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!

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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.

Gluten free, sugar free Belgian waffles

This morning, for my cheat meal brunch, I decided to take my favorite Belgian waffle recipe and make it gluten and sugar free. This is not an overly sweet Belgian waffle recipe to begin with, the original recipe only calls for 2 T of confectioner’s sugar for 8 servings, so I warn you in advance if you like a super sweet waffle then you’re going to be disappointed!

Belgian waffles

Ingredients

1/3 cup almond flour*
1/3 cup coconut flour*
1/3 cup quinoa flour*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon powdered stevia (I prefer stevia in the raw)
1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other diary free milk)
1/3 cup water
1 egg white and 2 egg yolks, separated
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 scoop unflavored/unsweetened protein powder (optional. I use isopure unflavored whey protein)

* or sub 1 cup all-purpose gluten free flour

flours

Directions

Combine the flours, baking powder, stevia, oil, milk, water, and egg yolks.

Beat the egg white and vanilla until they stand in soft peaks. Fold into the batter (do not over mix). Mixture will be a bit thicker than a wheat flour batter.

mixture

Pour 1/4 of the mixture into each side of a hot waffle iron (assuming it’s like mine & makes two waffles at once) and bake for about 2 minutes. My waffle iron has a light that goes off when the waffle is done.

batter

waffle maker

Repeat with the remaining batter. Makes 4 servings (aka 4 waffles. What you see pictured is 2 servings.)

Top with your favorite fruit, fruit spread, nut butter, butter, maple syrup, basically whatever you like on waffles. Since I happened to have Fiordifrutta organic fruit spread in Strawberries & Wild Strawberries from my April Love with Food box that I’ve been excited to try, I topped mine with that!

fruit spread

finished

The Verdict

I was actually really surprised at how well these turned out! They were really fluffy, slightly chewy, and turned out better than the recipe did with wheat flour. The Fiordifrutta spread was tasty, but because of the waffles not being sweet themselves, I think I would’ve done better saving it and topping the waffles with maple syrup. Live and learn! The Fiordifrutta spread was a bit like a syrup in consistency however, so if it had been more than a sample it probably would’ve worked better. This cheat meal was definitely worth the work! I ate the waffles with scrambled egg whites and a morningstar farms veggie sausage, since this was brunch.

The great thing about these waffles is that they freeze REALLY well (at least the wheat flour recipe does!) When I have made these in the past with wheat flour, I usually freeze the extras in a gallon sized ziplock bag and then eat them just like a store-bought frozen waffle. Pop it in the toaster and you’re good to go. I am freezing the uneaten waffles from this batch, so I will report back on how they do!

Note: the original recipe link does contain nutrition info. I did not crunch the numbers on this, partially because it was a cheat meal and partially because I just didn’t want to go to the effort of it! If you try this recipe, comment and tell me what you think!

Printer friendly recipe here!

yum

brunch