My Low Carb Vegetarian Adventure – Yes You Can Do Keto Meat Free!

In any long term health and weight loss journey, you’re going to hit points where you lose momentum. Any time you’re attempting to lose a significant amount of weight, 50, 100, 150 pounds, sometimes more, it is going to take a significant amount of time. If you lose a large amount of weight very quickly, like people do on shows like The Biggest Loser, you will likely gain it all back. Losing slowly, you have a better chance to keep it off but you are talking about doing this over years. It’s very easy to get lazy, cheat too much with food, not put your all into your workouts, especially after you’ve lost a lot of weight.

I hit a plateau and decided to try low carb

On a whim, after seeing it on a friend’s Instagram, I decided to try Bodybuilding.com’s “Still in it 17” challenge. I knew my eating had gotten lax, I wanted to kick the sugar and kick my own ass so I decided that I wanted to try a high protein diet. I have been a vegetarian or a pescatarian (eating seafood but no other meat) on and off for most of my life, and after a bad experience with some raw chicken 7 or 8 years ago I have been sickened by the thought of ever eating it again.

I knew that I did not want to add any animal proteins to my diet but I was sure that there was a way to do high protein without eating more meat.

I tried eating high protein without adding meat

Eating more things like peanut butter, tofu, and cheese had an unanticipated effect – when I looked at my macro breakdowns I found I was actually eating high FAT not high protein, so I decided to try the ketogenic diet (usually called keto), which is a high fat low carb diet since that is basically what I was doing anyway. While not counting macros I check my percentage breakdowns in SparkPeople (you can do the same thing in MyFitnessPal if you prefer it) to make sure that I was getting higher percentages of fat and protein that I am carbs. My goal is 50-60 grams of carbs maximum per day.

Vegetarian and vegan sources of protein

Because I found that eating eggs makes me nauseated, I decided to try tofu scrambles instead of eggs. Tofu is not carb free, but it is high in protein. I made a spicy Sriracha tofu jerky recipe from Pinterest and I highly recommend it for an easy to grab snack. If you are not concerned about consuming soy, edamame frozen in or out of pod is also a great source of protein.

I start every day with a spoonful of peanut butter and as a peanut butter addict I think this is the great thing ever. Because I am also lactose intolerant, I try to avoid milk products. In the past I used whey protein but my favorite protein shakes are the Vega One vegan All-In-One Nutritional Shakes. My favorite flavor is mocha because you can mix in coffee. I make them with almond milk but you could also make them with dairy if you don’t limit your dairy. As with the tofu, these do contain carbs but not huge amounts. When I first tried the Vega One I ordered the variety pack from Amazon so that I could try a couple different flavors without having to buy a big expensive jar. I do find that the prices on the Vega One are in line with most other protein shakes and powders but they have no added sugar. Sugar = carbs.

Keto helped me drop body fat very quickly

The point of the keto diet in a nutshell is that when you don’t consume enough carbohydrates to fuel your body, it will begin burning the fat that you currently have stored. Losing fat is what makes your body more attractive – we all want to lose belly fat but diet and exercise alone don’t necessarily reduce your body fat quickly. The combination of being in ketosis and lifting weights helped me lose almost 2% body fat in 2 months. As long as I stay in ketosis, which for me is around 50-60 grams of carbs max per day, I will notice the body fat percentage on my scale drops every day. I use a product that I bought on Amazon to identify when I am in ketosis, Nurse Hatty® – Ketone Strips 150ct they are $6 and it is good to make sure you get into and stay into ketosis when you are just starting out.

Vegetables contain carbs but that’s ok

Low carb is not no carb. It is unhealthy and dangerous to attempt to eat zero carbs. The best thing to do is to keep track of your carbs to make sure you stay within your target grams.What you want is for your carbs to come from vegetables and NOT from refined carbohydrates like oats, any bread including wheat bread, crackers, pastas (even gluten free pastas are high in carbs!), corn products, etc. I choose to eat some beans but I do it selectively. Make sure that you measure everything because it is very easy to go over on your portion sizes and end up consuming much more than you mean to!

