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Jul 19, 2011 10:19 AM

Low Carb non meat meals?

Hi my name is Starburn and I’m a carboholic. I’m trying to reduce the number of pasta/carb based meals I eat per week but I’m running into a problem that the great and wise ChowHound hive brain may be able to help me with.

I’m not a big meat eater, and most of the low carb recipes I’ve looked at rely heavily on meat. Do you have any super tasty, satisfying low carb meals that you love? Please help!

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  1. I make a veg "Shepard's Pie" using Morningstar Crumbles, whichever veggies you have on hand and a thin layer of sweet potato for the top. It's obviously not uber low in carbs, but it's a lighter alternative. I flavor it all different ways, depending on the veggies I use and the herbs/spices I have on hand. It's great with a cumin/coriander base.

    1. Since it is summer time, you can stick with all sorts of fresh fruits and vegetables and add cheese and eggs as proteins. I would mention tofu but frankly I don't really like it.

      15 Replies
      1. re: escondido123

        You come to bucolic Auburn, MA sometime and I'll change your tofu tune. ;)

        1. re: invinotheresverde

          invino - You're on. I've been trying to find ways to like tofu for a while now. I'm a meat eater, but am always looking for tasty alternatives. I've had limited luck with tofu. And the bulk of my extended and nuclear family is from, and lives in Auburn. I'll give you a call next time I'm in town.

        2. re: escondido123

          Fruits tend to be pretty high in carbs.

          1. re: redfish62

            I can't quite convince myself that fruit is bad for me :) Plus it's definitely the least of my carb worries, I'm pretty sure it's the half pound of pasta that I can tuck away that's making me gain weight.

            1. re: starburn

              Depends on what your goals are, I was in middle age and very poor health when I went on a low carb diet, three years later I'm in athletic mode and more on a moderate carb diet.

              If you are concerned with your weight and want to try a low carb approach to losing fat, I think you get great results if you stick to it, bad results if you try to do it half-way ... there is a lot of sugar in fruit so if you want to lose weight you need to avoid it for the time being. Of course you need to say goodbye to pasta, you can't just reduce your consumption you have to write it off the menu. Lots of good resources you can Google on using low carb for weight loss, but imo if you try to do it half-way you will actually gain weight.

              To lose weight and keep it off you can't think it terms of days or weeks, you need to think in terms of years, you don't have to write off pasta forever just until you have reached your goal, then see how it works.

              1. re: redfish62

                This is one opinion. You do not necessarily need to avoid fruit to lose weight, you need to be moderate. You do not need to avoid all pasta either.
                what you DO need to do is figure out the particular needs of your body and go with that, IMO.
                to get back to your question, fish is a good thing to like if you are wanting to eat less mammal. I like egg based meals and am a great fan of tempeh, ricotta cheese, lentils, quinoa.

                1. re: magiesmom

                  lentils and beans are krazee high for carbs. yikes.

                  many berries, like blackberries, are not so very, with a high fiber content, mitigating the carb count, for low "net carbs" per atkins.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    yes, but they are high in soluble fibre and don't spike my blood sugar at all.

                    1. re: magiesmom

                      They both blow my meter to all heck. Very carby, and too many calories for not much protein, for my needs. Fiber has never changed the timing of my peak post meal glucose in over a decade of testing.

                2. re: redfish62

                  Luckily I'm mostly just looking for a little more balance in my diet, which I know is waaaay too carb heavy. I'm not really willing to cut anything out completely, especially not things I like to eat, but I am willing to adjust the amounts to achieve better health. I just tend to fall back on pasta potatoes and bread and I was looking for some tasty alternatives. If I happen to lose weight in the process, that's awesome, if not, at least I won't be putting a ton of empty calories in my body as often.

                  1. re: starburn

                    When I began transitioning (not happily) from such a diet to lower carb, I did it gradually. Things like making a sandwich from high fiber, thin sliced bread, with maybe only one slice and more protein between, or using pasta, but only as a half cup side dish. Try halving your carb servings at the very least, and replace with tasty grilled or roasted veggies and quality proteins and fats.

                    Over more than a decade, I've gone increasingly low carb to the point that starch and sugars are not regular daily features of any of my meals and I don't miss them. YMMV.

                    1. re: mcf

                      Yeah, that makes sense. I'm trying for small sustainable changes on the way to a goal rather than big ones that I'll have a hard time maintaining.

                      1. re: starburn

                        I think you've got a handle on the right direction, and unless I miss my guess, you're going to find that you feel a lot better in ways that you'd never connected to diet. That's what happened to me.

                3. re: starburn

                  Yeah, that's what eve thought . . .


                  I kid. I love fruit. If you want to go low carb, you should be aware that some fruit is sugary than others. Here the grams of carbohydrates for 1 1/2 cups frozen fruit.

