A Vegan's Guide to the Slow-Carb Diet

Can it really help you lose weight?

eggs and bean salad
Getting ready to Slow Carb? You'll be eating lots of eggs and beans!. Photo by John E. Kelly / Getty Images

Many people successfully lose weight on the Slow-Carb Diet. Designed by best-selling author and self-improvement coach, Tim Ferriss, this lifestyle diet focuses on eating simple protein- and vegetable-based meals repeatedly, allowing for one cheat day a week. There's no calorie counting with this effective weight loss strategy, but there are some limitations, including the elimination of starches and sweets from the diet. Ferriss's book, The 4-Hour Body, provides a complete guide to rejuvenating your body through exercise and nutritional guidelines, while also improving your sleep and sexual performance. But while the Slow-Carb Diet—with a focus on eating lean sources of protein—may work well for meat and dairy eaters, what's the lowdown for vegans? 

Slow-Carb Diet Basics

Before deciding if the vegan Slow-Carb Diet is for you, you first need to know the basics. For an in-depth look and the do's and don'ts, grab a copy of Ferriss's book, but here are the quick and dirty basics:

  • Eat 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking. All other meals should yield about 20 grams of protein.
  • Drink a large amount of water throughout the day—more than you deem necessary. 
  • Take a required day off the diet (a.k.a., "a cheat day") to eat whatever you want. 
  • Eat only unprocessed or minimally processed whole foods, excluding all grains (quinoa, barley, wheat flour, corn, and rice), starches (potatoes and sweet potatoes), and sugar. For the purpose of this diet, fruit is considered a sugar and is not allowed.
  • Drink only water, black coffee, and one glass of red wine a day. Fruit and vegetable juices, milk, and almond milk are prohibited.
  • Eat as much of the allowed foods as you want, within reason. Calorie-counting and fat-counting are not necessary.
  • Dairy is not allowed on the Slow-Carb Diet (a plus for vegans).
  • For the vegan version, substitute beans, some nuts, seeds, and protein-rich vegetables for the meat allotment, and feel free to use condiments sparingly. 

Vegan Slow-Carb Food Choices

Since many common vegetarian and vegan foods are prohibited on the Slow-Carb Diet, the rules may be counter-intuitive for vegans. However, these restrictions aren't quite as limiting as they seem. In fact, it is possible to achieve the high protein content required through many vegan-approved foods. You just need to know what to add to your menu and in what quantity.
First, let's talk tofu. There is a debate about whether or not tofu belongs on the Slow-Carb Diet at all. Since tofu is made from processed soybeans and consuming unprocessed, or minimally processed, foods are encouraged, including tofu raises an eyebrow. But for vegans, tofu's high protein content is one of the few ways to meet the requirements of the diet and is, therefore, permitted in moderation. If you're still unsure, substitute hemp tofu instead. Made completely from hemp seeds, this high protein food is less processed that its soybean alternative.

Similar to tofu, tempeh can be added to the vegan form of this diet once a day. This fermented soybean product also comes in a sprouted version that is, very much, considered a whole food. Also allowed, and encouraged, are other fermented products like miso, kimchi, and sauerkraut.

Edamame is a great source of protein for the vegan-conscious slow-carb followers. Eat it as a snack or add it to a salad or mixed vegetable dish for extra protein.

Substitute highly-processed protein powders for 100 percent hemp protein, but use it only occasionally, as powdered additives are officially discouraged. Green powder supplements that contain no sugar, rice, or grain are fine to include, but read the label carefully. 

Tim Ferriss himself lends no insight on nutritional yeast. However, according to official guidelines, this no-carb, high-protein additive is probably OK. Add it to the vegan Slow-Carb Diet in small amounts for an extra boost of flavor on your favorite dishes.

Meal Planning

While the Slow-Carb Diet diet sets food limitations for all types of eaters (including meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans) it's recommended that you find a few simple meals you like and stick to them. And since beans are strongly encouraged, a diet rich in beans and high protein-vegetables is best. Breakfasts can include black beans, salsa, spinach, and guacamole to meet the required 30 grams of protein first thing in the morning. For lunch and dinner, make a homemade chili, lentil soup or curry, or a bean salad. A "naked" bean burrito (without the shell) or taco salad provides a nice option for those eating out—but add extra beans. And while snacking is generally discouraged on the Slow-Carb Diet, veggies and hummuskale chipsroasted chickpeas, and roasted pumpkin seeds offer ways to get you through to the next meal.

Vegan Weight Loss on the Slow-Carb Diet

Assuming you have weight to lose and follow the diet rules strictly, as a vegan, you should see the same weight loss results as an omnivore. Most people average around two pounds of weight loss each week during the first couple months on the diet. Others report even bigger losses, depending on how much weight they can afford to lose. Up to four, or even five, pounds a week is not uncommon. Do note, however, that some vegans struggle to follow the protein requirements of the diet without eating eggs. For this reason, due diligence in menu planning is important.