Becoming a high protein low carb vegetarian can be tricky. These are the top 10 sources of vegetarian-approved protein (eggs, dairy, and plant-based protein) with carb charts and protein charts.
PLUS you can choose from over 30 easy high-protein low-carb vegetarian recipes.
PLUS there is a comprehensive guide of 33 protein sources for low-carb vegetarians and pescatarians to help you thrive on your low-carb diet.
If you want to try the protein-sparing modified fast (PSMF diet), you can download the free printable PDF guidebook, meal plan, PSMF food list, and PSMF calculator.
Are vegetarians keto?
Vegetarians don't eat meat but some vegetarian diets allow other foods such as:
- Pescatarians eat seafood, eggs, and dairy.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat dairy and eggs.
- Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy.
- Vegans avoid everything that comes from a living creature, even honey.
Many vegetarian diets are by nature, high carb and low protein. Especially those who rely on vegetarian ready-meals, vegan products, and vegetarian snacks.
Traditional foods that many vegetarians eat do not fit into a low-carb diet such as grains, bread, pasta, rice, fruit, and legumes. These common vegetarian foods are high in carbs.
Quinoa for example - 1 cup of cooked quinoa provides 8g protein but 35g carbs which are more than the total daily carb allowance on a keto diet.
But you can be a high-protein low-carb vegetarian! It just takes a bit of planning and know-how. Whether your goal is to focus on weight loss or simply ensure you are getting enough protein in your daily diet, this is definitely helpful information for anyone who wants to be a low-carb vegetarian.
Is soy safe?
Because of the lack of clear science to confirm or deny the safety of soy, it's up to individuals to decide on what is best for them in their situation.
Soy is a classic vegetarian protein source, but it is generally avoided by many who are on a whole food diet, low-carb diet, keto diet, and clean diet due to the increasing research showing a link of soy's phytoestrogens disrupting both male and female hormones.
The debate over the health benefits/harm from soy and tofu can be a polarising argument due to the conflicting research. Much of the research is biased in favor of who has funded it.
Soy, tofu, and many other types of vegetarian and vegan protein powder are highly processed, so you will need to decide whether you want to follow a clean vegetarian diet or a dirty keto diet.
So what are some healthy low-carb protein options that vegetarians can enjoy that are also low in grams of net carbs? And how can you formulate a balanced low-carb vegetarian diet?
How to start a low-carb vegetarian diet
To become a low-carb vegetarian, you will want a ratio of quality protein, healthy fats, and nutrient-dense carbohydrates that fit into your lifestyle.
You need to decide how many carbs per day you want to enjoy on your low-carb diet, or you can use the keto macro calculator to show you.
What to avoid:
- You can begin by simply cutting back on the bread, pasta, rice, fruit, and dried fruit that many vegetarians rely on.
- Cut back on chocolate, candy, sweet desserts, cakes, and cookies.
- No more fruit juice, fruit-based smoothies, and dried fruit bliss balls. They are all high in natural sugars.
- If possible, try to moderate your consumption of carb-heavy beans such as pinto beans, garbanzo beans, and black beans, to name a few.
- And cut back on your tomato passata sauce and pasta, which are nutrient-poor and high carb.
What to enjoy:
- Enjoy delicious colorful salads with protein such as cheese, nuts, eggs, and fish (if you are pescatarian and happy to consume this, I will write a post specifically for vegans in the future).
- Add some high-protein nuts and seeds such as chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, or hemp seeds.
- Enjoy high-protein dairy such as natural yogurt, Greek yogurt, hard cheese, feta cheese, sour cream, and cottage cheese.
- If your vegetarian diet allows eggs as your animal protein, this is a great portable high-protein low-carb addition to any meal or snack.
- To help you stay satisfied on a low-carb diet, you'll also want to add plenty of healthy plant-based fats to your meals.
Read this article Ultimate Guide To Healthy Fats, and start using liberally - avocado oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, macadamia oil, and mayonnaise (if you eat eggs).
