Vegetarian Keto Diet: Everything To Know Before You Begin

Vegetarian Keto Diet

As trendy diets have been popping up over the years, the keto diet has taken the world by storm. Of course, this isn’t limited to vegetarians. In fact, more and more vegetarians are expanding their horizons and dipping their feet into the unknown. Perhaps that’s how the vegetarian keto diet has become popularized. In this article, we take a look at all the things that you need to know before mentally, physically, and financially investing in a vegetarian keto diet. 

Vegetarian Keto Diet: What Should Your Diet Look Like?

What is a vegetarian keto diet?

To begin with, let’s look at what a keto diet comprises: a keto diet is a diet which is high in fat, with a decent amount of protein and carbs that are less than both fat and protein. Thus, going less in carbs plays a huge role in a keto diet. 

When people usually describe a keto diet, carbs are reduced to a minimum of 50 grams (per day). This activity where you reach a state of ketosis is a metabolic process where the body burns the existing fat within you, for fuel.

As we are used to eating carbs, we tend to burn glucose for fuel –  that’s why many people want to burn fat rather than burn glucose. 

Now that you know what a keto diet is, it’s important to note that both vegetarians and non-vegetarians can partake in this. Vegetarians, in particular, can reach a state of ketosis by consuming high fat from butter and full-fat dairy (milk and yogurt). The addition of fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, and high fats (from coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, seeds and nuts, nut butter, and avocados) on your plate will also add to your ketosis. 

In short, the vegetarian keto diet is an eating plan that combines aspects of vegetarianism and keto dieting. Let’s look at the difference between the two in terms of fat.  

Where traditionally the keto diet is about 70% of total daily calories coming from fat, including sources like oils, meat, fish, and full-fat dairy, the vegetarian keto focuses on another type of healthy fats: such as avocados, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, and seeds. After seeing these stark differences in approach, you might wonder if this diet is ideal for you.

Could vegetarians try the keto diet?

Despite the vegetarian diet linked to weight loss, it is possible for vegetarians to be overweight as they tend to be more carb-heavy and fat-deficient than other diets.

According to scientific data, overloading on carbs and sugars can lead to weight gain. 

Science has also shown that despite protein’s positive effects on satiety and metabolism, skimping on the nutrients from vegetables and fruits can also cause pounds to pile on.

So if a low-fat vegetarian, high-carb diet isn’t helping you hit your weight-loss goals, switching to a vegetarian keto diet, which prioritizes fats and proteins while completely eliminating carbs, could be the jump start weight loss goals. 

Research on low carb diets has shown that reducing your carbs to a very low percentage of your daily calories can stimulate ketosis, [which is] when your brain and body begin to run on ketones (aka fat) rather than carbs for fuel. This is always the case whether you eat meat or not. 

Ketosis promotes weight loss as it suppresses your hunger hormones all the while promoting substantial water loss to reduce bloating.

Many people think it’s as easy as it is to read, because those who follow this diet will most likely avoid all meats, poultry, and fish-the main sources of protein recommended in a typical ketogenic diet.

Therefore, the vegetarian alternative is contradictory and even harder but thankfully there are many plant-based protein sources, such as beans and lentils, that are high in carbs. 

So how can vegetarians succeed? In the end, a successful vegetarian diet is very much possible as you will see below. You will need to include quality foods from 3 macronutrients. 

What does a successful vegetarian keto diet look like? 

The best way to understand a vegetarian keto diet is to know what it should look like. 

A successful vegetable keto diet should be a smorgasbord of three distinct macronutrients. 

•    A third of a plate of good fats

•    A third of a plate of protein

•    A third of a plate of carbs

Fats

For a vegetarian keto diet, the fats cannot come from meat so the majority of your healthy fats must come from eggs (if you make an exception for them), coconut oil, avocado oil, seeds and nuts, nut butter and avocados. Keep in mind that you might want to opt-out of trying vegan or vegetarian mock meat options as they tend to have some carbs not fat.