If you are vegetarian, eggs and milk products are also good sources of protein, just make sure to go with full-fat not low fat. The point of keto is to consume high fat don’t forget! Eat the whole egg not just the egg whites. If you eat seafood, as I do, it’s easy to make sure to eat salmon or shrimp for one meal. It can be expensive though. Aside from frozen wild pacific salmon I mostly only eat seafood when I’m in a restaurant. It is very tough to eat low-carb and vegetarian at fast food restaurants but in general you should avoid fast food as much as possible.

My Daily diet – what i eat on a vegetarian keto diet

My average day of food is a spoonful of peanut butter with coffee; plain 2% Fage yogurt with liquid vanilla stevia and pumpkin seeds either before or after my workout depending on how hungry I am and my schedule. I typically have a Vega One protein shake after my workout. Snacks are peanuts or mixed nuts. Lunch is a tofu scramble with lots of fresh peppers, and I might have a morningstar farms veggie sausage or some frozen vegetables depending on what I have going on – if I know I am going to be eating out for dinner I might save carbs for that. I find that eating this way I do not get really hungry or have food cravings like I used to but if I want an afternoon snack it is usually some cheese, I might eat half an apple if I have those around. Because of my fructose allergy I cannot eat a lot of fruit whether I’m doing ketogenic or not. Dinner is baked salmon with salad dressing on it, or shrimp on a giant salad, if I’m eating out I tend to choose the same type of thing, grilled fish or shrimp. Be careful with sauces they almost always have sugar in them! Some days I plug everything into SparkPeople and find that I am under 1200 calories so I will eat some cheese or nuts to make sure my daily calories are not too low. If I want a treat often I will have a protein shake because they really are good but I might have some dark chocolate or some Halo Top ice cream.

My results so far pictures speak louder than words

I have lost a little weight but the body fat is what makes a huge difference in the way that I look and feel. In just four weeks of the Bodybuilding.com challenge I have had huge visible changes. I now wear a size medium t-shirt, something I have not done in years! It was hard for me to believe at first but after buying three different shirts in three different brands, including one on vacation in Canada, I have accepted I do wear a size medium shirt now!

The saying is true: Abs are made in the kitchen not the gym. Workouts are important but you CANNOT out-exercise a bad diet.

My Weekly workout plan

I work out  for 30-45 minutes, 5-6 days a week alternating cardio and weight training. Upper body, cardio, lower body, cardio, active rest, core work + lower body. For this current challenge I have been doing the BodyBuilding.com Still In It 17 workouts. I am Not26Anymore on Bodyspace, feel free to add me!

This post contains affiliate links. Using affiliate links helps support this site, thank you for your support!

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Protein Waffles

img_9812I love waffles. Waffles however, are full of carbs, gluten, and a lot of sugar in many recipes. So as I’ve been doing the latest DietBet (Mama Laughlin’s Dietbet) I wanted to have something for brunch that was a little healthier than the traditional waffle. Now, I do have a gluten free, sugar free belgian waffle recipe that I made by modifying my favorite traditional belgian waffle recipe, but gluten free flour is not low calorie.

I decided I wanted to try some protein waffles, so I came upon this recipe for protein waffles from Kim’s Cravings and decided to give it a try. The first try was a disaster, because my waffle maker which was nonstick died, and my mom gave me hers since she never uses it, and it is apparently NOT nonstick. I ended up with pieces of protein waffle that I drizzled coconut almond butter on. Not photogenic. I did make some changes but they are really small. Visit Kim’s website for her recipe, I changed it up because I have only unsweetened/unflavored protein powder and I also wanted to use a whole egg.

Protein Waffles
Original recipe by Kim’s Cravings, I barely modified this is basically her recipe.

Ingredients

1 scoop unflavored protein powder
1 whole egg
6-10 drops of vanilla liquid stevia
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon ground cinnamon

You will probably also need some water, depending on how thick the mixture is. When I used whey protein I only needed about a tablespoon, but with the pea protein I needed 1/4 cup or so.

