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Low Carb Vegetarian Meal (and snack) Ideas

In response to the thread drumming up ideas for new threads: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/858988

As I posted in that other thread: "I tried going low carb a few months ago and it was as dull as dull can get. Part of the problem is l need one pack-able, non refrigerated (and importantly, not any chance at all of leaking or oozing and it must be compact) meal four days a week for school. I ended up eating cheese and celery with a few almonds. I love celery but I started to absolutely despise it." (Is it kosher to quote oneself? Man, oh man, I've just written so many freakin' quote-laden papers in the last year).

I am at the end of summer session right now (last final Monday), and after that I want to get back to trying low carb. In an effort to get as much fiber as well as protein I admit my diet was a little weird last go-round. For instance, eggs and broccoli was a breakfast staple.

I would like ideas for school lunches (limited space in a backpack that holds my super-expensive textbooks and laptop), but I welcome any and all ideas for all meals and snacks.

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  1. Low carb vegetarian is really tough!

    I snack on pistachio nuts alot ( I love them!) but you have to deal with the shells...or I also make my own "trail mix" with different seasoned almonds, macadamia and pepita's mixed with a chocolate protein bar cut in little squares. A handful in a baggie or lidded coffee or tea beverage container makes a nice snack. I mix up a batch and keep it in a mason jar so I can "grab and go".

    A whey protein shake in a stainless steel bottle might work for you. I use a stainless bottle with a big screw cap and it has a ring in the top so you can hang it from a backpack if you want. I also put cold soup in my bottle as well. I also don't trust thermos type containers for leaking. The only draw back with stainless is that they sweat, so hang it on the outside of your bag if carrying something really cold. I am a hiker so I have alot of different leak free sturdy bottles.

    Low carb veg wraps are easy to pack. I spread a LC tortilla with a bit of herbed cream cheese, add colorful peppers and pickled asparagus or artichoke. If you cut them in half and put them in a baggie then put them into a lidded coffee mug, they won't squish.

    6 Replies
    1. re: sedimental

      Lc tortillas are also good rolled up with cheese, baked tofu, or seitan.

      Kale chips, roasted Brussels sprouts, zucchini chips, or roasted baby carrots are all good snacks. Can be packed with hummus for more of a meal. Sabra makes portable hummus cups.

      Consider investing in a good Tupperware or container to hold salads.

      1. re: cheesecake17

        I agree about the LC tortilla's with anything! Today I made a LC tortilla with a schmear of cream cheese, herbs from the pots outside, ground pepper and hard boiled egg halves and a handful of spring mix lettuce. Very nice!

        1. re: cheesecake17

          I agree with the LC tortillas. I nuke them with the filling inside and I think they're awesome, but I found out about them when my co-worker bought them, couldn't stand them, and gave them to me. So ymmv.

          1. re: choctastic

            There are a lot of brands, some good, some kind of bitter or rubbery.

      2. Bean or lentil salads that you can put in a Tupperware container make a great low-carb lunch. I also spend a few minutes in the morning making carrot, celery, and/or bell pepper sticks, cherry tomatoes, and other easily-snackable vegetables to take to work.

        1. Check these out, and no BPA in the can's lining: http://www.edenfoods.com/store/produc... I sometimes have them as a summertime lunch with vinaigrette. I'm not vegetarian, but I've been eating low carb for 14 years or so.

          I also use Joseph's middle eastern bakery low carb sandwich thins, tortillas and pitas to make wraps. One thing that's really good is mozzarella or cheese of your choice with grilled veggies. I like to make a lot of the veggies eaten hot, room temp or cold with meals. They make a great addition to a cheese wrap, no other condiment required. Cheese can go hours unrefrigerated and tastes better than way.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mcf

            Good suggestion about the black soy beans, mcf. I love those and use them all the time. They are great for dips, spreads, I puree them for black bean soup, use in chili, salsa, etc. and have even used them for the beans in LC brownies.

          2. I would suggest tofu and tempeh centric dishes.. like veggie wraps. If you line the wrap with some greens they won't get soggy. A crust less quiche, with Eggs, or if vegan, with tofu or chickpea flour is also very portable. Nut based spreads, pates or fake meat is also an option for wraps. I love using walnuts to make raw tacos!


            1 Reply
            1. re: blinknoodle

              I forgot too add seitan, too. Very high protein. Chorizo seitan sausage can liven up cabbage stir fries.


