The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet praised for its physical and physiological benefits. But can you follow a ketogenic meal plan if you're a vegetarian?
While information on the keto diet is often accompanied with images of salmon fillets, thick cuts of steak and hoards of bacon, it is entirely possible to follow a vegetarian keto diet. In fact, associating keto with animal products — and animal products alone — is one of the most common diet myths (and a gross misrepresentation of this low-carb lifestyle).
Although we believe that eating animal-based foods is key for optimal health and longevity, we also understand that for many there are religious or personal preferences that mean meat is not part of your lifestyle. We want to show that if you are vegetarian you do not need to rely on a highly processed, high-carb lifestyle and that it is possible to follow a keto template.
In reality, the keto diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein diet, and therefore dieters don't need to fill their plates with protein (whether they be animal- or plant-based). As a vegetarian, you can create a meal plan based on healthy fats, low-carb vegetables and keto-friendly, vegetarian protein sources. Below, we explain how to follow a vegetarian keto diet, including which foods to eat, which foods to avoid and how to build a keto-friendly plate.
What Is a Vegetarian Keto Diet?
The vegetarian keto diet is a blend between vegetarianism and the ketogenic diet. Dieters follow a low-carb, high-fat diet while excluding meat and fish. Following a keto meal plan is linked to a number of health benefits, including weight loss (excess fat loss), decreased blood sugar and cholesterol levels and a decreased risk of heart disease.
The goal of the vegetarian keto diet is to enter the metabolic state in ketosis. In ketosis, your body burns stored body fat — transformed into ketones by the liver — rather than glucose for fuel. To do this, you will need to increase your fat intake while drastically reducing your carb intake, thereby encouraging your body to choose an alternative energy source (ketones) .
To build a vegetarian keto meal plan, dieters should get roughly 75% of their caloric intake from fats, with 20% coming from protein and the remaining 5% from carbohydrates. To stick to these macronutrient goals, you should aim to consume less than 20 grams of net carbs per day.
Keto Food List: What To Eat and What To Avoid
A vegetarian keto diet includes large amounts of healthy fats, with moderate amounts of protein and a few carbs (mainly from low-carb fruits and veg, offering beneficial micronutrients). When searching for vegetarian recipes that are also keto-friendly, look for meals containing these foods:
- Healthy fats: Including coconut oil, MCT oil, olive oil, coconut butter, avocados and avocado oil
- Nuts and seeds: Including cashews, pecans, pumpkin seeds, almonds, Brazil nuts, chia seeds, macadamia nuts and almond butter
- Vegetarian protein: Including eggs, high-quality dairy options, mushrooms and nut butters
- Low-carb vegetables: Including bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, courgette and plenty of leafy greens
- Low-sugar fruits: Including raspberries, strawberries and blueberries
- Low-carb sweeteners: These should be used in moderation, including monk fruit, stevia and erythritol
In addition, you will want to cut out a number of inflammatory and high-carb foods. These will include a number of foods you are used to eating as a vegetarian, including:
- Whole grains: Including rice, quinoa, oatmeal and wheat
- Legumes: Including lentils, chickpeas, tempeh, black beans, kidney beans, soybeans and tofu
- Sugar: Including cakes, sweets, fizzy drinks, sugar-filled condiments and biscuits
- Natural sweeteners: Including honey, maple syrup and fruit juice
- Alcohol: Most alcohol is filled with sugar, and therefore you will need to cut out beer, wine and other high-carb drinks
How Do You Get Enough Protein as a Vegetarian on Keto?
If you read the above section thinking, 'But legumes are my main source of protein!' don't worry. There are a number of ways to get adequate protein intake as a vegetarian on keto.
Remember, vegetarian keto is a moderate protein diet. If you consume 1,800 calories per day and 20% of those calories come from protein, you should aim to consume 90 grams of protein. Here are several high-protein vegetarian foods and keto recipe ideas to include:
- Hemp seeds: Hemp seeds contain 9.2 grams of protein per 28 grams (roughly 1 tablespoon) . Add it to salad dressings or your morning smoothie.
