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 Hattyยฎ – 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 outย  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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Diet bet! Jumpstarting 2016.

Over on Instagram (follow me! @healthyfoodwhore) I saw Big Girl Fit Girl is hosting a Diet Bet. After a few months of false starts, where I work out and eat right consistently for a few days to a week and then completely slack off my workouts (I eat pretty healthily most of the time) I really need something to kick start my workouts. Or really, to kick start me staying consistent with my workouts. January is a tough month for me to get healthy, because it is my birthday month, so I am bombarded with “free dessert” emails from restaurants, not to mention everyone taking me out to restaurants to celebrate! I’m also going on a four day road trip to celebrate my birthday and see my favorite band, Tool. The temptation to eat poorly is doubly worse when traveling, because healthy options can be difficult to find. However, since I am a pescatarian, I am already used to having limited places to eat on the road. I also found a wonderful app that I have yet to use, called “Food Tripping.” I believe I saw this in Health magazine. According to their website, Food Tripping “locates the closest eateries, juice joints, farmersโ€™ markets, microbreweries, and more.” I’m excited to see how this will work, not to mention that in rural Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas there just aren’t a lot of healthy places to eat. Sometimes the only vegetable options that are available anywhere are fried. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Even before I made the diet bet, I had decided to give up sugar for the month of January, except for one dessert whenever I celebrate my birthday. Even though the doctors at work are healthy guys, they brought us chocolate covered pretzels (a 2 pound box!) and a caramel corn assortment, some of which were chocolate covered. A coworker brought in leftover pumpkin cheesecake from Christmas because if she kept it in the house she would eat it all herself. My secret santa bought me a bag of peppermint white chocolate pretzels and a bag of mini reeces cups (In my defense, I only eat a few reeces cups per day…) and to top it all off I made 4 dozen chocolate chip cookies on Christmas Eve! I know the holidays tend to be a time where we eat poorly, but I feel like I lost what little self-control I had in some of those cases. Even though the cookies were for everyone in the family, I’m kind of ashamed at how many I personally consumed. Beating one’s self up does no good however, all we can do is get up, brush ourselves off, and shake off that food coma with a workout. I’m really excited to have made this diet bet, I don’t want to pay $35 to sit on my ass and slack off.

weight

My DietBet profile! If you’re on DietBet, even if you’re not doing Big Girl Fit Girl’s challenge, friend me. It never hurts to have extra accountability. I’m excited that so far one of my local friends has signed up for the diet bet, so we will both have some support that’s not just internet based.

How do you plan to get healthier in 2016? Comment and let me know!

Getting back on track

In the last ten months, a lot has happened! Some really good – I met and got into a relationship with a wonderful man whom I love very deeply; I graduated from grad school with a Master’s in Social Work; and some not so good – unfortunately I gained 16 pounds. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

I didn’t intend, as I’m sure no one does, to gain “new relationship weight.” I definitely didn’t plan on slacking off on my workouts and eating ridiculous amounts of processed food and wheat again, but that’s what ended up happening. I started out that my boyfriend didn’t really cook much, so when he made me super highly processed packaged ramen, something I would normally never put in my body, it was so sweet that I ate it. When he made grilled cheese sandwiches and soup, I ate it.

Of course, I did stick to some of my more rigid dietary choices; I definitely didn’t start eating meat again even though he was a pretty big meat eater when we started dating. Part of my not eating meat is a moral thing though, so that made it easier. Little by little, he started trying vegetables and learning to cook things like quinoa and grilled salmon. As it turns out, he’s a pretty amazing cook, he rarely uses a recipe unless I send him one on pinterest. He hadn’t been an adventurous eater at ALL and like a lot of men had simply refused to try vegetables but I got tired of him saying “I don’t know…” ever time I asked if he liked something, so I started giving him bites of stuff that I was eating. He was quite surprised to learn he actually kind of likes zucchini and that artichoke did not kill him. Unfortunately, his apartment is right down the street from Baskin-Robbins and I also started indulging my love of their reece’s peanut butter cup ice cream a bit too much. Overall, 16 pounds in 10 months is not the worst thing that could happen, but I’d rather have not gained it at all. So now I’m pushing 200 pounds again and my fitness level is something that makes me really start to mentally beat myself up. But I’m not going to do that!

Grilled Salmon Salad that my boyfriend made me!

The one good thing is that I know what I need to do, I just haven’t been doing it. Grilled cheese sandwiches and ice cream and gobs & gobs of pasta all taste amazing but there’s no way to eat that way all the time and stay healthy. Unfortunately for me that means weight gain, in addition to really not being healthy. So back to clean eating and working out regularly. It can be really demoralizing to lose weight that one has already lost and re-gained. I’ve lost and gained and lost this 16 pounds before. (check out my “how I lost 30 pounds” post.) Every time I lose it I say that I’m not going to gain it back. I guess what I’ve really failed to do is making my clean eating and working out a lifestyle. Truthfully, I don’t love exercise. I do love a salad with grilled wild salmon on it though, and as the memes say: Abs are made in the kitchen not the gym. How we eat is very, very important both for weight loss and for overall health. I do want to make this something that sticks this time. I’m not sure how to keep from being derailed except to be more mindful about it. It’s all a journey, so I figure it’s time to learn whatever lesson I’m not getting. Maybe to quit turning to sugar when I’m sad and when I’m happy!

