Low-carb and vegetarian diets don't often go together. After all, eating a low-carb diet usually constitutes eating moderate to large amounts of animal-based proteins and fats, while vegetarian plans are full of carb-containing fruits, vegetables, grains and beans. Combining the two is possible, however -- it just takes a bit more planning than a regular vegetarian diet or a typical low-carb diet would.
Making a Plan
A low-carb diet is generally considered one that contains less than 130 grams of carbs per day, according to Diabetes UK. Vegetarians following a low-carb plan should heed three basic principles, according to Rose Elliot of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition. They should cut carbs, increase fat intake and eat more protein. Limit carbs to those from vegetables and some fruit and dairy products, while fat can come in the form of healthy oils, nuts and seeds, a little butter and, once again, dairy. Eggs, low-fat cottage cheese and yogurt, nuts, tempeh and tofu are all low in carbs and high in protein.
Start at Breakfast
Eggs are a versatile option that fit both the low-carb and vegetarian parameters, as long as you're the type of vegetarian who eats eggs. Combine eggs in an omelet or frittata with vegetables and low-fat cheese, or simply eat boiled or scrambled eggs on their own. For vegetarians who don't eat eggs, another option is plain Greek yogurt mixed with berries. While fruit contains carbohydrate, berries tend to be lower in carbs, with strawberries and raspberries containing just 12 and 15 grams of carbs per cup respectively.
Moving on to Lunch
A salad or soup is one of the easiest ways to keep your lunch low-carb. For a salad, almost all salad items and green vegetables are low-carb and vegetarian, so load up on lettuce, spinach, cucumber, radishes, scallions, bell peppers and zucchini. Top the salad with cottage cheese for a protein hit, then dress it with olive oil, olives, slivered almonds or pine nuts for a little extra healthy fat. If you go the soup route, combine vegetables with a small serving of lentils or beans. These are slightly higher in carbs, but measured carefully, they do not exceed the 130-gram limit. The legumes will give you a good dose of protein and fiber.
Stay on Track at Dinner
Prepare some sort of meat substitute, made from soy, with plenty of vegetables at dinner. Dietitian Virginia Messina suggests half a cup of seitan, with a half-cup each of sweet potato, kale and green beans, all cooked with olive oil. Or prepare tofu with butternut squash, asparagus and mushrooms, all sautéed in coconut oil.
Add Healthy Snacks
If hunger strikes between meals, choose from plenty of low-carb, vegetarian snacks. Nuts and seeds are always a good bet, as are slices of low-fat cheese or boiled eggs. Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or low-fat cream cheese mixed with nut butters or chopped nuts fit the bill, as do vegetable sticks with homemade salsa or hummus. Provided your total carbohydrate intake for the day doesn't exceed 130 grams, you're still following a low-carb diet.