fed four.

  5. Vince; Thanks for the tips. About the cinnamon; it has been a digestive aid for thousands of years. I think that people forget. Since, I have been a vegetarian for so long my stomach is use to it and has no problems. Others might not be so the cinnamon would come in handy.

  6. Sorry, the point about the Cinnamon is that when you put in with meat you can use vastly more as the meat does something to lessen. Anyhoos, it's as a result of actual experiment for I tossed in my usual dash-shake and dusting for the pot and I nearly died from the stuff. Next time I put a smidgen and it did just what I wanted and provided that 'sort-of- can't put a finger on', impression in the pot.

  7. Since we found out Terry has celiac's disease going to eat out has been a chore. Gluten free is catching on in the bigger places (is it a fad?!!!) but not here in rural America.

    So I understand.

    I so really understand.


  8. Let me know how that cauliflower risotto works out. Yum!
    You're linked and I completely understand about eating out at breakfast. Most places where I am offer all the pork in the morning and I ask for fruit instead or tomato slices.
    "What do you mean, you don't eat pork?"
    "It's not Kosher."
    "No, it's Oscar Meyer."

  9. I for one am thrilled that your recipes will be vegetarian and low-carb. I'm super excited about it actually!

    Awesome on dropping those pounds so quickly!

  10. Lucky you live across the Pacific ocean or I'd want to smack you (in a totally friendly way, of course) for being able to lose that weight in such a short time. I'm afraid carbs are holding me hostage at the moment, so I am in awe of you.

  11. I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't really love meat. I eat it, but I also enjoy eating a lot of meatless dishes. When I eat out, I am constantly amazed at the lack of vegetarian offerings. It would be so hard to eat at restaurants and not eat meat.

    And I am totally addicted to carbs. I think I love them.

    Great spin!

  12. That sounds very frustrating. I think restaurants should be more accomodating as more and more people are turning to the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle.

  13. That sounds very frustrating. I think restaurants should be more accomodating as more and more people are turning to the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle.

  14. While I tend to be a carnivore, I do lean heavily on the veggie side more often than not (much to Princess Nagger's chagrin - she's not a fan of the I have to get sneaky). :) But carbs are my biggest downfall. I love pasta and bread - and they love me too much. ;)

    I think you should totally consider writing a vegetarian cookbook - from the recipes you've posted, it'd be a big hit...I'd even buy a copy! Seriously!!

    Spin: Cooking Passion Started at a Very Early Age

  15. Pasta is my downfall, too! I am an emotional eater and pasta fits any mood!

  16. I love food too much to give any of it up voluntarily. I fear the day the doctor tells me I have to give up something.