LOOKING for: low carb. vegetarian?

colmesneilJanuary 12, 2004

I have been bombarded with these low carb. diets on TV lately. I am just starting to use vegetarian dishes three days a week. I heard something like carbs turn to sugar; and, excessive insulin production. This in turn causes fat storage. I know this is a simplistic explanation. I just wanted to know if you vegetarian folks are having problems with weight control. It seems vegetarian recipes are all carbs.


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Actually, I've not met many other vegetarians who are significantly overweight. Don't know why. Unfortunately, I'm the exception to the rule. ;-) I started investigating the low carb thing just before Thanksgiving. (bad timing!) It's been a real challenge to do low carb without meat. I'm eating huge (or so it seems to me) amounts of eggs and cheese. I can't imagine that it's very healthy but, for a little while, I'll keep it up because I am losing a few pounds.

I hope some CF members will post their vegetarian low carb recipes here but I'm afraid this is usually a VERY slow moving board. You might have some luck at this link.


Here is a link that might be useful: low carb recipes

    Bookmark   January 12, 2004 at 3:49PM
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Not all carbs are created equally. Whole grains, such as brown rice, whole oats, and other grains that have not been refined are considered complex carbohydrates, and are healthy for you to eat. Refined carbohydrates, which are things like sugar, potatoes, white rice, and the like, are no-no's these days. Basically, avoid anything white. I haven't figured out how to do this new fad high protein/low carb diet, but I don't really pay attention to fad diets. There are nearly always problems that result from these lopsided diets. In a few years, when colon cancer or other health problems become rampant among the Atkins crowd, a new diet will surface that will be equally lopsided. I'd just prepare the foods you like to eat, that make you feel good, and eat in moderation. That's the key, but the one that isn't as glamerous or fun as the "eat all you like till you're stuffed diet," which is what most Americans follow.


    Bookmark   January 13, 2004 at 9:12AM
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Dear Dan,

For me as a 25 year vegetarian, I did go through a phase where I had to closely examine my carbohydrate consumption. The problem with carbs in our society is that refined ones are absolutely everywhere! It is easy for a vegetarian to load up on refined carbs because they are easy and available. So you have a donut and coffee for breakfast, or a huge bagel, then are too busy for lunch so you snack on store-bought crackers and peanut butter for lunch, have a few cookies that someone brought to the meeting in the afternoon, have a caffeine soda pick me up at the end of the day, and then come home late and don't have time to fix dinner so you snack on corn chips while you heat up a can of tomato soup. A few m&m's before bed, and there you go! This is almost a pure refined carbohydrate and sugar diet, and is most unhealthy. You need to eat UNREFINED foods, whole grains, brown rice, etc. And that means really whole grain, not just stuff that says it is whole grain and is really refined stuff dyed brown! And it means whole grain pasta and staying away from those snack foods like pretzels and chips, en mass. And none of these baked goodies that abound everywhere, all sugar and refined flour. I also have found that I must eat protein with my carbs. Never eat just carbs. That is the Achillles heel of us vegetarians, carb loading. The tricks I use to avoid just the carbs alone are buying some of the wholesome frozen entrees like burritos, pocket pies and pasta dishes, along with dried soups, etc. And tofu. Adding tofu to high carb dishes is a super easy way to boost the protein to carb ratio. You don't have to load up on cheese and eggs to have a good protein to carb balance, but you do have to plan your food carefully. I like those cheese sticks too, I can always eat one with a carb snack. I make tofu spreads for quick snacks too. This high protein, low carb diet is WAY over-rated. People loose weight because they stop eating all the refined carbs and cut calories, not because they've stopped eating carbs all together. Moderation in all things, carbs included. But most Americans eat HUGE amounts of refined sugar and refined carbs, this is the problem, not some vegetarian eating cornbread with their chili.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2004 at 10:59PM
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Wow, lpinkmountain, you must know my daughter! She's skinny as a rail, but eats pretty much that diet you described. Well, she's gotten a bit better lately as she's matured, and is starting to actually like some of the foods that are healthy, but she has a long way to go.

How do you make that tofu spread?