Directions

Heat waffle iron.

In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg with a fork, then add stevia and vanilla extract.
Add dry ingredients, baking powder, cinnamon, and then protein powder.
At this point, once all dry ingredients are mixed and there are no lumps, determine if you need to add water. Add water one tablespoon at a time until it is at the right consistency.

Once the waffle iron is hot, spray it with non-stick cooking spray. Add the batter to the iron and cook according to the waffle iron’s instructions. This recipe makes 1-2 waffles depending on the consistency of the batter. It definitely makes no more than one serving.

img_9826I had no trouble getting two golden brown waffles with pea protein but with whey protein it would only make 1-1/2.

The first time I tried the recipe, I used my go-to protein powder, Isopure unflavored whey. When I started using protein powder, I did a lot of research on which type to get and I decided to get an unflavored kind because it is more versatile. At the time I was interested in making sure that I was getting enough protein, as someone who eats mostly vegetarian, so I was dumping into coffee in the morning, soup, adding it to salads, basically any meal I wanted to add some protein to.

I have wanted to switch to a plant-based protein so I recently purchased NOW foods unflavored pea protein.

img_9810The whey protein did not make enough batter to cover the waffle iron, hence the holes. They also did not get that pretty golden brown, the first picture has coconut almond butter on it so that makes it look a little more brown. They were very crispy though, and tasted slightly stale and dry, probably because of the whey protein. The second time I tried the recipe, I added 2 tablespoons of Mama’s all purpose almond blend gluten free flour which did make them fluffier but they still tasted kinda stale.

The third time I made them, I tried my new pea protein powder and it was WAY better. The ones with the pea protein turned out much more golden brown, they didn’t taste stale, and with the 1/4 cup of water which  I needed to add to get the right consistency – that pea protein is THICK! Damn. Be advised that this stuff makes everything very thick. With some crunchy almond butter they were absolutely perfect and I want to eat them every day!!!

img_9945What’s great about this is that they are super easy to make, they take hardly any prep time at all, so you could easily have these on a weekday morning. You can top them with whatever you like, I used about a tablespoon of almond butter and around a tablespoon of organic 100% maple syrup. These two easily came out of the recipe although as I’ve mentioned, there is significantly more water needed than with the whey protein.

Next time I will make extra and freeze them, but unlike my gluten free non-protein waffle recipe, they are so easy and quick there’s really no need to make them ahead of time.

Peanut butter “fluff”

This stuff is so good, it should be called “crack fluff!” My boyfriend was complaining that he can’t take apples as a snack to work because he can’t find this whipped peanut butter he likes to dip it in anymore. Of course it is some sort of processed thing and I’m sure loaded with sugar. I decided to search pinterest and I found this awesome recipe!

It’s so good! I, of course, changed it up. I used:
1/2 cup Fage 0% greek yogurt
3 Tbsp Earthbalance natural peanut butter
2 Tbsp local honey

I’ve never used agave nectar and I actually just read an article about how it’s no better than any other type of sugar. I also like using local honey because supposedly it helps with allergies. I have no idea if that’s true or not but the local stuff is also a really good price at the local co-op. I think I will add a bit more peanut butter next time, the tangyness of the greek yogurt still really comes through. I used a little less than 2 T of honey, probably more like 1-1/2 to 1-3/4. The original recipe at Cookin’ & Kickin’ notes that it keeps in the fridge for 4 days. If it lasts 4 days, I would be very surprised! My boyfriend actively resists healthy things, he doesn’t like greek yogurt, so I suggested he modify the recipe to 1/2 cup sweetened vanilla yogurt and 3 T peanut butter. If he makes it, I will report back about that. Make sure you’re not using a peanut butter that has sugar or sweetener in it, if you do omit the honey!

Healthy-ish banana chocolate muffins

I have been so busy with grad school I haven’t posted any recipes lately! I have made some, I need to stop slacking.