A list of good plant-based fat comprises of: 

•    Flax seeds

•    Chia seeds

•    Hemp seeds

•    Nuts

Carbs

Next, we can look at what type of carbs to eat. Carbohydrates from fruits, legumes like pulses, tempeh and soy, and leafy vegetables are ideal for this diet. In terms of quantity, it depends from individual to individual but you can certainly experiment to satisfy your needs and preferences. 

Here is a general keto guideline for carbs: 

•    20 to 50 grams per day: With a carb intake this low, this should both put you into ketosis as well as help lose weight quickly without experiencing much hunger. Vegetarians could easily go into this lowest range. 

•    50 to 100 grams per day: This should lead to automatic weight loss, and is a good maintenance range for people who don’t exercise that much.

•    100 to 150 grams per day: This is a decent maintenance range, and is good for people who exercise a lot. This range would be more suitable for vegans.

A list of good carbs comprises of: 

•    Tempeh

•    Fruits

•    Legumes

•    Blueberries

•    Sweet potatoes

•    Most vegetables

Don’t eat: 

Pastries and pasta are not the only types of obvious carbs to avoid. 

Also avoid eating breakfast muffins, potatoes, yams, butternut squash, granola, cookies, crackers, and baked goods and tortilla chips.

Protein

Lastly, we can look at what proteins to consider. As a vegetarian, a great source of protein can come from eggs if you make an exception from your usual strictly vegetarian diet. Other healthy sources of protein are cheese, avocado, legumes, soya beans, nuts, and vegetables like broccoli, kale, and spinach. 

A list of good proteins comprises of:

  • Greek yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Nut butters
  • Kale, spinach, and Brussels sprouts

Don’t eat: 

Protein bars with high sugar levels and animal based protein such as whey protein and egg white protein.

Liquids on Keto

Low-carb keto drinks such as tea, water, and coffee are all options. Vegetarians can especially add collagen protein powders. Unsweetened oats and almond milk are tasty options for vegetarians. 

Don’t drink: 

Sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda, sweet tea, sports drinks, energy drinks and processed juices. Don’t consume alcoholic beer, wine, and sweetened cocktails

One of the easiest ways to stick to this diet is to have your groceries set up for easy access at all times. Although you must take into consideration the benefits and the risks too. 

3 Benefits of the Veg Keto Diet 

These are the various benefits of the vegetarian keto diet: 

1. Supports blood sugar control

Both keto and vegetarian diets in general help to support blood sugar control and improve your body’s blood sugar regulation and increase its sensitivity to insulin. 

Six studies have been linked to vegetarian diets having a significant reduction in levels of HbA1c, a marker of long-term blood sugar control. In addition to that, 2,918 people determined that switching to a vegetarian diet reduced diabetes risk by 53% during a 5-year study. 

Meanwhile, the keto diet was studied during a 4-month study in 21 people, the results showed lowered levels of HbA1c by 16%. Impressively, 81% of participants were able to reduce or discontinue their diabetes medications by the end of the study. 

2. Helps with weight loss

Both vegetarian and keto diets help to support weight loss. 

One large review of 12 studies showed that those following a vegetarian diet lost an average of 4.5 pounds (2 kg) more than non-vegetarians over 18 weeks. In addition to that, a 6-month study in 83 people with obesity found that a keto diet resulted in significant reductions in weight and body mass index (BMI), with an average weight loss of 31 pounds (14 kg). A vegetarian diet has a certain amount of healthy fats which will help to keep you feeling fuller for longer to reduce hunger and appetite. 

3. Protects against chronic diseases

Vegetarian diets have been linked to a reduced risk of several chronic conditions such as the risk of cancer and the risk of factors surrounding several heart diseases such as BMI, cholesterol, and blood pressure. 

Combining the vegetarian diet with keto adds on additional benefits because the keto diet has also been studied for its effects on disease prevention.

There were significant reductions in heart disease factors such as body weight, total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar in a 56-week study in 66 people who partook in the keto diet. 

Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases were also noted to have reduced along with the growth of cancerous tumors. 

3 Risks of the Veg Keto Diet

The vegetarian keto diet has some potential risks to take into consideration. 

Yes, the benefit of a keto diet helps weight loss through fat burning. This is done by following a meal plan that’s high in fat, very low in carbs, and moderate in terms of protein, says Vandana Sheth, R.D.N., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. That means your diet should break down to at least 80 percent fat,  5 percent carbs, and 15 to 20 percent protein.

However, according to research published in the journal Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews, the keto diet may burn 10 times as much fat as other diets. But the keto diet might not be the best option for everyone-including vegetarians. 

Now vegetarian diets, as we know, do not contain meat, poultry or fish. Moreover, vegan diets further exclude dairy products and eggs. 

In general, vegetarian diets provide relatively large amounts of cereals, pulses, nuts, fruits and vegetables and are rich in carbohydrates, n-6 fatty acids, dietary fiber, carotenoids, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E and Mg. But vegetarian diets are also relatively low in protein, long-chain n-3 fatty acids, vitamin B(12), retinol, and Zn. 

However, vegans especially may have particularly low intakes of vitamin B(12) and low intakes of Ca. Cross-sectional studies of vegans and vegetarians have shown relatively low BMI and a low plasma cholesterol concentration. Research has also shown higher plasma homocysteine levels in vegetarians than in non-vegetarians.

Here’s a quick look at the risks: 

1. Not great for all

Because the vegetarian keto diet is highly restrictive, not all can follow. If you have any health conditions or are taking any medications, talk to your doctor before starting the keto diet.

A restrictive diet such as this is not ideal for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding as it can limit several nutrients vital for proper growth and development.

This is a major reason why children should avoid it as well. 

Next, individuals with a history of eating disorders, or people with type 1 diabetes should not do the vegetarian keto diet. 

2. Flu-like symptoms

The keto flu symptoms include: 

•    Constipation

•    difficulty sleeping

•    muscle cramps

•    mood changes

•    nausea

•    dizziness

•    headaches

•    fatigue

As people get used to this diet, these side effects typically clear up within a few days. Getting ideal amounts of sleep, staying hydrated, rest, and exercising regularly can help ease your symptoms.

3. Nutritional deficiencies

A vegetarian keto diet will need serious planning  to ensure that you’re meeting your nutritional needs. As the vegetarian keto diet is even more restrictive, it prevents the consumption of nutrient-dense food groups, such as fruits, legumes, and whole grains, further increasing your risk of nutritional deficiencies.

Vegetarians following the keto diet could also run the risk of becoming deficient in B12, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. 

Therefore, careful planning and eating a wide range of healthy, organic, grass-fed and plant-based food can ensure the absorption of vitamins and minerals your body needs.

Supplements may also help during the vegetarian keto diet such as vitamin B12.

5 Myths of the Vegetarian Keto Diet

1. It doesn’t give energy

With this diet, you swap a high-carb diet, which most human beings tend to eat, for a diet that’s very high in fat (the healthy kinds), moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates. The myth is that such a diet will leave you burnt out. However, with keto, you change the source from which your body gets its energy (and burns calories) from glucose (from carbohydrates) to ketones (from fat). This shift doesn’t happen immediately because your body needs to adapt to a new method of getting energy. This is one of the reasons why a keto diet is not a lifestyle, it should only be followed for 30 to 90 days. 

2. Results are fast

For your body to reach ketosis-where it’s looking to fat as its first source of fuel, it takes several days of eating the keto diet. Once there, though, your body will be burning fat all the time. And it doesn’t matter if you’re working out or sleeping, or what you’re doing, your body continues to burn fat in ketosis.

3. A trend diet 

Many people think the keto diet is a fad but the concept is rooted in nutrition- and weight-loss science.