    Bookmark   January 19, 2004 at 10:15AM
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Tofu Spinach Dip (much less fat than the store bought dips)

10 oz. package of spinach
packet of dried veg. soup mix (I get Fantastic brand in the health food section)
1 10 oz. package firm silken tofu
1/2 cup lo fat sour cream
1/2 cup mayo (or less if you're having weight issues, perhaps try substituting some mashed chickpeas for some of the mayo)
1 can chopped water chestnuts, for crunch
chopped scallions if you like them, chopped red peppers for color if you like too.

Thaw the spinach and drain and squeeze out all the excess water. In a food processor or blender, mix the tofu with the sour cream, mayo and spices. Scrape into a large bowl, mix with the spinach, and optional chopped raw veggies. Chill for at least half a day before serving with bagel chips or toasted pita wedges. Can add more mayo and sour cream if it seems dry, at your own arteries' risk.

Tofu-Olive Pate

1 10 oz box of silken tofu, firm or extra firm
1/2 cup of pitted olives--green or black, kalamata are my favorites
1/4 cup fresh parsley or 2 TBLSP dried
1-2 tsp dried basil, or 1/4 cup fresh
1-2 cloves garlic, depending on the social situation
1/4 cup capers
1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts (can leave these out if you're dieting)
1/4 cup or less parmesean cheese (ditto on the dieting)

Put this all in a food processor or blender and blend until it makes a creamy paste. Refridgerate until chilled. Will keep for a couple of days but is yummy right out of the blender. You can add chopped sundried tomatoes or roasted peppers if you like. Serve with bruschetta or on crackers.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2004 at 5:25PM
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Ms. Rose,
Thank you for all the information. Ok, so I go to Wal Mart and buy a package of brown rice. How do I know it is colored or the real thing? I have been eating this instant and 5 minute rolled oats. I would think these are over processed. What kind do you buy? Thanks,

    Bookmark   January 27, 2004 at 7:03AM
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I'm not Ms. Rose, but I'll take a stab at answering your question. The rice section at the grocery store usually has both white rice and brown rice in clear plastic bags, and the labels say what the rice is. Read the label, and read the cooking instructions. There's nothing quick about cooking brown rice. It takes 45 minutes. Ordinary white rice takes 20 minutes. I never buy the quick rice because it's taste (or lack thereof) and texture is repulsive to me. As for oats, again read the label. I looked at the label of the oats in my cabinet, and it says "Old Fashioned Quaker Oats 100% whole grain, 100% natural" If the label says quick, it's been processed. I'm not a fan of oatmeal cooked as a hot cereal, but my husband likes it. I like to go to the natural food store and buy bulk granola, which is made primarily of oats. I could make my own granola, but I haven't gotten around to it.

I guess there's nothing quick about cooking whole grains. Anytime a label says quick, or minute, or converted, or any other time saving type words, you can bet it's been processed, and will be more refined. You are also more likely, but not necessarily, going to find the more whole grain products in bags rather than in boxes, while the more process products will be in boxes rather than bags, at least if shopping at places like Walmart or other normal supermarkets

Hope this helps.


    Bookmark   January 27, 2004 at 9:32AM
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The only thing I would add is not to be discouraged about the time it takes to cook whole foods. Get yourself a crockpot, you can put the rice in there in the morning and it will be done when you come home for dinner, whole procession takes 10 minutes tops, and that's from bag to plate, using the crockpot to cook. Also, you can soak whole grain rice for awhile to lessen the cooking time. So if you don't want to use the crockpot, put the rice and some water in the fridge in the morning and you can probalby shave 10-15 mintues off the cooking time in the evening when you get home. Also, cook up a big pot of rice on Sunday, freeze some, and have the rest to reheat during the week.

Whole wheat pasta says so on the box, and it is quick fix. I buy spelt pasta, I love the taste and texture. Whole wheat bread you have to read the fine print on the label. It should have whole wheat flour as the first or second ingredient, and the best kind of whole wheat is stone ground, because less of the vitamins are destroyed in the processing that way. Real whole wheat bread is springy, not spongy, and it is dense, so it is hefty. You can get yellow cornmeal that is minimally processed but it is sold as polenta. You can still use it in breads though, or make yummy polenta. I'm lucky, I can get stoneground cornmeal. Store these stone ground whole grains in the fridge. Some of the other whole grains like barley, wheat berries, quinoa, steel cut oats, etc., may be harder to come by. Stick with brown rice, cornmeal and whole wheat to start, once you have mastered those you can branch out.

