This article is reviewed by a team of registered dietitians and medical doctors with extensive, practical clinical and public health experience.
Vegetarian Keto Diet: What Is It, Foods To Eat & Meal Plan
The vegetarian keto diet puts a whole new spin on traditional keto. A standard keto diet requires eating macronutrients in roughly the following breakdown: 70% fat, 20% protein, 10% carbs. If one were following a standard keto diet without any other limitations, it wouldn’t matter where these sources of macros came from, as long as this ratio were upheld.
However, the vegetarian keto diet requires one to find their protein and fat from mostly plant-based sources, rather than from meat, fish, dairy, or eggs. This can prove to be a healthy way of eating since nuts and seeds are encouraged in the diet. In fact, chia seeds can be used for weight loss, flaxseeds can be used for weight loss, while offering other health benefits. If you need additional support while on the keto diet, check out the best multivitamin for keto.
Vegetarian Keto Diet: What Is It?
The vegetarian keto diet is a nuanced version of the ketogenic diet (fats are prioritized, carbs are minimized). A keto diet says carbs should be limited to 10%, protein should be limited to 20%, and the bulk of the diet (about 70%) should come from fats. A vegetarian keto diet says that, while adhering to these rules, food should come mostly (or entirely) from plants rather than animals.
Health Benefits Of the Vegetarian Keto Diet
Aids in Blood Sugar Regulation
Studies have shown that vegetarian-based diets can help manage blood sugar, and in turn, prevent and help treat diabetes. A ketogenic diet may also have positive effects on blood sugar, including improving insulin sensitivity. Therefore, eating a vegetarian ketogenic diet may be especially helpful in regulating blood sugar and keeping diabetes at bay.
Aids With Weight Loss
Dieters have consistently turned to keto diets to help aid in weight loss. This eating approach can be particularly effective because once you enter ketosis, the body burns fat for energy rather than carbs. By limiting carbs, more fat is burned, not to mention, you also limit sugar intake, which can help keep the pounds away. Additionally, a vegetarian eating approach has also been associated with weight loss.
Good for Animals and the Environment
While there are environmentally-friendly ways to consume animals and animal products, the fact remains that animals have to die in order for humans to eat them. Many people choose to be vegetarian or even vegan for this reason – wanting to avoid unnecessary animal slaughter. If you’re already following a keto plan and feel confident you can remove meat and fish without losing nutrients in your diet, this consideration may appeal to you.
Heavily Plant Based
Having a heavily plant-based diet is the cornerstone of good health and gut microbial diversity, and switching to a vegetarian diet may help you eat more plants. Whenever you remove animals and animal products (such as dairy and eggs) out of the diet, it’s best to fill the void, and the only option is plant-based sources of nutrients. For example, eating lots of spinach for calcium instead of cow’s milk, or chia seeds for iron instead of steak.
Both the keto diet and the vegetarian diet independently have been studied for disease prevention. Combining the two eating styles (low carb/high fat and less animal products) can further enhance health and protect against various diseases including diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Different Types Of Vegetarians
Not all vegetarians are created equal. There are six different sub-categories of vegetarians, broken up by level of strictness and inclusiveness. They are:
- Vegans – These vegetarians eat no animals or animal products whatsoever, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, and even honey.
- Lacto-vegetarians – These vegetarians eat no meat, poultry, fish, or eggs (just like vegans), but they do eat dairy.
- Ova-vegetarians – These vegetarians eat no meat, poultry, fish, or dairy (just like vegans), but they do eat eggs.
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarians – These vegetarians eat nothing that requires animal slaughter, which means no meat, poultry, or fish. However, eggs and dairy are allowed.
- Pescitarians – These vegetatians do not eat meat or poultry but they do eat fish.
- Flexitarians – As the name suggests, flexitarians are more flexible with their diet. They prioritize plant foods, but not all the time, allowing some meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy as desired.