Here’s the plan:

    • Log everything I eat in the SparkPeople app
    • At least ten minutes of some kind of exercise every day. I will add more to that later, but right now all I’m “requiring” of myself is to do something for ten minutes. It’s easier to convince yourself to move if you say “I only have to do ten minutes.” and it’s pretty easy to make yourself keep going after ten minutes.
    • Clean eating – back to what I know. The less processed the better. No more ramen; only sprouted grain wheat products and limiting those quite a bit; balanced protein and veggie-heavy meals. Healthy snacks.
    • Sweets only on the weekend, and only ONE THING. I’ve gotten bad about having a frapuccino and other stuff too, knowing full well a frapuccino is basically a milkshake.
    • Balance meals that aren’t as healthy with ones that are. No “cheat meal” if I want pasta I plan for it and adjust throughout the day.

Citrus mineral water, interesting swap for plain water

That’s basically it because that’s basically what is needed. Paying attention and saying “no” to bad stuff is what I had stopped doing and I have to start doing it again. One thing I’ve already done is giving up diet soda. In grad school, I started drinking it again but two weeks ago I started brewing green tea for the week and drinking that unsweetened instead of diet soda. I’ve also realized I love cucumbers, so I have been eating half a cucumber with some salad dressing for a mid-morning snack every day. I also organized my pinterest boards. I realized that having 300 recipes on a “healthy food” board was too overwhelming and difficult to find things, so I broke them down to categories like healthy shrimp, healthy sweets, quinoa and tofu, etc. This makes it a lot easier to find a great, clean eating recipe based on what sounds good at that moment. My boyfriend made this Slow Cooker Enchilada Quinoa Bake and it turned out so good he made a stovetop version of it for his kids. They were very suspicious of it but both (10 and 15 years old) said that it was really good and they were impressed. They ate it scooped up with tortilla chips. Not the healthiest thing ever but certainly better than Taco Bell!

I’m not thrilled with myself, but I know that the best way to sabotage myself is to beat myself up and be negative. So I’m back on the healthy eating track, and I will be posting my progress! Thanks for taking this journey with me.

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!

The “dirty dozen”

It’s true, organic “clean” food is more expensive. That’s why I remember the “dirty dozen” – foods you should always buy organic. Apparently this changes a bit from year to year, which I did not realize until I was looking at images for this post! Important information.

The dirty dozen

Remembering the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” are great, easy ways to eat more cleanly without having to spend a fortune. I found this great wallet-sized list of both. I do forget some of these so I’m going to make sure to have it with me next time I head to the grocery store.

The dirty dozen

What is clean eating?

You’ve probably heard of “clean eating” by now and it may strike you as some sort of hipster, hippie, locally sourced, organic, bullshit and in some ways you would be right. I don’t know where the term was coined, but I’m sure you can find it if you look. I’m not talking about anyone’s diet plan called Eat-Clean, I’m not talking about anything marketed to you, I’m talking about simply – Avoid all over-processed, refined foods, especially white flour and sugar. Clean eating basically means eating something that comes out of nature, or as close to nature as possible. Ingredients in what you eat should be things you can pronounce, that you recognize as food. The fewer ingredients in something, the better. As Michael Pollan said, very simply, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

Aka – the ingredients in chicken you buy in the grocery store and prepare is “chicken.” The ingredients in a McDonalds chicken nugget is: White Boneless Chicken, Water, Food Starch-Modified, Salt, Seasoning (Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Salt, Wheat Starch, Natural Flavoring [Botanical Source], Safflower Oil, Dextrose, Citric Acid), Sodium Phosphates, Natural Flavor (Botanical Source). Battered and Breaded with: Water, Enriched Flour (Bleached
Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Yellow Corn Flour, Bleached Wheat Flour, Food Starch-Modified, Salt, Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Lactate), Spices, Wheat Starch, Dextrose, Corn Starch. CONTAINS: WHEAT.
source.

There are volumes and volumes and volumes of information on the internet about why to eat clean and organic. If you have netflix, you can spend just a little over an hour to watch Hungry for Change. It’s a great “beginner’s” guide to what’s wrong with the way we eat in America. Another documentary I highly recommend is Food Matters. You can also find a lot of stuff that says that clean eating is bullshit; that it’s impossible to not eat chemicals – that part is untrue for the most part, if you eat organic vegetables you are avoiding chemicals as much as humanly possible. Or they say some preservatives are ok, afterall salt is a preservative; but my point is you can also say “Well why bother to get fit at all? I’m going to die someday after all and all my work will be for nothing.” It’s not an all or nothing thing here, the point is to eat as healthfully as possible because it makes you feel better.

