Easy ways to drop weight the low-carb way while staying meat-free
The keto diet is one of the hottest diet trends around, with a host of celeb converts including Kim Kardashian, Halle Berry and Vanessa Hudgens. This on-trend way to eat has soared in popularity in recent years with its rep of helping people to lose weight – but just how tricky is it to go keto if you’re a vegetarian?
At first glance, it may not look promising – the low carb high fat diet scraps carbohydrates for a high-fat menu that most followers get from eating lots of meat. But with some simple switches and forward planning, vegetarians can board the ketogenic diet train with relative ease.
What is the keto diet?
Followers of the keto diet plan cut down on foods that contain carbohydrates to try to make their bodies burn more fat than usual. On a normal diet, our body’s first choice for fuel is glucose, which it gets from the carbs we eat.
However, on a low-carb ketogenic diet our glucose levels drop, and the body is forced to find another source of fuel to burn instead. And luckily, its second choice is the very thing most dieters want get rid of – fat.
The ultimate goal of the keto diet is to stay in this low-glucose mode, called ketosis. Once in this stage, our liver uses fat supplies to produce molecules known as ketones. As we burn this new source of fuel, our fat stores begin to drop and so we shed excess pounds – which is why the keto diet plan has gained popularity with those looking to lose weight.
What can you eat on a keto diet?
The standard ketogenic diet is a low carb high fat diet plan that cuts out carbs almost entirely, with followers limiting their menu of carbs to just vegetables, nuts and dairy. Refined carbohydrates, such as wheat (found in bread and pasta), starch (found in potatoes and rice) and sugary fruits, should be cut out completely. Instead, they’re replaced with foods that are high in fat, such as meat, cheese, milk and eggs.
The aim is to have a daily diet that consists of around 5% carbohydrates, 25% proteins and 70% fats.
So, can a vegetarian do the keto diet?
Yes! – The keto diet is absolutely vegetarian-friendly, though there are some things to keep in mind.
A standard keto meal plan contains a lot of meat and fish, though there are many plant-based alternatives that can be used instead, along with an additional bump of eggs and dairy products.
What should your pantry be stocked with on a vegetarian keto diet?
- Nuts – including pecans, hazelnuts and almonds (also proteins)
- Seeds – such as chia and flaxseeds (also a proteins)
- Olive oil
- Olive spread
- Coconut oil
- Hard and soft cheeses
- Grass-fed butter
- Greek yoghurt
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- Plant-based meat alternatives (tofu, tempeh)
- Protein powders (whey or soy protein)
Low GI carbs
- Leafy greens
- Green beans
- Low-sugar fruits such as berries
What should you avoid on a vegetarian keto diet?
- Root vegetables – such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips
- High-sugar fruits – such as apples, oranges and bananas
- Grains – such as cereal, wheat and rice
- Refined sugar products
What are the benefits of a keto diet? And what are the drawbacks?
Studies have shown that a keto diet plan can have many beneficial effects for those who are overweight, including weight loss, and decreased levels of cholesterols, which can reduce the risk of heart disease 1.
However, it’s a diet that consists of lots of fatty foods, so be sensible with what you fill up on; pick healthy fats (monounsaturated) over processed (saturated) ones – but then you knew that anyway, didn’t you, smart cookie?
Stick to a weekly meal plan that includes all of the key nutrients and vitamins that a vegetarian diet can sometimes miss, like iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and omega 3.
1. Alexandra M Johnstone, Graham W Horgan, Sandra D Murison, David M Bremner, Gerald E Lobley; Effects of a high-protein ketogenic diet on hunger, appetite, and weight loss in obese men feeding ad libitum, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 87, Issue 1, 1 January 2008, Pages 44–55, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/87.1.44