Ask the Diva: Is a Low-Carb Diet Possible for Vegetarians?

Nutrition Diva explains the challenges facing vegetarians and vegans who want to follow low-carb diets.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
1-minute read

Ask the Diva: Is a Low-Carb Diet Possible for Vegetarians?


Q. I am trying to reduce the amount of carbs I eat every day. But it seems hard to reduce carbs when one is restricted to a vegetarian diet. From my basic research, most vegetarian protein sources contain a lot of carbs too. So how can a vegetarian or vegan stick to a healthy and nutritious low carb diet?

A. You’re absolutely right: Low-carb diets are much more challenging for vegans and vegetarians, precisely for the reason you’ve suggested. Most vegans rely on legumes and grains as their primary sources of protein and both of these contain a fair amount of carbohydrate along with the protein. Low-carb vegans get most of their protein from nuts, seeds, and soy (meaning that their diets are also much higher in fat.)  They may also turn to processed protein powders or foods made with texturized vegetable protein. Low-carb vegetarians who consume dairy and eggs have it somewhat easier.

While it’s challenging to follow a vegan, low-carb diet, it’s certainly do-able. I’m just not sure it’s necessary. I’m convinced that most of the health benefits of a low-carb approach could be realized by cutting back on sugar, sweets, and refined carbohydrates and reducing (but not eliminating) grain-based foods. While not a low-carb diet, per se, my approach focuses on eliminating the most damaging carbs.

See also: 
Do Low Carb Diets Work?
Should You Be a Vegetarian?
How Much Protein Should You Eat?

Grains photo from Shutterstock

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.