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The Low Carb Vegetarian & Vegan Diet

low carb vegetarian foods

Yes! If you are vegetarian or vegan, you can follow a low carb diet like Atkins® while still reaching your weight loss goals and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.    

Eco Atkins

This vegan Atkins diet alternative was developed by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, who set out to determine whether a high-protein vegetarian or vegan diet could promote weight loss and help reduce “bad” cholesterol. The result of their study was the Eco Atkins diet, which had a similar ratio of protein and carbs as the original Atkins diet, but replaced high-fat animal protein with vegetable protein.

Eco Atkins vs Vegetarian Diet

For their study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers put one group of participants on either 1.) the vegan Eco Atkins diet or 2.) a lacto-vegetarian diet, which consisted of more carbs and less fat. Both diets in the study met researchers’ low-carb and high-protein criteria, were low in calories (providing 60% of the study participants' calorie requirements), and allowed for exercise. All subjects in both groups were overweight at the start of the study, which lasted one month.  

On the Eco Atkins diet, protein accounted for 31% of total calories, fat accounted for 43% of total calories, and the remaining 26% of total calories were carbohydrates. Common starchy items like bread, rice, potatoes, and baked goods were eliminated.

Over the course of the study, both groups lost the same amount of weight and improved their blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Participants on the Eco Atkins diet, however, saw a greater reduction in their “bad” LDL cholesterol than did the group on the low-fat vegetarian diet. Additionally, ApoB-, a component of LDL that is related to heart disease, fell significantly more for the Eco Atkins low carb dieters than it did for the vegetarian group, whose diet consisted of more carbs.

The Vegetarian & Vegan Atkins Plan

Want to try the low carb vegetarian or vegan Atkins plan for yourself? Follow this formula developed by the study:

  • 31% of your total calories should come from protein.
    Participants in the Eco Atkins vegan study ate primarily plant protein in the form of nuts, beans, soy burgers and beverages, tofu, gluten, cereals, and vegetable products such as veggie bacon, burgers, breakfast links, and deli slices. For vegetarians, tofu, eggs, and cheese are the main source of protein and supply all essential amino acids.

  • 43% of your total calories should come from fat.
    This means “good fats” found in avocados, nuts, soy products, and vegetable oils such as olive oil.

  • 26% of your total calories should come from carbs.
    Dieters consumed their carbs in the form of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, with a limited amount of oats and barley and an emphasis on viscous vegetables like okra and eggplant, as well as other low-starch vegetables. Avoid common starchy items like bread, rice, potatoes, and baked goods.

  • For both vegans and vegetarians, we recommend a daily multivitamin and fish oil supplement. Vegans can substitute flax oil for fish oil.

Due to heavy restrictions, limited protein sources, and the higher carb count, the Induction Phase may prove difficult for vegetarians and Eco Atkins dieters. If you are interested in the low carb vegan or vegetarian Atkins plan, we suggest beginning with Atkins 20®, Phase 2, which has a similar ratio to the formula above, or Atkins 40®.



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