Low-carb diets are becoming increasingly popular. Many find that this type of diet can help with weight loss and provide other health benefits. Traditionally, low-carb diets have relied heavily on meats, but there are plenty of plant-based options.

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In this article, we describe how vegetarians and vegans can go low-carb and suggest a variety of meat- and dairy-free foods and meals. We also look at what following a low-carb diet entails and give some general guidelines.

Vegetarian and vegan people do not eat meat, poultry, fish, or shellfish. Vegetarians tend to eat other animal-derived products, including dairy, eggs, and honey, while vegans do not.

Vegetarian and vegan diets can be heavy in carbs, from grains, bread, starchy vegetables, and fruits. However, following a low-carb vegetarian or vegan diet is entirely possible.

The following are examples of foods rich in protein and fat, low in carbs, and free from animal products:

Results of a 2018 study indicate that, when following a low-carb diet, proteins and fats from plant sources are more healthful than those from animal sources.

Products derived from plants can better promote healthful aging, cardiovascular health, and weight loss.

Vegetarians, pescatarians, and omnivores can all enjoy vegan sources of protein and fat, as well as other low-carb vegan options.

Vegan sources of protein and fat include:

  • tofu, with 100 grams (g) of salted and fermented tofu containing 8.92 grams of protein and 8 g of fat
  • tempeh, with 100 g containing 20.29 g of protein and 10.80 g of fat
  • seitan, with 100 g containing 19.05 g of protein and 2.38 g of fat
  • nuts, with 30 g of walnuts, for example, containing 5 g of protein and 20 g of fat
  • seeds, with 28.35 g of pumpkin seeds, for example, containing 5.26 g of protein and 5.50 g of fat

The nutritional contents for vegan burgers, hot dogs, and other meat substitutes depend on the product and brand. Check ingredients lists, and keep an eye out for grains and other sources of carbs.

The nutritional profiles of plant-based protein powders also vary by brand. The powders may contain pumpkin seed protein, hemp protein, chia seeds, flax seeds, or pea protein, for example.

Vegan sources of fats:

  • avocados, with one avocado, weighing 136 g without the skin or seed, containing 20.96 g of fat
  • coconut oil, with 1 tablespoon (tbsp) containing 13.47 g of fat
  • avocado oil, with 1 tbsp containing 14 g of fat
  • olive oil, with 1 tbsp containing 13.50 g of fat
  • coconut milk, with 100 milliliters containing 13.33 g of fat

The products below are also vegan sources of fat, and their nutritional contents vary by brand:

  • vegan butter
  • vegan yogurt
  • vegan kefir

Non-starchy vegetables are also important in a low-carb diet and include:

  • asparagus
  • artichokes
  • broccoli
  • kale
  • lettuce
  • spinach
  • other greens

Fruits that score low on the glycemic index, such as berries, grapefruits, and green apples, are part of most low-carb diet plans.

A 2-day low-carb meal plan for vegans

Day 1:

Day 2:

Vegan low-carb snack ideas:

  • nuts
  • seeds
  • vegetable sticks with avocado dip, hummus, or nut butter
  • a green smoothie or juice
  • berries
  • kale chips
  • low-carb granola bars
  • vegan yogurt
  • vegan cheese

Vegetarians can enjoy low-carb vegan options and incorporate dairy and egg products. Pescatarians and omnivores may also benefit from adding low-carb vegan and vegetarian meals to their diets.

Vegetarian sources of protein and fat include:

  • eggs, with a large egg, weighing 46 g and fried, containing 6.26 g of protein and 6.83 g of fat
  • full-fat cheese, with a slice of Swiss cheese, for example, weighing 28 g and containing 7.55 g of protein and 8.68 g of fat
  • Greek yogurt, with 100 g containing 7.33 g of protein and 3 g of fat
  • whole milk, with an 8-oz glass of cow’s milk containing 7.99 g of protein and 9 g of fat

Vegetarian sources of fats:

  • ghee, with 100 g containing 100 g of fat
  • unsalted butter, with 1 tbsp containing 11.52 g of fat

A 2-day low-carb meal plan for vegetarians

Day 1:

Day 2:

Vegetarian low-carb snack ideas:

  • nuts
  • seeds
  • vegetable sticks with hummus, nut butter, or an avocado dip
  • a green smoothie or juice
  • berries
  • kale chips
  • low-carb granola bars
  • an egg
  • cheese
  • yogurt

A low carb-diet involves eating meals that contain few carbohydrates and plenty of healthful fats. The diet emphasizes the importance of fats and protein.

A person following a low-carb diet generally limits their intake of sugary and starchy foods, such as:

  • bread
  • pasta
  • rice
  • potatoes
  • candy
  • sugary drinks
  • high-carb fruits
  • beer

An omnivore following a low-carb diet tends to eat a lot of:

  • meat
  • poultry
  • fish
  • eggs
  • natural fats, such as ghee and butter

Beyond weight loss, potential benefits of a low-carb diet may include better blood sugar control and reduced risk of heart disease.

There is no clear cutoff for what constitutes a low-carb diet. The amount of carbs a person can eat varies from plan to plan. It is important for each person to find a diet plan that suits their needs and goals.

Consider talking to a doctor or dietician before making significant dietary changes. A healthcare professional can take into account an individual’s health and advise about the suitability of a low-carb diet.

Counting the number of carbs in each meal is an important part of following the diet. Developing meal plans can make this simpler.

Nutrient calculator apps can also help a person monitor their carb intake and meet their daily goals and nutritional requirements. Read our review of a range of calorie counter apps, some of which also keep track of carb intake.

Low carb diets are becoming increasingly popular. They may aid weight loss and provide other health benefits.

Traditional low-carb diets tend to include a lot of meat. However, the wide variety of meat-free and plant-based alternatives makes following the diet easy for vegans and vegetarians.

Consider speaking with a doctor or dietician before making significant dietary changes.