            2. This sounds like a bit of a punishing diet you've got yourself on! May I ask why you've chosen to go low-carb? I have to say, I have been veggie a lot of times and generally found that as long as I chose high-fiber and nutritious carb sources (bran cereal, non-fried potatoes, brown rice, rye bread) I felt great and didn't put on weight or anything - and the amount of health-compromising stuff I was avoiding by not eating meat meant that I was making up for the supposed bad points of carbohydrates (at least, that's what I liked to think!). Cut yourself a wee bit of slack at least maybe, and let yourself have some carbs at breakfast if you're tiring of broccoli and eggs, the body does need a good deal of energy just to keep you warm and alive after all! Having said all this, edamame beans are a really nice snack whether shelled or not, and are full of protein - a foil-sealed pot of cottage cheese can be perfect for a lunchtime frontrunner, and as for a meal try making a lo-carb pizza: slice an aubergine into 1/2 inch planks from tip to tip, brush them with oil, lay them out on a baking sheet and cover the tops with tomato sauce and lots of mozzarella and basil, yuuurrrrmmmm...only needs half an hour in the oven. :)

              5 Replies
              1. re: Elster

                I'm pretty sure the OP didn't ask for advice about what diet to live on, just what *low carb* foods to eat. And those things you listed are fiber impoverished compared to veggies, avocados, nuts, seeds, etc.

                The body needs sustained energy for best performance, and protein, by converting slowly over hours instead of a sugar spike and gone like carbs, is the best fuel. The brain actually runs better on ketones from fat burning, and switches from glucose to them whenever they are present.

                Metabolically, carbs at breakfast are far more glycemic than later in the day due to biological/diurnal cortisol rhythm which pushes glucose highest in the a.m. and wanes to nil over the course of a full day.

                I've been eating very low carb for many years, and it's the least punishing way of eating I've ever been on.

                1. re: mcf

                  Thanks, all.

                  When I first started school last summer, my first class was remedial algebra. (Somehow, in the 40 or so years since I had taken algebra, it had all fallen out of my head). My teacher had many years not only as an algebra teacher but also running the Learning Center. For our first test she gave us a handout with tips on taking tests. First and foremost was making sure we had a high-protein breakfast on the day of our test, after getting a good nights sleep. I can't tell you what a difference that made and how eye-opening it was for somebody who routinely had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast. Since then, I have dabbled in low-carb eating.

                  I've been a vegetarian for 38 years now, so it's not likely I will revert to being an omnivore. That said, I surely don't know everything there is to know about nutrition. I have come to realize that low carb eating is better for the way my body and brain work, especially when my brain is taxed on a daily basis. I have also come to realize that my body is very unhappy without legumes in my diet and that is where I get most of my carbs, from beans. Even low-carb tortillas seem very carb-y to me.

                  The school changed the schedule for one of my classes this fall, so I had to switch it for another class. I couldn't envision two four-hour classes in one day. So, at least for the time being, I won't need to pack any meals.

                  Thanks for the great ideas. I'm sure I'm not the only one who needs these kinds of packable lunches.

                  1. re: mcf

                    well that's very interesting. I have been assuming that if I'm going to eat carbs it should be at breakfast as it gives me the whole day of activity to use them up. Maybe I should read to the end of the Gary Taubes book I bought...

                    1. re: gembellina

                      Or just look up the effects of cortisol or steroids on blood glucose. Our endogenous ones are highest in the a.m. between about 6-8 a.m., tapering all day, to about zero by midnight.

                      The first precipitous drop is between 3-5 p.m. That's when I often start to feel chilled or fatigued in winter afternoons.

                      1. re: mcf

                        That's a useful place to start, thanks.

                2. Deconstructed Strawberry Shortcake~ Vegan Salad Sandwiches with Tomato Sauce and "Cheese" slices.. ~ Pesto Salad~ Beet Salad~ Snack mix is even good after school.. Homemade Pretzels Bagels~ All with low carb items.. : ) Those insulated lunch sacks are excellnt for keeping food fridged without getting everything in your bag wet. Onetime, I opened my pack after a long day of walking the streets to look for a job and the things was halve full of water from thrown ice into a sandwich bag and nothing else was wet.

