Eating vegan can be a trying challenge without any other limitations. In a world built on the assumption that you’ll be eating meat, eggs, milk, cheese, and countless other animal products as a matter of course, finding workarounds makes for a monumental effort. But when you want to eat low carb as a vegan, the challenge hits an all new peak: many of the favored foods of the vegan dieter pair carbohydrates with every protein, making those ‘obvious solutions’ off limits from the start. So how do we proceed, dieting on the highest difficulty setting?
When you cut carbs, you need to make up your calorie deficit elsewhere (not the entire deficit, mind, if you’re looking to lose), which makes ‘low-carb’ necessarily ‘high-fat’. That’s intentional and not something to worry about, however. Stick with healthy vegan sources of fat, such as the myriad vegetable oils, nuts (careful about carbs), avocados, and seeds. These aren’t bad places to get some of your daily carbs, either (even ketogenic diets don’t cut 100% of carbohydrates). Most of your daily calories should come from fat, not protein, so don’t be shy with the oils and whatnot.
Tofu is your friend
Tofu, the vegan superfood, does it’s duty for low-carb vegans as well as it does anywhere else. When low-carbing, you’ll need to be more aware of labeling than usual, as it’s common for tofu foods to pack in unwanted extras to improve flavor—but at it’s core, this is an excellent protein source for vegans trying to avoid carbing up.
Unsweetened soy works wonders
Perhaps the most flexible low-carb vegan substance, unsweetened soy products will carry you through many dietary roadblocks without any trouble. Unsweetened soy milk works as well in most recipes as sweetened, and barring a good reason to avoid them you can always add non-nutritive sweeteners such as Stevia to restore the sweet without picking up carbs.
Use the community
You’re not the first person to struggle to find a low-carb vegan alternative to a favorite food; reaching out to the larger vegan community online can turn up countless clever solutions to all the dietary problems you’re running into. You’ll quickly find that industrious minds have worked hard to figure out ways to get most of the goodies the less-restricted enjoy reconfigured for a low-carb, vegan lifestyle. You’re playing on a harder difficulty setting, but you don’t have to play alone!
Carbs aren’t (all) the enemy
Even if you’re going the lowest of low-carb routes, ketogenic, you’re still not trying to avoid 100% of carbohydrates. Fiber ‘doesn’t count’ by most tallies, making fibrous greens a great food for low-carb vegans. You can’t avoid eating carbohydrates, so don’t despair if you find your total creeping up as you get your daily nutrients; the goal is to eat fewer carbohydrates and thus cut out the wasteful simple carbs. If vegetables and nuts are the cause of your worries…you probably shouldn’t be worrying.