If you’re a vegetarian that’s heard of the keto diet and you’re curious to give it a try you probably have some questions. What is the keto diet? Is it possible to do keto while being a vegetarian? On the other hand, you might be someone already practicing keto that would like to stop eating meat. If so, you probably have a few questions as well. The good news is that yes, keto and vegetarianism can co-exist in the same diet! The following article will explain how to combine the two diets so that you can get the best of both worlds.
What does a vegetarian keto diet look like?
A vegetarian keto diet is a combination of two healthy ways of eating. Both keto and vegetarianism have some great benefits for your body. Although it may seem difficult to imagine the keto diet without meat, it is definitely doable. But first things first. What are these two diets and how do they fit together?
In simplest terms, keto is a low carb diet. While practicing keto your goal is to increase the amount of protein and fat your body takes in while reducing the number of carbs you eat. Our body has two ways of getting fuel from the food that we eat. The way it chooses first is by turning the carbohydrates that we consume into sugar in our bloodstream. This sugar, or glucose, feeds our body and any that is left over is turned into fat to be saved for a time when we need it. Most people get plenty of food a day and our bodies never access this stored fuel.
This is where keto comes in. If the body isn’t being filled with carbs then it switches to its second source of energy. Ketones are created from our stored fat and burned by the body when it enters a stage of ketosis. Because the keto diet is low on carbs it forces our body into ketosis forming ketones in the process from our stored fat. This allows our bodies to burn away our fat and as a side effect, we lose weight.
Vegetarian diets are very healthy. There are different types of vegetarians that have different levels of strictness when it comes to what they will and will not eat. However, they all have one thing in common. Vegetarians do not consume meat. Instead, they get their protein from vegetable sources such as nuts and beans.
What are the main differences between the two diets?
The main difference between the two diets is the foods that you’re allowed to eat. While on Keto you are encouraged to eat a low carb diet that is full of protein and fat. This rules out a lot of vegetables in addition to bread, rice and pasta. Vegetarians, on the other hand, tend to avoid sources of fat and protein if they’re sourced from animals. A vegetarian diet is also chock full of vegetables of all varieties and there’s no rule against bread, pasta or rice on this diet.
Keto for vegetarians
There are a lot of differences between these two diets and at first glance, they don’t seem like they’d be compatible with one another. However, it is possible to combine them and reap amazing health benefits.
How do you do keto while being vegetarian?
When you’re trying to combine these two diets start with the level of keto that you want to stick to. You aren’t forced to abandon all carbs on keto, you just want to aim to keep your net carbs under 20 grams a day. If you’re doing a more relaxed version of keto then it’s okay to have anywhere between 20-50 net carbs a day.
Once you’re determined how strict you want to be, examine a list of foods that are allowed on keto. You’ll see that there are plenty of vegetables allowed; however starchier veggies such as potatoes and corn might be something that you have to give up due to their high carb content. Focus on the vegetables that are lowest in carbs and build your keto diet plan from there.
Next move on to protein sources that are allowed as a vegetarian. After you’ve compiled this list lookup the net carbs in each of these foods. Eggs, tofu and pecans are high in protein and low in carbs making them a great protein option for vegetarians doing keto.
Obstacles that you might face as a vegetarian doing keto
It can be difficult to figure out what foods are allowed with the combination of these two plans. You may have some protein sources that you love as a vegetarian that aren’t allowed on the keto diet because they’re too high in carbs. You may also find that it’s hard to find vegetables that are low enough in net carbs to fit in with the keto diet. Spend some time researching which vegetable and protein sources work for both diets before you launch into this combined plan. Once you have your list it should be simple to make meals that centre around foods that appear on your list.
You might also run into issues with getting enough nutrients. As a vegetarian, you may already know that you have to be careful to get proper nutrients because you’ve cut meat out of your diet. This might lead you to develop a Vitamin b12 deficiency or you might end up low in iron and calcium. Because keto takes these restrictions and amplifies them you might find that it’s even more difficult to get your complete nutrition needs through a keto vegetarian diet. If you find that you’re having trouble naturally sourcing your nutrients from your foods it’s okay to take a multivitamin to minimize nutrient deficiencies. Look for foods that are high in iron, calcium and B-12 and check and see if they fit the criteria for both diets. Are they low in net carbs and sourced from plants as opposed to animals? If so, then you’re good to go and you should include these staples in your diet daily to boost your essential nutrients.
Foods that work well
Some foods that you should include in your vegetarian keto diet to ensure that you’re getting your essential nutrients while sticking to the diet plan are:
- Vegetables-focus on vegetables that aren’t starchy. Great options include spinach and kale, broccoli, mushrooms and bell peppers.
- Fruits-focus on low carb fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, lemons and limes.
- Nuts-these are a great source of healthy fats and protein that both the vegetarian and keto diets can enjoy. Try walnuts, cashews, almonds or BRazil nuts
- Protein-vegetarian sources of protein such as tempeh, tofu and nutritional yeast are great along with eggs which are low in carbohydrates
- Seeds-like nuts, seeds are a great way to get protein and healthy fats while practicing a keto vegetarian diet. Try chia seeds, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds for a protein boost
- Nut butter and Fats: almond butter, hazelnut butter and peanut butter are good ways of getting your healthy fats and some protein. You could also try adding avocado oil, coconut oil or olive oil to your salads to boost your healthy fats
- Dairy-as long as the dairy products are full fat they’re a great option for keto vegetarian diets. Cheese, milk and full-fat yogurt are great sources of essential nutrients.
- Herbs-don’t be afraid to spice up your food using herbs and seasonings. They’ll add some beneficial nutrients while making your food taste better.
Foods that you should avoid
When on a vegetarian keto diet you should steer clear of some types of foods. Avoid the ones on the list below and you’ll be in good shape.
- Meat-this almost goes without saying, but stay away from any type of meat whether it be beef, poultry or pig products. Processed meats are a double no-no!
- Fish-some vegetarians eat fish, some do not. This one’s up to you
- Vegetables high in starch-potatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, carrots and beets are all starchy which makes them higher in carbs. If possible, avoid these vegetables
- Grains-pasta, oats, quinoa, bread, barley, wheat and rye are all high in carbs which means that they should be left off of your shopping list on a keto vegetarian diet
- Beans and peas are also high in carbohydrates so avoid or limit these foods
- Sugary beverages-fruit juices, soda and alcohol all have high sugar contents which is what you’re looking to avoid when you’re on the keto diet so steer clear of these and stick to water, unsweetened tea and black coffee
- Processed foods-If it comes in a box it should be avoided during vegetarian keto. Processed foods contain high levels of preservatives, sugar and carbs. They may be easy, but they’re not healthy. Opt instead for whole foods.
- Fruits-there are some fruits that are higher in carbs such as apples, bananas, citrus fruits, melons, plums and peaches. These fruits have more sugar and raise your glucose levels defeating the purpose of keto
- Artificial sweeteners and condiments-these are loaded in sugar which should be avoided on the keto vegetarian diet.
It can be difficult to imagine a high protein diet such a keto mixing well with a diet such as vegetarianism where you don’t eat meat. If done carefully and correctly these two diets can merge together seamlessly and provide you with a cleaner diet and greater weight loss results. If you’re already trying one, give the other one a try and see if the keto vegetarian diet is right for you.