Vegetarian and Ketogenic Diet – Can it be Done?
Many people ask if you can follow a ketogenic diet if you don’t eat meat. This is a fair question, since the ketogenic diet is based on eating a fair amount of meat as well as getting high fat sources and essential amino acids. So following a ketogenic diet while being vegetarian might seem unachievable. However, looking into the nutrition of plant based foods it is possible and can be done. Incorporating a vegetarian and ketogenic way of eating requires awareness and conscious food choices and decisions to ensure you receive the right nutrition to ensure your body is nourished well.
To start, you need to know what macro nutrients are.
- Healthy Fats
It’s also important to be aware of what nutrients are required and where they are found to ensure you get those that are being left out from a meat based diet.
Below, we’ll cover both of these issues.
First, lets look at what it means to adopt a vegetarian diet.
What Does Vegetarian Mean?
One’s beliefs, lifestyle principles and values are usually what determines one’s decision of whether to follow a vegetarian diet or not. When one identifies as being vegetarian, one chooses not to consume animal meat and products. Depending on individual choices, this may or may not include products from animals such as eggs.
There are 3 main reasons people decide to not eat meat:
1 . Ethical values: Not killing for the sake of human consumption. There is also concern for animal welfare and being confined to small spaces or cages.
2. Environmental Concerns: One doesn’t want to contribute to unsustainable environmental practices which mass producing meat contributes to.
3. Health Related: Belief that eating meat isn’t healthy for humans and eating meat free can prevent health concerns such as cancer and other illnesses.
The different ways of following a vegetarian diet:
Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian: where one consumes dairy and eggs
Lacto-Vegetarian: where one eats dairy but not eggs
Ovo-Vegetarian: where one eats eggs but not dairy
Vegan: where one doesn’t eat meat from all animals and animal products such as eggs, dairy and for some honey. Vegans also don’t use any items or products made from animals including leather or suede as well as products that contain ingredients from animal sources including household cleaners, shampoo and moisturizers etc.
Can Vegetarians Be Overweight?
For most people who follow a vegetarian diet, due to their diligence in what they choose to consume, can manage weight issues and are aware of not eating unhealthy options. However, for some, following a vegetarian woe, weight can become an issue. Generally, a vegetarian diet can be carb-heavy, and contain insufficient healthy fats. The balance of carbs:protein:fat may also contribute to weight gain.
People following the vegetarian diet might also consume some processed foods that although vegetarian, may also contain high carbs, sugar and unhealthy fats which can lead to excess weight and inflammation.
In light of scientific evidence where excess sugar and carbs have been shown to lead to weight gain, following a ketogenic diet can help manage weight.
A vegetarian diet can lead to weight loss and reduction in inflammation.
Fat burning happens when the body goes into ketosis to produce ketones. How is this done without the consumption of meat?
Things Vegetarians Need to Consider
Without considering any carb:protein:fat ratio, vegetarians run the risk of being deficient in a few key nutrients commonly found in animal meat. These include iron, b12, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, amino acids and omega 3. It is possible to obtain omega 3 on a vegetarian diet, however our body converts it less effectively. The essential fatty acid required for this process is alpha linoleic acid or ALA.
For a vegetarian considering a ketogenic diet these particular nutrients need to be sourced from alternative foods. While grains are a good source of protein, amino acids, and magnesium they are not part of a ketogenic diet. Therefore, to ensure these nutrients are included in a balanced vegetarian and ketogenic diet, it’s important to find where else these can be obtained from. Such sources can be from leafy dark green vegetables, cottage cheese, eggs, and nut butters.
The problem with plant protein sources is they aren’t easily digested. Ideally, it is better to eat a wide range of protein foods to increase the bioavailability of plant based protein.
One of the goals of a ketogenic diet is to ensure the daily protein amounts are not exceeded. This is why it’s necessary to monitor and be mindful of where protein is in meals, and whether it’s low carb, medium protein and high fat. It’s also good to know how to adjust the meal to get the balance right.
Vegetarian Foods to Include for Ketogenic Diet
To ensure you meet your nutritional needs, you need to be mindful and aware of what nutrients are in what foods. Obvious right? Yes, but it can be hard to remember what’s in each food.
So here’s a guide of what to include.
Fat Sources: eggs, avocados, walnuts, macadamias, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil. For a comprehensive list of nuts on the keto diet read this. There is also information on healthy fats and options here.
Low Carb, High Protein: Cottage cheese, cheese including brie, camembert, gouda etc, Greek yogurt, seitan, eggs, nut butters, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, kale, and spinach.
Iron-rich foods: lentils, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale, tofu, bean sprouts.
Zinc sources: Egg yolks, dark chocolate, mushrooms.
Calcium and Vitamin D food sources: Tempeh, almond milk and butter, sesame seeds, dark leafy greens, kale.
When looking for processed protein options, be sure to look at the carb value to monitor how many carbs to consume for your daily macro balance.
Guidance is here
For guidance on following a vegetarian weight loss program I recommend the guide below. It considers the carb:protein:fat ratio, and the nutritional needs on a vegetarian diet while focusing on a raw foods diet.
Do you follow a vegetarian keto diet? If so I would love to hear your experiences and how you manage to ensure you consume your nutritional needs. Feel free to comment below.