I’ve been reorganizing some of my pins over on Pinterest, and started a board for just breads & muffins. I decided that this would be a great time to make Feel Great in 8‘s “Healthy Chocolate Swirl Banana Muffins”. Muffins and baked oatmeal are great ways to grab a healthy breakfast on early days. Mondays and Tuesdays are my busiest days at school, so these were perfect! I’m also trying to tempt my boyfriend into eating breakfast, he has a bad habit of not eating all day until 2pm or 4pm so I was hoping these might to the trick with that too. Who can resist chocolate?!

Chocolate muffins

For these, I didn’t really decide what to mess with until I started to make them. They’re pretty healthy to begin with, if you don’t mind 2-1/2 cups of wheat flour in 18-20 muffins. Personally, I wanted to cut down on the wheat. I subbed in some quinoa flour that I’ve had but haven’t had a chance to use yet. Unfortunately I did not realize that quinoa flour is a little bit bitter, similar to when you bake with stevia, so once I tasted the mixture I had to add more honey in order to make it palatable. I used eggs instead of flax eggs, and I added some cinnamon. I also threw some unsweetened organic coconut on the top of some of them, just to add a little texture.

Once I started, I realized no way was I swirling chocolate into muffins (they’re just too small and there’s too many of them!) so I decided to make them chocolate muffins instead of chocolate swirl. Make sure to visit Feel Great in 8 for the original recipe!

Healthy-ish Chocolate Muffins

1 cup quinoa flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1/2 cup honey
2 whole eggs
1/3 cup unrefined coconut oil (measured after heating)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 unsweetened organic coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 2 muffin tins or add muffin cups.
Whisk together the flour, cinnamon & baking soda.
In a separate bowl, mix together mashed bananas (I cut the bananas into 2″ pieces and then used a hand mixer to
“mash”), yogurt, honey, eggs, oil, and vanilla.
Fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture until blended.
Spoon batter into each muffin cups, about 2/3 of the way full. Top with coconut if desired.
Bake until slightly brown on top and a toothpick, poked into the center, comes out clean (18-22 minutes).
Enjoy! Keep leftovers refrigerated, or freeze and microwave on busy mornings.

You can try freezing these, but they won’t last that long! I split these between me and my boyfriend yesterday, (9 for him, 11 for me) and mine are nearly gone already. They aren’t too sweet, and they’re really moist! One thing I noticed is that in the oven they rise like a cake but then they all fell a couple minutes after I took them out of the oven and they started cooling. That wasn’t really a problem.

My boyfriend does not eat clean or healthy at all and he’s also not much of an adventurous eater (although I’m pushing him on that a bit!) so I gave him one of these before I told him anything about them. I just said “eat this and tell me what you think.” He ate it and said it was good; asked if it was gingerbread (?); and remarked how moist it was and that there was a taste he couldn’t quite identify (banana). Once he knew they were healthy, he still wanted to take them home, so I count this recipe as a win!

Chocolate muffins

Total Cheat – Chocolate Bread Pudding

My instagram followers might remember the Coconut Tres Leches cake that I made for Mother’s Day.

Coconut Tres Leches cake

I found three different recipes that I liked the sound of, and combined them. I think if I had left it at that, it would’ve been ok – but I decided at the last minute to make it gluten free and use coconut flour. It made sense, it’s a coconut cake, why not use coconut flour? Different websites cautioned that using coconut flour is tricky and it’s best to stick with proven recipes, but the main problem is that the items turn out dry and I figured I was soaking the cake in three milks so that wouldn’t be an issue.

WRONG!

I made the only dry Tres Leches cake in the history of the world. My mom loved it, but it was very disappointing to me. Another mistake I made was making it a two layer cake. I found one of those lifestyle blogs that makes even the most chic, together women feel like they’re shabby underachievers (you know the ones I mean, Goop anyone?) She made a lovely two layer Tres Leches cake, I’m not sure how. I made a cake where the top layer slid around when you tried to slice it, partially because the cake ended up dry to the coconut flour but partially because whipped cream icing doesn’t work as well on a two layer cake. I should’ve known, the restaurants make their Tres Leches cake in a rectangle pan, I needed to do it that way too.