                  33 Mango (for contrast)
                  27 Blueberries
                  23 Blackberries
                  22 Apricots
                  21 Strawberries
                  18 Rasberries
                  05 Rhubarb

                  1. re: Altarbo

                    In summer, I routinely make rhubarb cobbler, sometimes with blackberries or some strawberries mixed in. I sweeten with erythritol and liquid sucralose. The topping is a combination of almond flour and chopped pecans, some carbalose flour, butter spices and stuff with Diabetisweet brown sugar sub (the only brown AS that tastes good to me). Doesn't spike my meter after one serving. Is great warm with heavy cream...

            2. How about fish? Or do you consider that "meat"? Some do ....salmon or sardines with a nice green salad works nicely.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Val

                I sort of do, in that I don't tend to cook much fish either. Although I keep meaning to cook it more. I try to stay out of the whether or not it's meat debate :)

              2. You need to define what you mean by low-carb. On the Atkins diet, low carb means less than 20g of carbohydrate a day, which translates to a salad and a few other vegetables, plus incidental carbs in cheese, cream, eggs and spices, etc. The only real options for meals that don't contain meat but stay under that strict limit are egg or tofu based foods.

                If you have more leeway, lentils and beans are less carby than straight up pasta/grains, so working those into your diet can help you cut some carbs. Vegetable-based meals, as long as you stay away from potatoes, carrots and other starchy vegetables, can be reasonably low carb as well.

                26 Replies
                1. re: biondanonima

                  Awesome, thanks for laying that out for me. I have tons of leeway, since it's totally self imposed and my carb habits mean that I end up eating huge bowls of pasta on a fairly regular basis. So really there's no where to go but up. I am just stuck in a super high carb rut, and it can be difficult to come up with healthy/filling meals that aren't carb based.

                  1. re: starburn

                    Do you find yourself eating pasta because it's easier to cook than anything else, or because you just like it better? Cooking with less carbs does take a bit more planning, as non-carb mains (eggs, meat, seafood, even tofu) require refrigeration and can spoil. Stocking up on dry lentils (which cook in 20-40 mins, depending on type) and canned beans (which don't require cooking at all) will help if you are just used to opening the pantry and throwing together dinner with whatever's inside. Do you like canned tuna? It's a perfect pantry staple and having several cans around means you can always do tuna and white bean salad faster than you can cook pasta.

                    Still, meat, fish and eggs are the easiest way to drastically reduce your carb intake. Perhaps try replacing half of your normal pasta serving with a simple grilled protein and go from there?

                    1. re: biondanonima

                      When I try to ease off the carbs a bit, I boil broccoli and cauliflower right along with the pasta at about a 1:1:1 ratio and treat it as regular pasta. That way I get my fix, but for far fewer carbs and more vitamins.

                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                        I eat a lot of broccoli but the problem is you could eat 4 pounds of it (or cauliflower) a day and you will still be hungry, look at the calorie count for a pound of broccoli.

                        You need to substitute something that will fill you up or else you will always be underfed.

                        1. re: redfish62

                          That's why I leave some of the pasta in. It fills me up and I'm a big eater.

                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                            Wouldn't protein, the highest satiety factor, work better, or in addition?

                            1. re: mcf

                              I see nothing wrong with adding more vegetables to my diet. May not work for you. That's cool.

                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                I eat boatloads of veggies, low carb ones. I was just suggesting replacing some of the pasta with protein because it's the most satiating food there is and fullness was discussed.

                                1. re: mcf

                                  Oh, I'm not disagreeing. I just like to sneak in veggies where I can, too.

                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                    There's a restaurant I go to that subs a big platter of veggies sauteed with olive oil and garlic as a bed for calamari fra diavolo... works really well. At home, I sub a bed of sauteed spinach or spaghetti squash or mashed turnip depending on what we're eating... I have Carba Nada noodles in the house, they don't spike my bg at all, but I'm very rarely moved to eat noodles, so they mostly just sit.

                                    1. re: mcf

                                      Are the noodles a reasonable facsimile?

                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                        Yes, especially as compared to soy based ones that are gritty and bitter. Not identical to regular semolina pasta, but a decent substitute. The texture isn't perfect, but isn't awful and I tend to use it with toppings with a lot of ideal texture and flavor, like my shrimp baked with feta, tomatoes, olives, EVOO, etc... Other low carbers/diabetics I've mentioned them to have made them a staple, and similarly find that they don't spike from them. YMMV.

                                        Here's a page of reviews from a site I've used over the years:

                                        I should add that I cook them a few minutes less than the package instructions say to. The longer you cook starch, the more rapidly digestible it becomes. I make them really al dente.

                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                            Let me know what you think. I've never tried the flavored ones. I just found a new brand online with good reviews and a posted lab analysis that's hard to believe from the ingredients list: it's Fiber Gourmet pasta, available by the case online at their site and and by the box for 2.99 at, my favorite online LC food supplier. I still have Carba Nada I haven't been eating, so not ready to order, but I note that elbows are available by the bag, and it would be nice to make REAL mac and cheese once in a while.