                  Fake Meatballs are good for school they have alot of vitamin D and if you put tomatoe sauce your can get vitamin A. That's a good shot of the smart snacking food plus it's easy to keep. What other stuff is good cold~ Fake Sloppy Joe's with Falafel.. Cheese Sandwich with good cheese and fake bologna... Fruit Salad, popcorn, quesadilla and homemade salsa,



                  6 Replies
                  1. re: PeppyKitchen

                    re: fake meatballs

                    few years ago did a side-by-side taste test of various brands of fake meatballs.
                    the winner was the Trader Joe's brand.
                    can be found in the frozen food case.
                    they are a staple in my house (and i'm not even a vegetarian)

                    1. re: PeppyKitchen

                      Those are vegetarian, but all very high carb.

                      1. re: mcf

                        respectfully disagree.
                        6 mini meatballs contain
                        8 grams of carbohydrate and 16 grams of protein.

                        1. re: westsidegal

                          Okay, so one item is not high carb from that post. I take back my comment wrt Trader Joe's fake meatballs.

                          1. re: mcf

                            that's the only item on the list that i've tried and that i will ever try.

                    2. Look for Seapoint Farms Roasted Edamame at the grocery store... usually if you look in the aisle that has the natural/organic/'special' foods it is near the roasted soynuts, dried fruit, etc.

                      The nutrition facts are astronomical--super good for you! Even better in protein and fiber than soy nuts or sunflower seeds.. and these are easy to eat because it requires no refrigeration. World Market also has it as well, and for a special treat, you can buy the Goji blend version.

                      Here is what the product looks like (but obviously you aren't going to want 12 bags...)

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: GraceW

                        They have a wasabi one, too. It is pretty tasty, but every once in a while, you'll get one that will blow your lid off. I really like wasabi, but I was reduced to tears streaming, snot running after getting a couple of those in a row

                        1. re: kubasd

                          YES! Some packages are SO strong compared to others. I am always crying when I eat them. But I like them even better than those Wasabi peas.

                      2. I have been looking for a vegetarian Asian, low-carb breakfast and my top choice is a dish of mung beans cooked with ginger and pandanus leaves - with the addition of some coconut milk and a sweetener, if you need it. Not for every day, but quite a tasty breakfast a few times a week.

                        1. nuts and shelled edamame.

                          1. Hi, I am not sure *how* low carb you are talking. My husband follows a more "keto diet" mentality (which is a little more extreme on the carb counting) and I like to generally stick to foods that don't metabolize quickly and maintain blood glucose levels. Neither of us likes to get a lot of our protein from the processed meat substitutes.

                            For my husband, we have found it quite difficult as the main sources of sufficient protein end up being eggs and dairy. Beans are too carby for him, chewing greens all day gets old, and excessive soy isn't great for men. The animal-based items and nuts that remain aren't so great for cholesterol (unless you go with egg whites). So he has had to compromise with either introducing beans or fish.

                            However, the level of protein required on the keto-like diet I believe is more than recommended unless you are an extreme exerciser... I think a 200 lb man needs something like 50-60 grams of protein, which is achievable. For this some of the common meals we eat (and that I take to lunch every day in my bag) are...

                            - Wild rice and lentil pilaf with grilled vegetables
                            - Veggie sticks and hummus
                            - Mediterranean bean salad with tahini dressing
                            - Falafels
                            - Salads with a changing array of ingredients (to save on space I make a chopped salad that fits densely in a container)
                            - As a snack, an avocado with a little salt and lime, eaten with a spoon
                            - Sauteed greens over quinoa or couscous
                            - Veggie boats... basically take anything (zucchini, peppers, eggplants, mushrooms) and make into a hollow format; stuff with a sauteed mixture of the insides of the vegetable (if applicable), some cheese or cream cheese, onions, and any kind of seasoned salt
                            - We eat a lot of roasted cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts) as they are very high in fiber and have a deep savory taste... I just coat in some olive oil, salt, pepper, and whatever seasoning (try mustard) and bake at 375-400 until a lot of it is nice and crispy. Then you can eat it with a small portion of a whole grain, a boiled egg, or over a bed of greens

                            A couple of things that add a lot of flavor for us are:
                            - Good spice mixes
                            - Onions and garlic :)
                            - Really high quality olive oil (and, if you aren't too strictly low carb, vinegar)

                            The thing that I love for taking food to work is Weck jars and mason jars... I find I have very little, if any, leakage even when I pack salad dressing, soup, etc.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: deraj

                              I'm pretty sure the average woman needs a minimum of 77gms of complete protein per day, minimally, or thereabouts. I aim for more like 100.