Foods To Eat On A Vegetarian Keto Diet
- Seeds: Hemp, chia, flax, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, poppy
- Non-starchy vegetables: Broccoli, kale, spinach, asparagus, cauliflower, peas
- Nuts: Walnuts, almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts, cashews, pine nuts
- Beans: Lima, lentils, navy beans, black beans, soy beans, kidney beans (Note: beans are high in carbs so they should be eaten in moderation)
- Eggs: Some vegetarians include eggs
- Full fat dairy: Some vegetarians include dairy
- Fish: Pescatarians eat fish, but no other meat
Foods To Avoid On A Vegetarian Keto Diet
The main foods to avoid on any ketogenic diet are carbohydrates and sugar, however, if you’re following the vegetarian keto diet, you’ll also need to avoid some animal foods. Avoid:
- Grains: Rice, quinoa, buckwheat, oats
- Starches: Potatoes, bread, squash
- High-sugar fruits: Bananas, apples, pineapple, grapes
- Sugar: Any sugary food, including processed foods and high-sugar fruits
- Meat, poultry, and fish: This will vary depending on what type of vegetarian you are
- Eggs: This will also depend on what type of vegetarian you are
Sample Vegetarian Keto Diet Meal Plan
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- Breakfast: Veggie omelet with mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, and feta cheese, and one small piece of whole grain toast
- Lunch: Mixed salad with cheese or tofu, cucumber, tomato, peppers, onions, hearts of palm, and carrots with olive oil dressing
- Dinner: Cauliflower crust pizza with veggie toppings drizzled in olive oil, plus a side salad
- Breakfast: Whole milk smoothie with low-sugar fruits, vegetables, almond or peanut butter, avocado, and MCT oil
- Lunch: Lentil or zucchini pasta with sauteed vegetables and sliced avocado in olive oil or tomato sauce
- Dinner: Spinach frittata with side of nuts and seeds
- Breakfast: Tofu scrabble (or eggs if desired) with mushrooms, spinach, and broccoli, and a small portion of oatmeal
- Lunch: Stuffed peppers with egg, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, and spinach
- Dinner: Roasted salmon (or tempeh) with asparagus, beets, and zucchini
Vegetarian Keto Diet Drawbacks
Anytime you remove entire food groups from the diet, you inherently miss out on the nutrients they provide. In the case of removing animal products, this can lead to a lack of iron, B-12, amino acids, and omega-3 fatty acids (from fish), or calcium (from dairy). Additionally, carbohydrates provide many vitamins and minerals (such as B vitamins) as well as beneficial fiber, therefore, reducing them in the diet can deplete these nutrients.
When your body enters ketosis, switching from burning carbs to burning fat, the adjustment can feel unpleasant – similar to having the flu. This is a normal response to the change and may take a few days or even weeks to resolve. While it can be uncomfortable, it’s worth sticking with it to reap the benefits you may have been seeking when starting the diet. However, if the flu-like symptoms continue for longer than a few weeks or become severe, it’s best to consult a doctor.
The keto diet alone is very restrictive because it requires a drastic reduction in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates take up a large group of foods, including grains, starches, fiber, legumes, fruits, and sugar. It can be challenging to adhere to a keto diet and even more so when animals and/or animal products are also restricted. Those who choose to undertake this eating approach should be well-informed of the difficulties that can come with avoiding entire food groups.
Potential to Binge
Because the vegetarian keto diet is very restrictive, it has the potential to trigger disordered eating behaviors, such as binging. Binging involves eating certain types or portions of food in excess and/or too frequently, leaving us feeling sick and out of control. This often occurs in response to being overly restrictive, as a way to “rebel” against the restrictions or to make up for a lack of satiety.
The vegetarian keto diet can be a challenging one to follow, though may prove beneficial for certain individuals. This eating approach factors in all the elements of a standard keto diet (low carb-high fat) and adds a layer of vegetarianism, the level to which is highly personalized. Some individuals may choose to eat fish, but no meat, eggs, but no dairy, or choose to abstain from all animal products entirely (vegan). A number of health benefits can be obtained by eating a vegetarian keto diet, however, due to its restrictive nature and potential to cause a lack of nutrients, this diet should be discussed with your healthcare provider before trying.
+ 6 sources
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