                    2. re: starburn

                      Check out the threads about mujadarra, which is made with lentils, rice (I use brown jasmine), caramelized onions, and seasonings. It is SO much more than the sum of its parts, and is very versatile. Hot, cold, room temp. Entree, side, dip.... Brown rice and lentils are pretty healthy as carbs go.

                      1. re: greygarious

                        Brown rice is really calorie and carb dense unless you eat maybe a spoonful... lentils are wonderful, but I have to keep them condiment sized servings, too, in order to control my blood sugar.

                    3. re: biondanonima

                      "You need to define what you mean by low-carb. On the Atkins diet, low carb means less than 20g of carbohydrate a day"

                      Not true; that's the first two weeks of the diet, after which you increase carbs slightly each week to find your individual critical level.

                      1. re: mcf

                        Well, that really depends on which version of the Atkins book you read. His earlier books advocate staying on induction (or near induction levels) for as long as you like, which was the approach I used. Many people find that going above induction level carbs halts their weight loss, or find that their "critical level for losing" is only 5g or so more than induction level. I know the later books don't recommend staying on induction for longer than necessary, but personally I think the earlier books (1992 and before) are much more true to Dr. Atkins original plan.

                        1. re: biondanonima

                          How are you a low carber when you're such an avid baker?

                          1. re: chowser

                            Well, I was a baker before low carb! I started low-carb (Atkins) about 10 years ago and lost about 60 lbs, and maintained it through a moderate carb approach (which included the occasional baked treat). Over the past year or so, though, my husband and I have started getting in to fitness (P90X), and I find that I actually perform better athletically AND lose some of those stubborn "last 20" lbs that I never got rid of with just a low-carb diet if I eat some carbs. A lot of people would still look at my diet as being low-carb, although I would never call it that anymore - I get about 30% of my calories from carbs, as opposed to less than 5% when I was on Atkins. 30% is still a lot less than most people, though.

                            Of course, baked goods are not really where I'm supposed to be getting my carbs from, and M-F I stick to brown rice and sweet potatoes. However, I give myself a little leeway on weekends and make up for it with my Monday workout!

                            1. re: biondanonima

                              Congratulations--that's awesome. It's great that you're able to enjoy your sweets in moderation, too. I find that if I cut something out, I crave it more but if I have some, it's fine. Off topic, but there's a new P90X coming out soon.

                              1. re: chowser

                                Yes, DH and I are very excited - we started our 3rd round of the original P90X on Monday and we're getting a little tired of the same old faces and jokes. I've heard some rumors from people who have previewed it - it sounds completely insane!

                          2. re: biondanonima

                            But that's not what he'd written in recent decades. :-) He did say if folks felt ok on induction and wanted to do it, they could, but that's not the Atkins plan as written, it's just some folks making individual adjustments based upon personal experience.

                            I know many folks who stayed on induction but it wasn't because weight loss stalled by going higher, mostly it was because it was so good for them, they had a lot to lose, and didn't want to chance higher carbs.

                            1. re: mcf

                              I'm of the opinion that the Atkins books that came out in recent decades were mostly not written by Dr. Atkins - others may disagree. IMO, the Atkins machine capitulated to the popular notion than too much fat is bad and the later books encourage the use of low-carb bars and treats, which didn't really exist when the 1992 book came out (or even when I started the diet back in 2000). Of course, all those Atkins-branded low carb products were huge money makers for the company, in a way that the whole foods diet advocated in the original books never could be. Because of this, I don't put much stock in the later books.

                              1. re: biondanonima

                                That happened after his death, but his books and his public statements in other media were his alone, and he did not promote a 20 gram per day carb diet, just induction. He only allowed that it wouldn't hurt folks who chose it.

                        2. re: biondanonima

                          atkins now works on net carbs, which is carbs minus fiber. induction, which is 2 weeks, is 20 net carbs. 12-15 net veggie carbs. it's LOTS of veggies if done right. :)

                          lentils and beans are very high carb in the scheme of things.

                        3. Was introduced to my favorite breakfast food at a Greek restaurant in North Hollywood in the early '70s (yikes, I'm dating myself). Saute fresh mushrooms in butter until soft. Whip up an omelette and fill with the mushrooms and sour cream. It is beyond yummy. I have lost a great deal of weight twice in my lifetime, and both times on Atkins. The challenge is to find variety in meal planning or you'll quickly face *burn out*. Easy to-go dishes in my arsenol were always crust-less quiches, easy to heat for lunch at work and very low-carb. Some cheese, onions, peppers, meat of choice, and always topped with a dollop of sour cream. Yum!! Good luck to you. This diet really does work.