I don't shop at Walmart, absolutely loathe the place. But I do shop at Ye Olde Neighborhood Grocery and can find many whole grain products there if I look hard enough. If you're desperate, you can mail order whole grains. I'm no expert on where to get them mailorder, but I did use to get stuff from a place called Walnut Acres, http://www.walnutacres.com, but it looks like they don't do mail order any more. The Web site has a store locator function though. Oh and another company I love is Eden Foods in Clinton, Michigan. You can mail order from them, their Web site is http://www.edenfoods.com

As for me, I seek out the stores that sell whole grains. They're out there, but they don't scream advertisements at you so you have to be motivated to find them.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2004 at 4:12PM
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Good advice and good ideas. I forgot to thank you for the recipies. I'm eager to try them.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2004 at 9:39AM
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I went to the Whole Foods Market in Houston yesterday. It was fantastic. They had so many different kinds of bulk granola and every kind of bulk grain. I noticed the customers were lean and trim. In case you have never been to this market, it has an organic produce section as large or larger than a super Wal Mart. They have a prepared foods section that sells by the pound, and a place to eat. Too bad Houston is a two and ahalf hour drive. After seeing the gray skies and heavy traffic in Houston, I remembered why I moved out of Houston and to Colmesneil.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2004 at 6:58AM
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Where is Colmesneil? Is Houston the closest city to you? There's probably WF's in San Antonio, and definately in Austin, as that's where the chain started. I guess I shouldn't complain that it takes me 20 to 30 minutes to get to the nearest Whole Foods. By the way, one bad thing about that place is it's expensive. I know of people that call it "Whole Paychecks." The granola is less expensive than boxed cereal, though.


    Bookmark   January 30, 2004 at 9:22AM
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Regarding pricing at health food stores --- It really pays to shop around. The salad dressing I like is 2.50 a bottle at Central Market, 2.99 at Tom Thumb and Super Target and 3.99 at Whole Foods. I would have thought that out of all those places, Super Target would have been the cheapest. I have found the same to be true with oatmeal - cheaper at Central Market than at Super Target. I have also found that almost any boxed cereal will be cheaper at a health food store than the named brand sugar-loaded cereals that most kids today eat.
Since I have started doing most of my shopping at Central Market (with some minor shopping done at 2 small health food stores, Super Target and Whole Foods) - our food bill has stayed pretty even. I have several friends who freak out because they do all their shopping at Wal-Mart and think they are saving money. But when we have compared food bills (our family sizes are the same), we are all even. But I am buying mainly fresh produce, whole foods, nothing proccessed. (Except the salad dressing, which I love.) They are buying cut and slice cookies in a tube, ice cream, etc... I plan my meals out so we have very little food go bad. One friend will only buy canned veggies because she can't use up a whole bag of carrrots before they go bad. I would rather spend the money and buy 5 pounds of fresh carrots and maybe send a few out to the compost pile than eat canned carrots!
~ Suzie

    Bookmark   January 30, 2004 at 1:20PM
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Hi Sally,
I live between Beaumont(one hour) and Lufkin(45 min.)in East Texas Piney Woods. Woodville is a small city 10 miles away. You are right about the high prices. I cooked some of the short grain brown rice with soy grits I bought. It came out good. I did use a can of 99% fat free chicken broth and water. Next time I'll try it with just my well water. Dan

    Bookmark   January 30, 2004 at 6:05PM
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Well water? The last time I had well water was in the hills of northeastern Oklahoma. It was wonderful! I don't know if I'd trust well water from your neck of the woods, but as long as you're uphill from Texas City....

Central Market is a great place to get cheese and bread, but I rarely shop there because it's so claustrophibic. I hate the way they have it laid out. I also hate having to punch in numbers into the machine for my produce. I figure that's their job to price the food items. I find Whole Foods a much friendlier and easier shopping experience, but from my conversations with others, I'm in the minority on that opinion. I have a Walmart Grocery Store down the street where I get a lot of my produce. Surprisingly, it's good quality, and a whole lot cheaper than other places like Tom Thumb, but when I can get over to Whole Foods, I'l stock up on fruit and produce there, because it's organic, and very high quality. The last time I shopped at Central Market, their produce was wilted and sad looking. I was very surprised. By the way, I never buy packaged items, such as salad dressing or canned goods, at Whole Foods I can get elsewhere. They really jack up the prices on those things. Lately, I've just been putting a little lemon juice and olive oil on my salads, and been loving them.