When Father’s Day rolled around, I had learned my lesson. Sometimes, we want to indulge. A cheat can be all cheat, especially for holidays and special occasions. So I decided to make chocolate bread pudding, in all it’s gluteny, unhealthy glory. My father is huge fan of the Double-chocolate bread pudding from Red Fish Grill in New Orleans, the whole family is! I found a recipe that seemed simple enough and decided to see what happened.

Bread

Chocolate Bread pudding

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 eggs
¾ c. packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups milk (normally I’d sub almond milk, but I didn’t want this dessert to disappoint!)
4 cups cubed stale bread

Melt 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips, I did this in the microwave. Add, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, eggs and milk. Add bread and let stand 30 minutes, occasionally stirring. Ladle half of the bread mixture into a loaf pan. Spread remaining 1 cup of chocolate chips on top. Ladle the rest of the bread mixture. Sprinkle a few chocolate chips on the top.

Bake about 55 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Serves 10.

I found this recipe on Pinterest, it was actually on BeliefNet. I don’t like mixing religion and anything else so I’m not linking to the original recipe but you can find it by googling “Chocolate bread pudding beliefnet.” This recipe turned out AWESOME. It was a big hit! I ate mine with some vanilla ice cream, my dad opted for ice cream and whipped cream both. It’s definitely not low-cal, or gluten free, or sugar free, or dairy free (although I think it would be fine with almond milk!) but it was very yummy for a special occasion, every-once-in-a-while cheat.

Chocolate Bread Pudding

The case against wheat

Last year, I gave up gluten for three weeks. I have several friends who are gluten free for health reasons, so I wanted to do what I considered to be impossible – completely give up gluten and then reintroduce it to see if I had an intolerance. I was convinced I did. It turns out, luckily for me, that I don’t but the experiment taught me something important: a lot of the foods I thought were necessary really weren’t. I thought it would just be too weird to eat eggs without toast or a tortilla, but it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t really keep bread in the house before, but I ate a lot of tortillas and whole wheat waffles. Now I avoid wheat most of the time, because I’ve read a lot of stuff about how wheat isn’t that great for humans. A lot of the things we consume really aren’t – it’s funny how what we eat is dictated more by society and what the manufacturers make than what we actually need to survive. That doesn’t mean I don’t eat pizza now and then, or a sandwich, but on a daily basis I don’t eat much wheat. (Although my favorite morningstar farm veggie sausage contains gluten and is probably more processed than I should be eating – boo!)

Movie theatre pretzel

It turns out, wheat probably isn’t that great for us. For one thing, the grains of today are not the same as they were 100 years ago. This makes sense, if you think about it. If you try to avoid GMOs (aka A genetically modified organism, an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.) wheat is a definite offender. A study conducted in Britain found definitive evidence that consuming wheat products caused bloating and abdominal pain in patients with irritable bowel disease. You can read about the study here, and it includes a link to the abstract. Normally I only link to what I consider to be “credible sources,” a newspaper, a scholarly journal, something that it would be ok to cite in a paper for grad school, but because this site summarizes a scientific study and I can’t access the study, I decided I would in this case. I was hoping I could actually get a PDF of the study to provide here but unfortunately it’s not available online or in my college’s library.

There’s also a great article by Mark Hyman, MD on the Huffington Post about why wheat is so bad for us. I really recommend reading it!

Brownie dessert

It’s true you can also find as many articles about why wheat is fine and the gluten free craze is just a fad. I agree on one count, just buying cookies and crackers and processed crap that’s gluten free is not better than eating gluten. You’ll notice that my first post, the gluten free waffles, were still a cheat meal. Even though they don’t contain wheat, the various gluten/wheat-free flours still pack a lot of calories. Gluten free doesn’t always mean healthy.