Bottom line. I like having energy, I like feeling awake, alert, healthy, like I can do the things I need to do. I don’t like feeling bloated, depressed, anxious, hungry, guilty, tired, and ill.

How I lost 30 pounds

How I lost 30 pounds

 

Because I know some people are going to want to know how I lost the first 30 pounds, I’m going ahead and including it here. Clean eating and exercise is the bottom line. The more blogs and instagram pages and facebook pages you read, you WILL see a theme. There is no magical pill, there is no easy fix, you have to work. Eat right, and exercise.

Keep Track of your Food

I use the free SparkPeople app to count calories and activities, and I try to keep it at 1500 calories a day. Try not to go too far under 1200 calories because too few calories can be just as damaging as too many, and you may not see results. Sometimes adding 100-200 calories can help you get over a plateau.

Eat Clean, always Know what you are eating

I eat clean 90-95% of the time. At the beginning I tended to eat out a lot and I realized that I was making bad choices at restaurants too often. It doesn’t work to indulge only in a restaurant if you’re eating in a restaurant 3-4 times per week. Takeout counts too! ALWAYS know what you’re eating. If the restaurant is a chain, it will have nutrition calories listed. My motto is that I can eat it but I have to eat it mindfully. If a meal is 1,200 and I really want to do that? Ok but I’m going to go into it knowing it’s nearly a day’s worth of calories. Ask for things to not be cooked with butter, some restaurants put butter on everything. Don’t eat the bread, if possible ask they don’t even bring it. Make the restaurant meal your cheat meal, but again you still have to be mindful about it. A cheat meal isn’t an opportunity to gorge one’s self on chemical crap.

Keep temptations and crap food out of the house

I don’t keep chemical crap and/or sweets in the house. If I have cookies, I will eat cookies. If I really want ice cream, and I have to leave the house to get it, I’m less likely to eat it. I do like sweets and I try to keep healthier choices in the house – No sugar added Edy’s fruit pops are a favorite of mine. I also love Halo Top ice cream, which is sweetened with stevia. Stay clean with it though! Artificial sweeteners, aspartame, even splenda (yes sorry!) are just as bad a sugar, but in a different way. Don’t go to the supermarket and grab the “diet” ice cream and candy and cookies. Don’t buy processed “fruit” snacks that don’t actually contain fruit (apple juice concentrate as the 10th ingredient isn’t a good, healthy thing!) Don’t buy gluten free crackers that have 30 ingredients you’ve never heard of in them. Clean eating is some substitutions but some things you can’t really recreate. Minimally processed is the norm of a clean eating diet – and if I just have to have a kitkat, I will eat a kitkat not a diet kitkat knock-off.

It’s tougher now that I live with a teenager, but what I have done that works really well is not having a bunch of crap food around for him either. He picks one or two things that he has around and I don’t touch them because that would be really unfair. I may eat one chocolate chip cookie if he bakes chocolate chip cookies but It would be rude to eat his food. Things he or my boyfriend don’t eat I’ve asked them to not bring here; my boyfriend’s mom was bad about sending powdered donuts home with them but neither of them eat any! So I’ve asked them to just not bring them home to begin with.

Log activities, use a step tracker

I wear a Fitbit activity tracker and my current step goal is 10,000 per day. That’s a realistic stretch for me because I have to spend a lot of time sitting while I work, sitting at the computer, and being sedentary.

Move every day

I walk my dogs several times per week. This is good for them too because they need exercise as well! I also try to get to the walking trails near my house 2-3 times per week unless it’s the dead of summer. (We hit 100+ during a Mississippi summer.)

Do Cardio. Slow is better than not at all

For the first 30 pounds, I tried to do cardio 3 times a week, specifically this free Couch to 5k mix. I stayed on each week until I could run all of the intervals without stopping, no matter how long that took. It was slow going but that was ok!

ladies, lift weights! muscle burns more fat

I weight train 3-4 times a week. I’ve lost almost 10% body fat so even when the weight on the scale doesn’t move much it’s cool to see that body fat % go down. Women are sometimes afraid of getting too ripped but let’s be really honest here, you aren’t going to look like a body builder by lifting weights a few times a week. People have to work very hard to look like that. Check out my Workouts board on pinterest for ideas on how to start.

if it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you. Get uncomfortable.

I push myself. I hate being uncomfortable and getting sweaty but you don’t see results if you don’t work hard. I do try to do things I like as opposed to things I hate though. I don’t like running, I just don’t. I’ll walk faster, for longer, than I will run. So I walk instead of running.

I’m not paid to endorse any of the things/products listed here, nor was I given any of them for free! Just fyi.