I guess this has gotten way off topic from the original post. Sorry about that.


    Bookmark   January 31, 2004 at 8:24AM
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Dan are you looking to loose some weight and/or cut costs and/or eat veggie in a small town area, and/or start a whole foods regime? If so you can probalby get some tips on all of that from this forum. Let us know what your interests are, and what kinds of foods you like. Any of those ideas would make a great new post.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2004 at 10:09AM
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Our Kroger now has a decent vegetarian foods section, with Yeve's lunchmeats and hotdogs and soy or veggie burgers. Lots of organic fresh veggies and fruits, too. I do most of our shopping at Whole Foods, though. It is 45 min away, but right across the street from my diet doctor, where I go every Friday.

Here is a good veg lowcarb recipe. I more or less stole it from 365 Ways To Cook Chicken.

Tofu, Asparagus,Carrot Casserole.

Use a nice flavored baked tofu, cut into cubes. Wash a bunch of asparagus, snap into bite-sized pieces. Wash and cut carrots into bite-sized pieces. Use as many carrots as you have asparagus. Toss the three main ingredients into a covered casserole dish. Chop green onion, sprinkle around. Add a teaspoon to a tablespoon of tarragon. Toss again. Squeeze a lemon over the top, drizzel some sesame oil ( a few tablespoons) around the top. Cover and bake at 350 until it smells done. (Half hour?) The original recipe also asked for a dash of cayenne pepper, which I do sometimes.

Can you tell I cook by eye and nose the way some folks play music by ear?

    Bookmark   February 15, 2004 at 12:17AM
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I've come back to this thread after a long absence. DO NOT cook brown rice in a crockpot. It comes out a gluey mess. I don't know what I was thinking when I typed that! It might be ok for rice pudding or something, but definately not whole grain rice. It is also not good for slow cooking pasta. It isn't the lower temp that is the problem, it is the long time, many carbs turn to paste, in both taste and texture. Dairy and crockpots don't go together either. But crockpots are fab. for soups!!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2004 at 2:40PM
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Just wanted to add that the best, quickest, easiest way to cook rice is in a rice cooker! All you have to do is start your rice a little bit ahead of time before you cook everything else. It's easy to clean. Brown rice tastes especially delicious when cooked this way, but you have to rinse it in a colander first for about a minute to wash the starch off. And, if you want to steam some veggies, you can throw them in with a little bit more water for the last 10 minutes or so and there you go. Brown rice and veggies. You can get a rice cooker at any Asian grocery store as well as almost anywhere like target, K mart, or online. You can get a decent one for around $30-$40. I've been using mine for 10 years and I love it. They also make great birthday gifts for friends!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2006 at 11:58AM
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I am not diabetic but I do have insulin resistance as part of another medical (gynocological) condition called PCOS. I have been on Metformin (usually prescribed to diabetics) for a few years now. My dad is diabetic and I am at some risk of developing diabetes, too.

I used to be thin-normal weight but began gaining weight when I developed PCOS and insulin resistance. The Metformin has helped control my weight a bit, but I am still overweight because I have relied too much on this drug and continued eating whatever I want. I don't smoke or drink or do drugs, so food has always been my vice. Especially when I am stressed or down, I go to "comfort foods" which are high in carbs. (High-carb foods such as white potatoes are comforting because they actually help increase the level of serotinin in your brain, which is how antidepressants such as Prozac work.)

Anyways, a year ago I decided to stop eating meat as part of a health kick to eat lighter, healthier and lose weight. I had been stuffing myself daily and eating lots of chicken. At first I was always hungry, because I was used to eating a lot and the truth is, nothing is quite as filling as meat. I ate all the whole grain bread and veggies and fruit I wanted, but I was always hungry again soon. Then my body adjusted and it became much easier. If you eat whole grain bread, pasta, rice, et cetera, you should feel fuller than if you eat refined carbs. The fibre content in whole grains slows down the rate at which your body converts the carbs into blood sugar, which prevents your blood sugar and insulin levels from spiking up and crashing. When choosing carbs, think of eating high fibre. High fibre is the key to helping to control insulin levels. Refined carbs have little to no fibre left in them.