                              The meals you describe are almost exclusively carbohydrate based, impossible to be ketogenic on them, unless also eating starvation levels. Ketosis initially kicks in at 100 grams of carbs per day or less, but after a few weeks, it takes going down to less than half that to stay in ketogenic mode.

                              Eggs and fat or cholesterol containing foods do not raise cholesterol levels, that's a myth that's been debunked for years now. Whole eggs are a very complete nutrition powerhouse, egg whites not so much.

                              1. re: mcf

                                My mistake, I was thinking the rule was 0.3 grams / lb, but it's 0.6 grams. Apologies.

                                As I said, I focus more on foods that metabolize slowly (high fiber, complex carbs, etc.), *not* the keto model like my husband, and that is what I provided information on (which is what I know). All vegetables have carbs... unless you want to eat only meat, dairy and nuts it's hard to avoid... and even then. I find I have more than enough protein in my diet (and my blood work always looks great). I have PCOS and manage it this way.

                                Not sure about the cholesterol, I haven't researched that piece as much but am going on advice from the doctor.

                                1. re: deraj

                                  I don't think there's any set value for any individual for protein above the minimum. So much depends on how much lean body mass you have and want to maintain and how much you're trying to gain, etc.

                                  I eat loads of vegetables and they can be extremely favorable carb wise, but I was referring more to the high starch content along with veggies and an apparent paucity of protein and fat in response to a request for low carb foods.

                                  My plate is piled mostly with veggies, but non starchy, high fiber ones, so my % of calories from carbs is quite low, between 10-20% due to the carbs selected. I love your mention of high temp roasting of veggies, doing that with cauli, especially, with whole shallots is a favorite winter dish for us.

                                  Protein and fat are the only two essential macronutrients in human biology, carbs alone are optional, which is why it makes sense to start restriction there while keeping fat well above the 30% mark that lipids researchers say is too low for optimum health and function.

                                  1. re: mcf

                                    Mcf, when one aims for 100 g or less of carbs per day (or whatever number of grams per day), does that mean the carb count minus the grams of fiber, or just the straight up carb count? I know there are probably different schools of thought with regard to this, but I'd love to know what seems the more effective approach for you. Thanks.

                                    1. re: ninrn

                                      There are different schools of thought on it as you say, and of course, some folks burn off more glucose during the day, so might go into ketosis at a higher number and some might burn off less and need to go lower. I count fiber in the total, or deduct only half of it because that's approx. how much of it actually does get metabolized.

                                      At first, you go into ketosis at 100 because your brain is still burning glucose instead of ketones for fuel and it uses about 64-68 grams of it per day (off the top of my head, I think that's corrext); that leaves little left over for all your other energy and body expenditures, so you switch into fat burning mode and ketone production.

                                      The brain chooses ketones over glucose when they're present because it runs better on them, and once it does, your brain drops to using a small amount of glucose (IIRC, it may be 30 or so grams per day after switching) daily, so you have to drop to a lower carb level, maybe 50 grams of carbs per day or less to remain in ketosis.

                                      I used fitday.com for a lot of years to figure out my personal optimum diet breakdown. Mine is typically starch and sugar free and fairly low calorie as well, and breaks down to about 50% fat, 35% protein and 15% non starchy carbs... a lot of that is fiber due to my food choices.

                                      I buy grass fed and finished meats and dairy to the greatest extent possible, and about 1/3 to 1/2 the fat I eat is saturated from healthy sources.

                                      Your mileage may vary, of course.

                                    2. re: mcf

                                      roasted garlic smeared all over vegetables can be divine.. . .

                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                        That sounds swell, but I dare not partake of something with aftereffects that may offend fellow students while I sit in a smallish classroom crammed with 50 other people for up to 4 hours.

                                2. re: deraj

                                  If you want to add some variety to these diets, go to Asian cooking: all kinds of salads, such as gado-gado (boiled vegetables with a peanut sauce), raw vegetable salad, tempeh in its various forms, various ways to treat tofu, aormatic soups with galangan, lemon grass, lime leafs, ginger, and so on. There are also bean soups, such as an Indonesian brown bean soup. And there is variety in other cuisines: Latin American cuisines are often bean-based, there is gazpacho, and so on.