So, you’ve decided for many reasons to not eat animal meats and animal products, but you hear all the buzz about the keto diet. A major component of it is protein, right? So is it even practical to try to get the benefits of ketosis as a vegetarian?
The answer is quite simply, yes, you can. It of course requires a little more thought and planning, but in some ways, you will have advantages. The most common mistake that carnivores make on the keto diet is to eat too much protein. While you may have the opposite issue, one of the cornerstones of the keto diet is fat, and you can get plenty of the right kinds of fat from vegetarian foods.
Here are some things you need to know before starting a vegetarian keto diet.
Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs
A big part of keto is keeping your total carbs and net carbs at a certain level. How does this work? Well, net carbs are the total carbs of a food minus the dietary fiber, giving you net carbs. The problem? many go to meals and even snacks for vegetarians are carb heavy, and that is not part of the keto diet. So there are some things you will want to remove from your kitchen and keep out of your diet.
- Chips, crackers, and pretzels
- Any other packaged foods with refined sugars or flours
- Fruit juices and most fruits
- White potatoes, sweet potatoes
- Starchy vegetables
When it comes to good carbs, they are essentially the same as a regular keto diet. The thing is you have to think low carb veggies instead of high carb ones. Here are some you can try. If you don’t like them raw, try steaming or cooking them with a little bit of coconut oil:
- Collard greens
- Swiss chard
- Green beans
- Summer and winter squash
- Red and white cabbage
- Bell peppers
These are all veggies you can feel good having on the keto diet. The problem comes when we talk about fruit. All fruit should be limited, but berries tend to be lower in carbs than some others, so if you are going to eat fruit, try these. Just remember that serving size and quantity matter a lot, so pay attention.
There are other things to consider as well, like sauces and condiments. if you can make your own at home, that is always best, but you can buy some, just be careful about reading lables.
- Soy sauce or coconut aminos
- Worcestershire sauce
- Hot sauces
- Yellow mustard
- Mayonnaise (look for brands made with cage-free eggs)
- Sugar-free ketchup
- Sauerkraut (free of sugars)
- Sugar-free or low-sugar high-fat salad dressings
Spices are okay as well. Here are some that work well on the keto diet without disturbing your balance of carbs, fat, and protein.
- Cayenne pepper
- Chili powder
- Lemon or lime juices
- Pepper and salt
Here is the kicker for the vegetarian keto diet. If you do not eat animal products at all like eggs or dairy, two of the most common sources of protein for vegetarians on a keto diet, you will have to look for other ways to supplement, like soy-based foods However, you need to make sure that these are non-GMO and fermented.
Here are some sources besides dairy and eggs for your protein:
- Nuts and seeds (see below)
If you are still short on protein, you can use organic rice or a hemp protein powder as a supplement but be careful not to use them as a meal replacement.
Also, be wary of vegetarian meat replacements. While they may be good sources of protein and even fat, they often contain high amounts of carbs as well, so read labels carefully and avoid them where you can.
Nuts are also great on a vegetarian keto diet because they contain both fats and protein. However, be careful because many also contain carbs. Here is a list of good nuts to have on a keto diet.
- Brazil nuts
- Macadamia nuts
- Coconut (unsweetened)
- Pine nuts
- Nut butters made from any of the above
These will all help you with your protein intake, but watch how many you eat, as it is easy to get too many carbs from them.
A common issue besides eating too many carbs is that you simply are consuming too many calories. Remember, weight loss is still a formula of the calories we take in vs. the calories burned. It is easy to get enthused about what you can and cannot eat on a keto diet, and forget to monitor the amount of certain foods you are taking in.
Can you as a vegetarian also reap the benefits of a keto diet? Yes, and you might even have some advantages. But you are going to have to carefully plan, watch your carb intake, and you may struggle with proteins. Still, this is not an impossible task, and one that will have its own rewards in the end.