The Program: Ways to Create a Custom Diet Plan, With Atkins
Atkins for Vegetarian
It’s perfectly possible to be a vegetarian—or simply minimize your intake of animal protein, add variety to your meals and trim your food budget—and still do Atkins. The typical American vegetarian often consumes far too many carbohydrates in the form of pasta and other refined grains. As long as you have at least two varieties of plant protein each day, you can get a balance of essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein). Which leads to the second challenge. Plant proteins are “packaged” with carbohydrate. Your objective is to consume enough protein without simultaneously getting so much carbohydrate that it interferes with weight loss or weight maintenance.
To adapt Atkins to your needs as a ovo-lacto vegetarian:
- Start in Phase 2, Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL), at 30 grams of Net Carbs and introduce nuts and seeds and all unsweetened dairy products except milk (whether whole, skim, low fat, or no fat) and buttermilk before berries.
- Or, if you have no more than 20 pounds to shed and are willing to swap slower weight loss for more food variety, you may start in Phase 3, Pre-Maintenance, at 50 grams of Net Carbs.
- Make sure to get sufficient protein in eggs, cheese and soy products. Aim for no more than 6 grams of Net Carbs per serving of protein foods in OWL.
- Meat substitutes may be made from textured vegetable protein (TVP), soy protein (tofu and tempeh), wheat gluten (seitan), and even fungi (Quorn) among other ingredients. See Acceptable Induction Foods: Soy and Vegetarian Products for a more comprehensive list. Some of these products contain added sugars and starches and some are breaded, so read the list of ingredients carefully.
- Get most of your carbs from foundation vegetables.
- Most nonanimal protein sources (except for tofu and nut butters) are low in fat. Continue to get enough healthy oils in other dishes by dressing vegetables and salads with olive oil, canola oil, high-oleic safflower, walnut, flaxseed and other oils so as not to interfere with fat metabolism Also enjoy high-fat snacks such as half a Haas avocado or some olives.
- Add back nuts and seeds before berries. Nuts and seeds contain fat and protein that will make Atkins easier to do and more effective.
- Or, if you choose, add back legumes before other OWL-acceptable foods. But do so in extreme moderation (2-tablespoon servings), using them as garnishes on soups or salads.
- Tempeh, made with fermented soybeans, is higher in protein than tofu and more flavorful. Sauté tempeh with veggies in a stir-fry, crumble it into chili, soup, or sauces or marinate and grill it. Avoid tempeh products that include rice or another grain until you’re in Pre-Maintenance.
- Shakes made with plain unsweetened soymilk (or almond milk), soy (or hemp) protein, berries and a little sweetener can make a tasty breakfast.
- Purée silken tofu with berries and other fruit in shakes, adding peanut or almond butter for added protein; or sauté firm tofu with vegetables for lunch or dinner.
If you eat no eggs and dairy:
- Substitute crumbled silken tofu for scrambled eggs—a pinch of turmeric provides an appealing yellow hue. For baking, use an egg substitute product.
- Even some vegetarian products, such as Quorn, as well as shakes, may contain eggs or whey. Read labels carefully.
- Mayonnaise made with soy instead of eggs, mixed with crumbled tofu, chopped celery and onions, and a little curry powder makes a tasty eggless salad.
- Silken tofu and soy creamer can be used in desserts, as can agar-agar in jellied desserts.
For more ideas, see Atkins for Vegans.
Pre-Maintenance and Beyond
Whole grains usually loom large for vegetarians, and starchy vegetables are often important components of meals. However, they’re among the very foods that may have gotten you in trouble in the past. Follow the general guidelines for reintroduction and think of these foods, as well as legumes, as side dishes, rather than the mainstays of a meal. You may find that over time you can tolerate larger portions as long as you steer clear of refined grains and most processed foods. Add back starchy vegetables, followed by whole grains, before higher-carb fruits (other than the berries and melon acceptable in OWL).
Next: Pre-Maintenance for Vegans and Vegetarians