Two vegetarian meal plans
Vegetarian meal plan (well-formulated) - fresh salad, high-protein nuts, avocados, full-fat dairy, natural yogurt, natural cheeses, seeds, vegetable smoothies, nut butter, tahini, fish, and eggs (if allowed) = balanced, lower carb, unprocessed meals. Diversity is the key.
Vegetarian meal plan (poorly-formulated) - vegetarian freezer meals, processed vegan snacks, gluten-free pasta, tomato sauce, tofu, bread, wheat crackers, bliss balls, fruit, dried fruit snacks, smoothies, protein powder, protein shakes, protein bars = high carb, high sugar, high processed meals.
10 high-protein low-carb vegetarian foods
A low-carb vegetarian recipe roundup can be found at the end of this post. Print or save and of the 31 recipes for delicious vegetarian breakfasts, lunch, dinner, and vegetarian snacks too.
Eggs are packed with healthy fats AND quality protein! Eggs are versatile, filling, portable, and make for a great snack or meal.
Eggs can be used in an easy egg salad, deviled eggs, or egg wraps. Plus, you can easily make hard-boiled eggs, a low-carb diet staple, in an instant pot in just minutes.
13g protein per 100g (2 eggs) & 1g net carbs
The best high-protein low-carb nuts and seeds
This protein in nuts and seeds chart shows you exactly how many grams of protein, how many grams of fat, how many grams of net carbs, and how many calories are in nuts and seeds.
Nuts are another great protein snack option. Keep some in your car for an on-the-go snack. There are so many options! Try macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds.
Nuts are perfect to be sprinkled over salads, into an avocado, or into vegetable-based smoothies. Nut butter, almond butter, and peanut butter are delicious on their own or added onto keto bread or into fruit smoothies.
Check out my Ultimate Guide To Low-Carb Nuts and Seeds and choose those with lower carb counts.
Snacking on nuts is so much better than snacking on high-carb junk food, and groundnuts such as almond flour are brilliant for low-carb baking. But the volume you may be consuming and the high carb contents of some nuts can be the number one saboteur of weight loss.
So let's take a closer look at the most common nuts and seeds with their carb values. These keto-friendly nuts can all be enjoyed from time to time, but you'll soon see that some will take up much more carbs than others.
Nuts provide a wonderful plant-based protein, but you have to know which are the highest protein nuts, and which are the lowest carb nuts.
Who doesn’t love cheese? And there are endless high-protein cheese varieties to choose from. Full-fat cheese is the easiest way to add protein and healthy fat to any meal.
Anything topped with melted cheese makes life good. Eggplant parmesan bites, broccoli and cauliflower bake (omit the bacon of course), and then there are cream cheese stuffed baby peppers - the perfect vegetarian low-carb snack.
You can also simply sprinkle your favorite cheeses onto salads. Any kind of shredded cheese works, as well as goat cheese, or feta cheese.
25g protein per 100g Edam cheese & 1.4g net carbs
4: Greek yogurt and cottage cheese
10g protein per 100g and 3.6g net carbs
Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are packed with protein, which makes them a much better option over regular yogurt. We all know protein and healthy fats keep you fuller for longer.
So enjoy some Greek Yoghurt for breakfast alongside grain-free granola with added coconut cream, nuts, and berries for a fantastic high-protein low-carb vegetarian breakfast.
Cottage cheese is another versatile source of protein. it can be sprinkled onto salads, spread on toast, and even made sweet for a quick and easy high-protein dessert.
10g protein per 100g and 4.8g net carbs
5: Chia seeds
Chia seeds contain healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium and are an excellent source of protein for low-carb diets or a low-carb vegan diet.
Sprinkle some chia seeds into your salad, in your smoothie or yogurt, or into your water.
Or how about a chia breakfast 4 ways - mocha, berry, cinnamon, and chocolate. Just throw everything together the night before, and breakfast is sitting ready for you in the fridge when you are bleary-eyed and half asleep.
34.7g protein per 100g chia seeds and 2.2g net carbs
6: Nut butter
If nuts are a great snack then nut butter is even better! You can buy single-serve packets that are perfect for spreading over vegetables like celery.
