“Eating clean”—i.e. eating mostly lean protein, vegetables, limited grains and fats, and no processed foods—usually emphasizes meat as a primary source of low-carb, low-fat protein to stabilize blood sugars, build muscle, and promote weight loss. And until recently, Tosca Reno‘s Eat-Clean Diet® was no different; many of the recipes in her books included lean beef, chicken, or fish, making them off-limits to vegetarians. But now she’s out to change the idea that vegetarians can’t eat a clean, high-protein diet: Her newest book, The Eat-Clean Diet® Vegetarian Cookbook, is exclusively aimed at helping vegetarians who want to maintain health with a clean diet, and also stay meat-free.
To find out how vegetarians can Eat Clean (and high-protein), we asked Tosca about her own diet, her new book, and what her top tips are for maintaining a balanced diet without meat:
Are you personally vegetarian, or do you try to limit your intake of meats? What made you decide to write Eat Clean Vegetarian?
I am not personally a vegetarian but I am interested in keeping my meat intake at the “condiment” level. When I do eat meat I make sure they are well sourced, clean, environmentally clean and don’t contribute to ill health. I have been changing the way I eat to include more and more vegetables, particularly greens and I love the way quinoa, for example, can take the place of meat based proteins. However I do enjoy free-range organic eggs for a quick, nutrient dense meal option quick option. Each of us can learn to include more vegetables on a daily basis so I created the Eat Clean Diet Vegetarian CookBook to help us do that, vegetarian or not.
A lot of people associate eating clean with eating high-protein, low-carb, which often is really hard to do on a 100% vegetarian or vegan diet. What’s the difference between “eating clean” and eating a high protein or paleo diet?
The Eat Clean Diet has a balanced approach to consuming the correct amount of macronutrients – 30% fat, 30% protein, 40% carbohydrates (20% of these are from leafy greens while the remaining 20% are from fruits and grains). Eating protein on a vegetarian diet is not hard to do, it just takes more planning because you don’t have the traditional meat options. The worry for most vegetarians is that they became “carbarians.” They eat way too many grains and end up putting their nutrition in a dangerous imbalance. This does not have to be the situation.
So many high-protein, low-carb vegetarian foods are processed these days. Does your book suggest eating soy or other “fake meats”?
I have built a series of books about Eating Clean whereby one of the guiding principles is to AVOID processed, fake and nutrient devoid foods. I don’t advocate eating fake anything. On the subject of soy, that food needs to be eaten with great care as there are many concerns about hormone disruptions occurring with the consumption of it. Soy is also one of the most Genetically Modified Organisms available so I worry about what that can do to a person if eaten in excess. The idea is to eat in moderation with an eye to weight management and optimal health.