4.  You can do keto for the rest of your life

A ketogenic diet results are always meant to be time-bound-eating because it is not a lifestyle that is viable in the long run. Did you know that the keto diet was marked last in the list of the best and the worst diets in American News & World Report’s 2018? Some of the important factors for such a ranking were whether a diet was sustainable and easy to follow, and the keto diet is neither, but it’s not designed to be. 

Hence it is NOT recommended that people follow strict ketogenic diets for their life. Do a 30- to 90-day period. 

5. You can’t order keto in restaurants

This is not true as many cafes and restaurants these days have taken to the lucrative interests of the keto trend. Many salad bars will have vegetables and avocados and cheese. 

Common FAQs:

Can you do keto if you are a vegetarian? 

In short, the vegetarian keto diet is an eating plan that combines aspects of vegetarianism and keto dieting. Let’s look at the difference between the two in terms of fat.  Where traditionally the keto diet is about 70% of total daily calories coming from fat, including sources like oils, meat, fish, and full-fat dairy, the vegetarian keto focuses on other healthy fats, such as coconut oil, eggs, avocados, nuts, and seeds. Although, after seeing these stark differences in approach, you might wonder if this diet is ideal for you.

That being said, a vegetarian keto diet has many benefits such as protection against chronic diseases, weight loss and controlling blood sugar. 

What can I eat on a vegetarian keto diet?

The best way to understand a vegetarian keto diet is to know what it should look like. 

A successful vegetable keto diet should be a smorgasbord of three distinct macronutrients. 

•    A third of a plate of good fats

•    A third of a plate of protein

•    A third of a plate of carbs

How do vegetarians eat low carb?

Foods like tofu and tempeh are high in protein and fat, but low in carbs which is ideal for a low-carb vegetarian/vegan diet. Most vegetables are also sources of low carbohydrates.

Feedback from real keto dieters:  

Participant 1:

1. “In the end, I’m pleased with my keto diet results both internally and externally. I lost 4 pounds in two weeks, gained some energy and efficiency with my training, and more often than not felt that I could see better muscle tone instead of feeling bloated or weighed down. Now that I have had a successful keto trial run, if I wanted to cycle through some keto weeks (or even a month, next time), I’d be able to easily, potentially reaching ketosis even more quickly.” 

Participant 2:

2. “The biggest downside of the keto diet for me is breaking old habits. During the holiday season, I had a lot of sweets and carbs. So I decided to go back to ketosis yesterday. 

Downside 1. It is hard to go back into ketosis

It is all about habits. When all the people around you eat the usual food that you enjoy, it is hard to be in ketosis. I know the mechanics on how to get back there in ketosis. But when I think about doing it again it hurts. Why? It is just biology and biochemistry. There is another downside of the keto diet.

Downside 2. After you tried ketosis you see the difference 

After you experience it once, it is not good to be outside of ketosis.

What does that mean? In ketosis, I am never hungry. Outside of ketosis, I am hungry all the time. In ketosis, I had very good endurance. I biked 100 km without any training before and did not get tired. However, outside of ketosis, it is very excruciating to bike for 70 km.

The same applies to the brain as ketosis generates very strong and productive mental stability. Outside of ketosis the brain is not as strong and stable. But the keto diet works, it is so amazing and it gives new capabilities and opportunities like never before.

Downside 3. There is no way back to carbs long-term

This week’s experience showed me that there is no way back to carbohydrates for me. So whatever happens, whatever new downsides are discovered about the ketogenic diet I would still go back to the keto diet any day.

There is one more downside. Once you experience deep ketosis you become a different person. Your brain and your personality may change as well as your DNA expression. Please be careful” 

Final Verdict:

So this article should give you an objective view on the vegetarian keto diet which falls within the spectrum of the keto diet. With many delicious plant-based foods that are so nutritious, this diet has worked out for a lot of people but there is a serious need for planning as it comes with many risks too. Clearly, you don’t need to be a meat-eater to reap the benefits of a low-carb vegetarian diet. The success lies in your grocery list, vitamin levels, and discipline. 

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