A simple search for #keto on Instagram will likely show a bunch of bacon pictures. But this is definitely not what keto is all about. Since its popularity, different versions of the keto diet have shown up, such as carnivore, cyclical, targeted, vegan, dirty, lazy, and vegetarian. If you are vegetarian and want to move to a ketogenic diet, and vice versa, we put up a simple and easy guide on what it is and what you should and should not eat.
What is the Vegetarian Keto diet
The keto diet puts the body in ketosis to burn fat for fuel instead of glucose. To get into ketosis, it is required to eat 70-75% of your daily calories from fats, 20-25% from protein and 5-10% from carbs. The difference between the standard keto and the vegetarian keto diet is that in the latter, animal products must be avoided, except eggs and dairy. Luckily, there are plenty of plant-based, vegetarian foods packed with healthy fats - the biggest and most important macro on keto. Although it is possible to get your fats, protein and carbs from vegetarian sources, this diet can be quite challenging. The standard vegetarian diet is generally very high-carb, so it may take some time on getting used to keto, which is very low-carb. On top of that, it is important to be always mindful on the possibility of deficiency in key nutrients, like vitamin D and B12, iron, calcium, zinc, protein and more.
Key points to note before starting it out:
- Animal meats must be eliminated completely.
- Daily total carbohydrate (net carbs) consumption must be limited on average from 20 to 30g
- You should eat plenty of healthy fats (70-75% of your daily calories)
- There are a lot of vegetarian protein sources available (nuts, seeds, eggs, tofu, full-fat dairy, etc) which are keto-friendly.
- This woe (way-of-eating) require planning, so you don’t become nutritionally deficient. In case you are not getting enough essential nutrients through food (such as vitamin D, DHA & EPA, Omega-3, etc.), consider taking supplements.
- Use a keto calculator to figure out your macros.
- This diet is quite restrictive, which may lead to nutritional and caloric deficiency. If you’re planning on following this woe long-term, talk to a nutritionist or doctor that you trust for advice.
What to eat
This is a summary of the vegetarian foods you can enjoy on keto:
- Low-carb vegetables: The star of the moment, cauliflower and a bunch of other delicious choices, such as zucchini, olives, asparagus, brussel sprouts, celery, spinach, cucumber, green beans, bok choy, broccoli rabe, arugula, eggplant, tomatoes, cabbage, kale, lettuce, bell peppers, onions, etc.
- Low-carb fruits: Berries (in moderation), lime and lemon.
- Condiments (unsweetened): ketchup, full-fat mayonnaise, sauerkraut, horseradish, mustard, fatty salad dressings (ranch, vinaigrette, etc.), etc
- Herbs and spices: parsley, rosemary, cilantro, thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg, cilantro, cumin, basil, oregano, salt, pepper.
- Low-carb protein: Tofu, eggs, tempeh, seitan, edamame beans, miso and nutritional yeast. Be cautious of faux-meat products and read their ingredient lists and nutrition labels, as they may contain sugar, carbs or other nasty ingredients.
- Plant-based oils: Flaxseed oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, ghee, avocado oil, olive oil, MCT oil/powder, macadamia oil
- Full-fat (unsweetened) dairy: Greek yoghurt, cheese spreads (cream cheese, cottage cheese, mascarpone), sour cream, creme fraiche, grass-fed butter, hard cheese (cheddar, parmesan, etc.) and soft cheese (brie, blue, camembert, mozzarella, etc.)
- Dairy alternatives (unsweetened): Coconut yoghurt, coconut cream, vegan cheese, plant-based milk (coconut, almond, macadamia, etc.)
- Nuts and nut butter (unsweetened): Pecans, walnuts, macadamia, pili nuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds and almond flour, brazil nuts, and the butter from all of the nuts listed. Watch out for the carb and calorie content in nuts. The ones listed are low carb, but some more than others.
- Seeds: High-fat, low-carb and rich in fiber, seeds are perfect for a vegetarian diet. Such as chia, sunflower, sesame and tahini (sesame paste), flax, hemp, and pumpkin. Sugar-free Cacao foods (butter, powder) is also a great source of healthy fats, including keto-friendly chocolate, such as KetoCacao 😊
- Beverages (unsweetened): Coffee, tea, and water (natural, sparkling or flavoured), hard liquor/wine (in moderation)
Sweeteners: Stevia, erythritol, monk fruit and other low glycemic index sweeteners.
What to avoid
These are some of the foods you should not consume while on a vegetarian keto diet:
- Grains: Wheat (including bread and buns), oats, rice, quinoa, corn, buckwheat, rye, pastries, barley, pasta, etc.
- Beans and legumes: Beans (white, black, kidney, pinto, lima, fava, etc.), lentils, chickpeas, and peas.
- Animal meat: lamb, pork, poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, goose), goat, beef, veal, fish and shellfish (salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies, lobster, etc.)
- Dairy: All low-fat and sweetened dairy products, evaporated condensed milk, pre-packed shredded cheese (may contain hidden carbs such as potato starch), and milk.
- Oils: Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (found in processed foods), vegetable oils (corn, peanut, canola, soybean, sunflower, grapeseed), and margarine.
- High-carb fruits (and its juices): Apple, grapefruit, grape, melon, orange, papaya, mango, tangerine, banana, pineapple, watermelon, dried fruits, peaches, apricot, plums, etc.
- Starchy vegetables: Potato, sweet potato, parsnip, carrots, beets and yams.
- High-carb processed foods and snacks/sweets: chips, candy, ice cream, cereals, granola, cookies, crackers, tortillas, baked goods, etc.
- Sugar (in any form): brown sugar, white sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, and many more.
- Beverages: soda, sports and energy drinks, smoothies, high-carb alcohol (beer, sweetened cocktails), etc.
- High-carb Condiments: barbecue sauce, honey mustard, ketchup, sweetened salad dressings, etc.
- High-glycemic sweeteners: maltodextrin, maltose, maltitol, etc.
Now that you know what you can and cannot eat, we selected a few recipe ideas for you to get inspired.
Keto coconut porridge - Diet Doctor
Very-veggie cauliflower hash brown breakfast bowl - Iowa girl eats
Cheesy thyme waffles - Ruled me
Keto pancakes - Diet Doctor
Low Carb Mushroom Risotto with Cauliflower Rice – Peace Love and Low Carb
Simple Greek Salad – Joy Filled Eats
Vegetarian keto burritos - Keto Diet app
Crispy tofu and bock choy salad - Ruled me
Vegetarian keto club salad - Ruled me
Cheesy Low Carb Cauliflower Risotto – I Breathe I’m Hungry
Vegetarian Red Coconut Curry – Ruled Me
Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Sauce – Simple Vegan Blog
Vegetarian Zucchini Lasagna Spirals – A Saucy Kitchen
Keto Fettuccini Alfredo – I Breathe I’m Hungry