Anyways, I lost weight and then fell off the wagon when Christmas rolled around, as there were delicious cookies and candies and chocolates everywhere! Also, it was hard to eat whole grain carbs all the time, because most restaurants and cafeterias use refined, white flour bread, pasta and rice; they also usually serve white potatoes, not sweet potatoes (sweet potatoes are much better for you). I only managed to lose weight at first as a vegetarian because I packed homemade snacks and meals with whole grain bread from the grocery store, and carried my food around with me all day while I was out and about. Normally I am not so good; normally I buy lunch everyday at work. It's not that hard anymore to eat out and eat vegetarian, but it IS still hard to eat out and eat whole grain carbs instead of refined, white flour carbs. You may see my problem here: I like to eat out a lot but I don't like eating meat or eating refined, white-flour carbs. That REALLY limits my choices when I go out. If I want to eat the way I know I should, I basically can't eat out.

Also, there is a misconception that the biggest enemy of insulin resistance/diabetes is sugar and carbs, but the real enemy is saturated fat. It's just that most fattening foods are also loaded with sugar. You need the sugar to make the lard palapable. About 30% of the weight of chocolate, for example, is due soley to its lard content. Saturated fat is the real enemy, but when you eat out at a cafeteria or restaurant, you don't know what kind or how much cooking oil they use. You don't really know the ingredients. This also makes eating out hard if you are concerned with diabetes/insulin resistance, or just weight control in general.

I heard that the Canadia Liberal government is planning to get rid of trans fat from school cafeterias, and there is some organization trying to get rid of trans fat cooking oils from all restaurants altogether. I think the next step may be to demand better quality carbs. Diabetes is an epidemic now, afterall!

Anyways, I have decided to ween myself off the Metformin because of its side effects. This will mean that in order to avoid becoming obese, I will have to get strict again about what I eat, prepare homemade snacks and meals to take out, and exercise more (strenuous exercise increases insulin sensitivity). When I first told my family doctor I had gone vegetarian, she wasn't very happy. My blood tests had shown that I had very low vitamin B12. Because vitamin B12 is derived primarily from animal meat (it is absent from plant food), my doctor assumed my low B12 levels was due to my dietary changes. I started taking vitamins from the drug store. I'm not sure, but I think that helped a bit.

Vitamin B12, like iron, is essential for a lot of things, including hair health. For a couple years now I have been concerned that my hair falls out too much. Well, I recently read that 10-30% of patients on Metformin long-term experience vitamin B12 deficiency (and can subsequently lose hair) because Metformin can actually interfere with the body's ability to absorb vitamin B12!

It's all becoming so complicated. For a while I considered just going back to eating meat so that I could stop filling up on refined carbs everyday and then relying on Metformin to help with the resulting insulin spikes, but I have decided no, meat is gross, so I am instead going to just carry around homemade whole grain food with me all day as I go about my business, eat out less, exercise more and get off the Metformin. I know I can lose weight without meat because I did it once before, a year ago. It just takes discipline. Hopefully, my hair will also thicken up again after being off the Metformin for a while.

One more thing: a good alternative to rice is quinoa. It is a good grain with lower carb content. It also cooks much faster than rice. It tastes lovely and fluffy. It works well as a side dish in place of rice.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2007 at 10:00AM
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There is a misconception that has appeared in this thread that I'd like to clarify. It is true that whole grains are better for you than the refined variety, but that has nothing to do with effects on insulin. Individuals with diabetes or at risk of developing diabetes (insulin resistant) should not take too much comfort from eating whole grains instead of refined grains. They both trigger spikes in insulin. What you need to do is keep your overall intake of carbohydrates modest and exercise, especially after a meal that is relatively high in carbohydrates, so you can undo some of the effects of your high carbohydrate meal.

Whole grains are better for you than refined ones for several reasons: they fill you up and satisfy you faster; they provide fiber, which is good for your bowels; they absorb some of the cholesterol and saturated fats in your meal, which is heart-healthy.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2008 at 8:14PM
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