Nut butter is a quick and easy dip, especially if you mix them with cream cheese or yogurt. Add some spices such as chili, and you're set. Or, simply swipe onto your favorite low-carb bread like my 3-seed bread.
Just make sure to check the ingredients and avoid varieties with added sugar to keep your blood sugar in check.
6.6g protein per 2 tablespoon almond butter & 2.7g net carbs
7: High protein vegetables
Did you know which low-carb vegetables can contain high amounts of protein?
- Kale contains 3 g of protein per 100g
- Brussels sprouts contain 2.6 g of protein per 100g
- Fresh spinach contains 2.9 g of protein per 100g
- Mushrooms contain 2.2 g per 100g
Plus there are a lot of other benefits to consuming fresh vegetables such as fiber for digestive health and vitamin c for healthy skin!
Many seeds are high protein, just choose wisely and don't overeat them (which is so easy to do).
Take a look at this article and a full infographic showing The Ultimate Guide To Carbs In Nuts And Seeds.
Seeds are the perfect go-to for snacks, salads, and low-carb baking flours.
10g protein per 100g pumpkin seeds and 4g net carbs
Vegetarians rely heavily on legumes because they are touted to be high in vegetable protein. Unfortunately, along with the protein, legumes are incredibly high in carbs. In fact, generally, they are 1:2: protein: carb values.
Because legumes are the main source of protein for many vegetarians, to start living low carb, it is imperative to cut back on other obvious high carbs foods first.
- Peas - 1 cup cooked will yield 8.2g protein, with 17.2g net carbs. So peas are to be limited.
- Lentils - 1 cup cooked yields 17.9g protein & 28.3g net carbs
- Chickpeas - 1 cup cooked yields 14.5g protein but a whopping 32.5g net carbs
Strict vegetarians don't eat fish, but if you’re a pescetarian, then you can enjoy the many benefits of fish! It’s an excellent source of complete protein and healthy omega 3’s.
Need a quick on-the-go snack? Try canned tuna or salmon. Add it to your salad and voila, you’ve got a delicious, low-carb meal.
Why not pour a tin/can of tuna into an avocado, sprinkle with some seeds and nuts, drizzle over some macadamia oil - and you're done.
78.4g protein per 14oz/308g fillet & ZERO carbs
While vegetarians might feel like their low-carb options are limited, they truly do have many alternatives!
There are so many low-carb protein-packed foods out there, it simply takes a little planning and fun cooking. Try these vegetarian recipes, it's easy to plan a weekly meal plan from them.
31 easy high-protein low-carb vegetarian recipes
All of these recipes are perfect for the low-carb vegetarian diet. How much protein you need will depend on whether you are following a low-carb diet, keto diet, low-fat diet, or high-protein low-carb vegetarian diet.
Low-carb vegetarian breakfast recipes
Low-carb vegetarian smoothie recipes
Low-carb vegetarian snacks
Low-carb vegetarian meals
Low-carb pescatarian recipes
High-protein low-carb vegetarian FAQ
Most vegetables are low protein (compared to meat protein) but one of the highest is kale, spinach, and Brussels sprouts. All have around 2g - 3g protein per 100g and are very low carb.
It can be difficult to formulate a well-planned vegetarian meal plan that provides all the essential amino acids that is also low in carbs. But if your health, ethics, beliefs, morals, and ideals will allow you to eat fish and eggs, it is much easier to achieve.
Yes, peanut butter is low-carb, high fat, and moderate protein. Just 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter will give you 4g protein, 2 g net carbs, 7.9 g fat, and 94 calories.
Yes, you can buy keto protein powder which has all the essential amino acids but is still low in grams of net carbs. Most protein powders are processed so always check the nutrition label.
Vegetarian protein charts
You can see the full vegetarian carb charts and protein chart with net grams of carbs and grams of protein per serving.
An Actual Vegetarian
Pescatarian and Vegetarian are not the same thing! I’ve been eating veg (almost exclusively vegan) for nearly 30 years. It dismays me that people are still asking me if I eat fish, chicken, or ... get this... mutton! Seriously? No- it means I don’t eat animals, no matter how they move across the earth or atmosphere. It’s pretty simple. This article needs help.