I will never give it up 100%, I do like to indulge occasionally, but wheat will never be a part of my daily diet again. One thing I found when I gave it up was that my food cravings went away. Not cravings for rolls and pasta, but all cravings. I didn’t get hit by the urge that I just had to have french fries that wouldn’t go away. It seemed odd to me, but that’s what happened. It’s easier to make better choices if you don’t have a hankering for something specific and unhealthy. I think everyone should give up gluten for a while and see how they feel. If nothing else, it allowed me to realize that I don’t need a roll with dinner or a tortilla with my fajitas and that saves me calories!

Overnight oats (review)

Tropical overnight oats

Overnight oats are something that I was a little hesitant to try. I haven’t eaten oatmeal since I was a child, back then the instant maple & brown sugar was a favorite. A couple times over the years when I was trying to be “healthier” I’d read something about how oatmeal was healthy and grab a variety pack of instant oatmeal from the grocery aisle. I always added sugar, and it never seemed like anything special to me so I usually ate a few packets and then forgot about it.

Cut to my Pinterest obsession. Like a lot of things, I was behind the crowd with Pinterest. I love instagram, but Pinterest just seemed like a waste of time – sharing things that other people shared didn’t make a lot of sense. But during my internship this spring, a fellow intern was telling me about all these creative ideas she had for decorating her new apartment, and they all came from Pinterest! So I checked it out, and unlike the first time I looked at it, I was hooked.

I started my Healthy + Fit board full of things that I wanted to try, healthy recipes and different workouts. That’s where I came across overnight oats.

peach cinnamon overnight oats

I was intrigued at the idea of just mixing up some oats and almond milk with fruit and letting it sit in the fridge overnight. It seemed so simple, would it be any good? I decided to try it because I had purchased some rolled oats and then couldn’t remember where I had seen a recipe that called for them. (oops!) I saw Oh my veggies Coconut Mango overnight oatmeal on Pinterest so I decided to give it a try. Typical of me though, I modified the recipe. I don’t think I’ve ever made any recipe I’ve ever found without modifying it in some way! I changed this recipe because I couldn’t find unsweetened coconut in my regular grocery store, my mango got mushy before I sliced it, and I wanted to use honey rather than agave. This was a lot of poor planning on my part – it really could not have turned out any better though!

peach cinnamon overnight oats

I am eating this 5-6 days a week for breakfast now. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s cheap, it’s versatile, it’s vegan, it’s healthy – there’s really no downside to these! They have a hearty feel to them without being heavy. I feel like I’m having a good breakfast and they taste amazing.

My tweaks are pretty simple. I like sweet foods but for breakfast, I don’t want something that tastes like dessert, so 1-1/2 tablespoons seemed like a lot to me. I drizzle about 1 teaspoon of honey on the oats prior to adding the milk & fruit and stirring it all together. The peach cinnamon combo is really simple.

Peach Cinnamon Overnight Oats

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon honey
half a peach, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 scoop unflavored protein powder (optional)*

Stir it all together, refrigerate overnight, and then sprinkle some cinnamon on it the next morning before you eat it.

Nutrition:

225 calories
8 grams protein
39 grams carbs
5 grams fat
* don’t forget to add nutrition info for protein powder, if used.

coconut overnight oats

It’s less clean, but to make these take literally less than a minute to make, instead of using fresh fruit use a fruit cup. Read the label on those though. They’re ALL different. It’s obvious you don’t want the one that’s packed in syrup, but watch what they’re packed in! One little cup can easily be over 100 calories, some have artificial sweeteners, some are packed in juice and have more calories but no artificial sweeteners. I’ve only come across one that was packed in water and had no artificial sweetener. Each fruit is different with the same manufacturer too, so don’t expect Del Monte mandarin oranges is the same as Del Monte peaches. Always read the label! For the first photo above, the tropical overnight oats, I used a Del Monte tropical fruit in juice, so it’s a few more calories than a no sugar added cup but it as no artificial sweeteners.

For the original, tropical recipe, please visit Oh my veggies. I’m new to this whole food blogging thing, and I don’t know the etiquette of writing about and using other people’s recipes but since I didn’t really change much about this one I don’t feel right about reposting it 🙂