Can you do Keto as a Vegetarian?

Spoiler alert: Yes, you can.

As a reminder, a ketogenic diet is a diet that is high in healthy fats, very low in carbohydrates, and moderate in protein. The goal is to get yourself into a state of nutritional ketosis, where your body uses mostly fat for energy instead of glucose. You might have heard of the many health benefits that a ketogenic diet can provide, or maybe you just want to lose fat, have more energy or you want to be able to go for long periods of time without needing to eat.

Now, the most important part to achieve nutritional ketosis is to keep carbs low, ideally below 20-30g of net carbs per day, mostly from green leafy vegetables.

Here’s where being vegetarian on Keto can be a little more challenging. Many vegetarians are used to eating lots of legumes to get their protein. But those sources simply won’t work on a ketogenic diet, as they’re too high in carbohydrates. As an example, 24g of protein from kidney beans or lentils come with 35 grams of net carbs, pushing you over your daily carbohydrate limit in a single meal. Also, quite often vegetarians are used to eating lots of fruits. Since most fruits are high in sugar, you will need to replace them with vegetables instead. But the good thing is that most vegetables are higher in nutrients anyway.

If you’re a ‘pescetarian‘ it will be way easier for you to do Keto than if you’re not, as fish & seafood are some of the best protein sources out there.

If you’re a strict vegetarian though, your best protein sources are going to be eggs, followed by cheese, nuts and seeds (both higher in carbs, so pay attention). If you you’re not getting enough protein through your diet, you can sometimes even supplement with some low-carb protein powder like whey protein, egg protein or a plant-based protein powder. It can be a good idea to mix your protein shake with some healthy fats like coconut milk, heavy cream or MCT oil so it doesn’t kick you out of ketosis.

In general it’s probably a good idea to include more MCT oil into your diet to help your liver with the production of ketones, as you’re probably more likely to consume higher amounts of carbohydrates than someone who is eating meat and doing Keto.

Alright, lets summarize. To make a vegetarian ketogenic diet work you need to eat:

Very low-carb: Most of your carbs will be from green leafy vegetables with pretty much every meal – these are gonna make up around 5% of your daily calories. That might not seem a lot, but that’s going to fill up about half of your plate. Those vegetables are going to provide you with lots of nutrients and fiber, which you need to feed your good gut bacteria.
High-Fat: Around 60-80% of your calories are going to come from healthy fats like Coconut oil or coconut milk, MCT oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter, heavy cream, avocados, some nuts & seeds and full-fat cheese. The fat is going to help you stay full for a long time after your meals.
Moderate Protein: 15-25% of calories or at least 0,5g of protein per pound or 1,1g per kg of your ideal bodyweight. More if you’re exercising regularly. Not eating enough protein can lead to muscle loss, you feeling more hungry and can even down-regulate your metabolism. As far as sources go, If you’re a ‚pure’ vegetarian, as I mentioned, you will be limited to eggs, cheese, nuts & seeds as your main protein sources. If you’re pescetarian though, you’re lucky as you can also include lots of wild-caught fish & seafood on Keto.

I hope that this video helped show you that it’s definitely possible to follow a ketogenic diet even if you’re vegetarian!
Here’s a sample two week meal plan from ketodietapp:

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