Libby Jenkinson, MPS
The article begins with "for vegetarians or pescatarians". I clearly distinguish the two. I also discuss "If you’re a pescetarian, then you can enjoy the many benefits of fish!". I agree. Vegetarians and pescatarians are different but can be classified together when it is a general article discussing the good options for lower carb protein sources. Then it's up to the reader to decide what is applicable to them.
Seriously people! If your diet allows fish, eat the fish. If your diet doesn’t allow fish, don’t eat the fish. It’s not that hard!
Can I use the graphic (top sources of low carb protein for vegetarians) for a slide presentation I am giving? Thanks, Mark
Absolutely, thank you for checking with me for permission. Please remember to cite my website as the source. Good luck with your presentation Mark, Libby.
Could you please do a similar comparison for grains and healthy breakfast options like oats, broken wheat, 12 grain cereal etc.
Your infographic is awesome and it's helpful to have everything on a chart for easy reference. Thank you
We don't eat grains, you may wish to read this post.
If you eat fish you are not a vegetarian
There are many variations of vegetarians. Many vegetarians eat fish (pescatarian) and eggs (ovo-vegetarian).
Late to the discussion here but as a life long vegetarian I do not eat flesh of any kind including fish, I eat dairy and eggs so I am not vegan - I am a strict vegetarian. SMH People just don't get it, some will tell me 'I'm a vegetarian, I eat only chicken' What is a chicken if not meat?
I agree Lou ! This is an article entitled "10 low carb protein sources for VEGETARIANS" not Pescatarians! Pescatarians are NOT vegetarians ! Whoever wrote this article needs an education on THAT and a few pother dietary facts !
I've been trying to eat low-carb as a vegetarian, but I recently found out that I'm allergic to eggs. I've felt a lot better since cutting them out, but now I'm struggling to stay low-carb and still get enough protein! I've tried organic protein shakes, nuts and nut butters, veggies with high protein content - I'm still coming short every day (or exceeding my carb limits to push for protein).
Has anyone else run into this?
Great information about high protein vegetarian foods that are really healthy too. Thank you so much.
Made this last night and loved it! Except for.... the mint. It was weird and didn't "go" with the dish, but I wanted to make the recipe as shown plus peoples raved about the mint. But the mint was a hard nope. Next time I think I will use a mixture of spinach, broccoli, jalapeno and mushroom. I'm a veg and my boyfriend is Atkins and we both loved it (except for the mint, lol) You can make this what you want, oh and slivered almonds would be great!
Steven E Wolfe
I could be completely wrong here, but all my schooling and growing up and told me that fish is not vegetarian. Pescatarians can eat fish, but not Vegetarians. Just saying.
The inclusion of fish in this list for vegetarians leads me to mistrust everything. If you don't understand the term vegetarian, do you know anything about nutrition?
Absolutely. In recipes etc, vegetarian and pescatarian should not be in the same category.
I need to try chia seeds I see them everywhere! Also I recommend paneer as a source of keto protein (great for indian take aways nights). Keep it up 🙂
Oooh, I love paneer, fried. Yummy.
I am currently trying to help a diabetic friend who is also a vegetarian, thankyou so much for all the info, I have passed it on and will keep doing so. It is much harder to live LCHF for vegetarians but he is persevering and I admire his tenacity !
In regards to your friends diabetes, may I recommend two must-read books that will be of great benefit:
The Sugar Solution by Sari Harrar
The Obesity Code by Dr Jason Fung.
I’ve read both and found them incredibly educational and helpful on causes, control and cure of type II diabetes.
I love these ebooks, in addition, The Diabetes Solution, by Dr Bernstein who is an absolute champion for Type 1 diabetics. All of these books can be seen in my Amazon book store.
Thank you so much for this article. I have successfully followed this way of living for 18 months as a vegetarian and I love it but I have problems with vitamin B levels. Now I can work harder on making better choices
Yes Vitamin B, especially B12 can be a problem. I'm glad to hear this list will help you make informed choices.