- Mozzarella: A 100-gram serving of full-fat mozzarella cheese delivers 22.2 grams of protein . Add it to sandwiches or a low-carb omelette.
- Cottage cheese: Eight ounces (226 grams) of cottage cheese offers 26.7 grams of protein and plenty of calcium . Enjoy it as a high-fat, high-protein keto breakfast.
- Greek yoghurt: A 150 gram serving of plain Greek yoghurt offers 11 grams of protein, although it will vary by the brand . Always search for a brand without added sweeteners or high-carb fruits.
- Eggs: Two large eggs offer over 15 grams of protein . Add hard boiled eggs to salads, or enjoy a frittata or goat cheese omelette as a low-carb breakfast.
- Pumpkin seeds: One ounce of pumpkin seeds offers 5.2 grams of protein . Create your own keto pesto by blending pumpkin seeds (or other nuts, like walnuts), parmesan cheese, fresh basil and olive oil, then serve over courgetti.
- Flaxseeds: One ounce (28 grams) of flaxseeds offers 5.1 grams of protein . Add flaxseeds to your lunch salads, blend into dressings or create a low-carb porridge.
- Feta cheese: One ounce (28 grams) of feta contains 4 grams of protein . Add it to lettuce wraps, scrambled eggs or a salad with cucumbers and tomatoes.
- Almond butter: Two tablespoons (or 28 grams) of almond butter contains nearly 20 grams of fat and 5 grams of protein. Enjoy it as a keto-friendly snack option with slices of celery or bell peppers .
- Marine collagen: If you follow a pescetarian diet where you eat fish, you can consume marine collagen protein powder. Add it to virtually any hot or cold beverage to get 9.5 grams of protein per 10 grams of collagen peptides.
It’s important to note that the bioavailability of animal-based proteins is typically higher than plant-based proteins. Research shows that protein from animal sources — including pork, casein and egg proteins — are excellent quality proteins, and with a Digestible Indispensable Amino Score (DIAAS) score of 100. Plant-based sources such as hemp and pea protein (which we don’t recommend, due to lectins) have a DIAAS score of less than 75 . Therefore, we recommend using vegetarian protein sources such as casein or egg protein.
Vegetarian Keto Diet Recipe Ideas
Ready to begin a vegetarian keto lifestyle? Try these recipes to help you get started:
- The ultimate keto and paleo caramelised onion frittata: This frittata is made with avocado oil, onions, eggs and avocado oil mayonnaise, making it a low-carb, high-protein breakfast.
- Paleo and keto celeriac chips cooked in avocado oil: Missing chips on keto? These celeriac chips are the low-carb way to satisfy your craving.
- Triple berry chia seed protein and coconut pot: Enjoy this chia seed pot as a breakfast, snack or low-carb treat.
- Keto dill stuffed eggs with avocado mayonnaise: These deviled eggs are an excellent keto snack, and the avocado mayonnaise adds an extra dose of healthy fats.
Can You Follow a Keto Diet as a Vegetarian? Absolutely!
The keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet praised for its health benefits, including fat loss, improved insulin levels and a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. However, some vegetarians hesitate to begin a keto meal plan, believing it will be too difficult for their lifestyle.
Fortunately, a vegetarian keto diet is completely possible. By filling your plate with real, whole foods and focusing on high-fat, moderate-protein sources including cottage cheese, nut butters, hemp seeds and eggs, you can fully adapt to a keto lifestyle.
If you follow a pescetarian lifestyle where you eat fish, marine collagen can help you reach your protein intake. With 9.5 grams of protein per 10 grams of collagen peptides, it makes following a vegetarian keto diet completely feasible.
All information provided on our website and within our articles is simply information, opinion, anecdotal thoughts and experiences to provide you with the tools to thrive.
It is not intended to treat or diagnose symptoms and is definitely not intended to be misconstrued for medical advice. We always advise you seek the advice of a trained professional when implementing any changes to your lifestyle and dietary habits.
We do however recommend seeking the services of a trained professional who questions the conventional wisdom to enable you to become the best version of yourself.