Lately it seems that everyone is going keto. But if the cornerstone of a successful ketogenic diet is meat, does that mean vegetarians can’t follow a ketogenic diet? No! The keto hype didn’t stop vegetarians from adapting the popular diet to their needs. In this article we are going to talk about how you can tweak the typical keto diet menu to fit your meat free lifestyle without having to worry about negative health side effects.
Now if you are new to the whole keto topic, we recommend you get some basic information about the keto diet before you dive deeper into this article. Our previous article “What is the Keto Diet?” will help you get a better understanding of what Keto is all about and how it really works. If you already know what keto is all about and you are interested in knowing how vegetarians can go ketogenic then you are in the right place.
How the Vegetarian Keto Diet Works
The typical American gets about half of his daily calorie intake from carbs. Keto diet cuts the carbs down to 5-10 percent while increasing the fat intake all the way to 80 to 90 percent. The recommended daily intake in calories deriving from protein is anywhere from 5 to 15 percent while observing a ketogenic diet. In short, keto thus represents a major shift away from the typical American, carb-based diet.
Many people, when turning vegetarian, replace their daily protein intake with even more carbs. Instead of turning to plant-based protein sources, or eggs and high-fat dairy products, they replace the now “lost” protein sources with pasta, white bread and other carb-heavy foods. This larger than normal carb intake of the typical vegetarian compared to the average American diet makes the switch to a ketogenic diet even harder for vegetarians.
But despite being a rough transition to a low carb, high fat diet, the ketogenic diet can be very helpful for vegetarians in helping them cut back on processed carbs and leading an even healthier lifestyle.
Instead of relying on fish, meat and poultry products, the vegetarian ketogenic diet is very heavily based on low-carb vegetables, plant-based proteins, eggs, and high-fat dairy products. To figure out your optimal daily protein intake, we recommend you read our “How much Protein to Eat on the Keto Diet” article. It gives you detailed instructions on how to calculate your optimal daily protein intake while on keto diet.
To get a better overview of how you can lose weight with your ketogenic diet, check out our “How to Lose Weight with the keto Diet” Article.
How to limit the Carb intake as a Vegetarian
Most vegetarians make the same mistake when switching to a ketogenic diet: they don’t reduce their carb intake enough. That’s because most go-to vegetarian meals are real carb bombs.
The foods you have to avoid while being on a vegetarian ketogenic diet:
- Grains (wheat, corn, rice, cereals)
- Legumes (lentils, black beans, peas)
- Sugars (honey, maple syrup, agave)
- Fruits (bananas, apples, oranges)
- Tuber (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams)
Just a single serving of any of the above listed foods can take you well above the daily intake limit of carbs. But don’t worry! There are many alternatives that will make your vegetarian ketogenic diet a lot easier and better working.
Some of the best foods to eat in order to take in a high amount of fats and a low amount of carbs are:
- Vegan meat alternatives such as tempeh, tofu and seitan
- Leafy greens like spinach kale and arugula
- Almost any above the ground vegetable like broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini
- Eggs and dairy
- Nuts and seeds
- Berries and Avocados
It may be quite challenging at first, but by sticking to the above-mentioned foods, you can master the vegetarian keto diet while covering most of your body’s nutritional needs. To take in other vital nutrients like Vitamin D3, DHA, EPA, iron and Zinc, we recommend turning to supplements in order to avoid any deficiencies.
Check out our keto specific supplements that we are offering in our online store! Made from the highest-quality beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), our products make it easy for you to get into ketosis and stay there.
Maximize your Fat Intake on the Vegetarian Keto Diet
In order to replace the fats commonly found in meat, fish and poultry products, vegetarians will have to turn to eggs, high-fat dairy and plant-based oils. Plant based oils not only have countless health benefits, but they will also help you maximize the results of your vegetarian ketogenic diet. The most important oils that you should consume as an extra source of fat are:
- Avocado Oil, which is loaded with monounsaturated fats and is perfect for cooking and baking
- Coconut Oil, which is the ideal source of fatty acids for keto dieters
- Olive Oil, one of the healthiest oils for consumption
- MCT Oil, which consists of saturated fatty acids that the liver converts straight into ketones for fuel
The above-mentioned oils are by far not all plant-based oils out there, but these are definitely the ones that you should always include in your ketogenic diet.
By consuming a good mixture of the plant-based oils and the following plant based, fat rich foods you can even reduce your intake of eggs and dairy without having to shortage of fatty foods to turn to. Some of the healthiest plant-based fat sources for your vegetarian ketogenic diet are:
- Vegan, Soy, Dairy Alternatives
The only downside to using plant-based fat sources for your ketogenic diet is the lack of protein they provide you with. So how can you make sure you still get enough protein while keeping up the ketogenic diet as a vegetarian?
The Best Sources of Protein for your Vegetarian Keto Diet
The truth is, it’s very easy to get your required and recommended daily intake of proteins just by eating eggs and cheese. However, there are only so many ways eggs can be prepared, and there are only so many types of cheese. Eventually you are going to crave something other than these animal products.
One great alternative is Tofu. It is made from soybeans and contains high protein and high calcium. It’s a great substitute for meat, poultry and fish and you can season and marinate it however you like it.
Another great protein source for your vegetarian keto diet is tempeh. It is a bit firmer than tofu and consists of fermented soy. Its often used in beef and fish substitute products due to its grainy consistency.
Also a great source of protein comes from nuts and seeds. 100 grams of pumpkin seeds for example, are loaded with 30 grams of proteins. However, be advised that most nuts and seeds are also high in carbs. In terms of high protein, low fat, your go to nut should be the peanut.
One phenomenal source of protein that is often forgotten by vegetarians is protein powder. Your best option here is 100% grass-fed whey protein and traditional, organic pea protein. If you have reached your daily carb limited, but are still low on the protein end, then protein powder is the way to go. We recommend adding flavorless protein powder to your meals.
What a typical day as a Vegetarian Keto Dieter could look like
Since according to a study from the British Journal of Nutrition Keto diets are proven to lead to greater weight loss than low-fat diets, keto is a great alternative for Vegetarians. But what does a typical day of meals look like for a Vegetarian Keto dieter?
For Breakfast we recommend a chia seed pudding with protein powder, or protein pancakes with eggs and protein powder.
As a light snack any slices vegetables like cucumbers, peppers, carrots with cream cheese or cottage cheese and sunflower seeds.
For lunch we recommend you make yourself a salad with lots of avocado, seeds and nuts. Another great alternative would be an omelet with cheese.
Dinner should be loaded with low carb vegetables. Zucchini noodles or zoodles with pesto and tofu, Asian sautéed vegetables with tempeh, or a spinach and cashew salad with tofu. Also don’t forget to add some plant-based oils to get your fatty acidy covered.
As you can tell by this small “meal plan”, the options are almost endless and even if you are vegan, ketogenic diet is possible because of the many plant based substitutes for almost all foods out there.
The Takeaway – Vegetarian Keto Diet
While it’s not yet a widely discussed topic, vegetarian keto dieters are growing in numbers every day. The fear of many vegetarians, that a keto diet might leave them with little to no variety in foods to eat is definitely unwarranted. The options are countless and the deficiencies that the body has to deal with are minimal if the correct supplements are added to the meal plan and the food options are varying.
In general, it can be said that following a ketogenic diet as a vegetarian is something that anyone can try and do without having to worry about negative side effects if you pay attention to a well-balanced diet. We do recommend consulting with your doctor and dietitian first before making any changes to your nutrition.
Now if you are wondering what the biggest health benefits of a ketogenic diet are, make sure you read “The Top 9 Health Benefits of Keto Diet” next!
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