VEGETARIAN KETO: CAN VEGETARIANS GO KETO SAFELY?
By Stephen Sheehan
When you think of the ketogenic diet, you definitely don’t think of carbohydrates. After all, the typical macronutrient breakdown with this eating plan only allows for about 20g net carbs per day! The thought of going vegetarian keto seems downright impossible.
For those who do not consume meat and animal products, is it realistic to adhere to a vegetarian lifestyle combined with a high-fat, ketogenic approach?
If you’re seeking a path to vegetarian keto diet success, this guide was crafted specifically for you! Find a comprehensive vegetarian keto food list, as well as recipes and tips to get you started on your fat-fueled, plant-based journey into ketosis!
HOW TO APPROACH THE KETO DIET AS A VEGETARIAN
Following a vegetarian keto diet plan means saying goodbye to gluten, grains and many starchier vegetables. Since vegetarians typically follow high-carb protocols, it can be a major challenge to make the switch to a more keto-focused lifestyle.
However, as a vegetarian interested in a low-carb diet like keto, you can adjust your net carb intake to account for more plant-based foods. Typically, you would consume about 20g net carbs per day on a standard keto diet. However, that can increase to around 50g through a predominantly plant-based approach.
To unlock the power of ketones, there are plenty of quality, vegetarian-friendly fat sources available. Spoiler alert: yes, that means you can still enjoy a cup of Bulletproof Coffee in the morning!
As for the lacto-ovo vegetarian crowd (those who do not have problems with consuming dairy products), there are also plenty of ways to incorporate quality fats from dairy and eggs into a vegetarian keto meal plan, and more flexibility to tweak recipes that will cater to your specific dietary approach.
CAN YOU CONSUME BULLETPROOF COFFEE AS A VEGETARIAN ON KETO?
Some advice from the pros: Nothing’s better than starting your day with a brain-boosting cup of coffee. The signature Bulletproof Coffee ingredients work perfectly for lacto-ovo vegetarians looking for a delicious, fat-fueled concoction that includes Bulletproof Original Coffee, Bulletproof Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil and Bulletproof Grass-Fed Ghee.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that if your body does not tolerate dairy, you should not consume ghee or butter in your coffee (or slathered on all your favorite plant-based meals).
Pro tip: If you’re dairy intolerant—or adamant about not consuming dairy in any way, shape or form—you can try out a modified Bulletproof Coffee recipe. And, as an added bonus, this mixture also gives your gut a supportive boost from a prebiotic powder.
THE ULTIMATE VEGETARIAN KETO FOOD LIST
Whether you’re researching vegetarian keto for weight management goals or to give the super-low-carb lifestyle a try in favor of other health benefits, you’ll want to make sure your pantry and fridge are stocked with items from the following vegetarian keto food list.
Because this approach accommodates a slightly higher net carb count, you will see more fruits and vegetables than you might typically integrate on a standard keto food list.
Study up below to learn how to shop for this new lifestyle. You’ll be whipping up some tasty vegetarian keto recipes in no time, where memories of bland quinoa and lentils can remain in the distant past—where they belong!
VEGETARIAN KETO-FRIENDLY FATS
Because the ketogenic diet focuses on fueling your body (and brain) with quality fats, your first priority should be finding plenty of ways to incorporate this macronutrient into your meal plan. While coconut oil is certainly a terrific source of quality fats for vegetarian keto dieters, you can take things to the next level…
For example, Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil rapidly converts into ketone energy that can provide brain-boosting and fat-burning benefits. Since the oil is flavorless, you can easily mix it into smoothies or salad dressings—give Creamy Basil Vinaigrette a try!
Another option is Bulletproof C8 and C10 MCT Oil. It metabolizes quickly and can help fight off cravings in order to keep you focused at work, in the gym or wherever you may be! Believe me, your body will appreciate the ketogenic effect of the C8 and C10 caprylic and capric acids sourced from 100% pure coconut oil.
A few more fat sources that fall into the vegetarian keto food list include:
- Grass-fed butter and ghee: For lacto-ovo vegetarians, you can access omega-3s that you may not otherwise be able to consume through wild-caught fatty fish or fish oil.
- Olive oil: Rich in oleic acid and containing some omega-3s, olive oil is also made up of antioxidants, as well as anti-inflammatory properties.
- Avocado oil: In addition to all the omegas (3, 6 and even 9), avocado oil is high in lutein, which is good for your eye health and skin. This beneficial fat also enhances the absorption of nutrients.
You can use any of the above for cooking (your veggies will taste rich and robust!) or as tasty, macro-friendly accompaniment to your favorite dish or salad. Think: keto ranch dressing—and this one’s dairy-free!
Keep in mind that while the clean fat sources listed above definitely fall into the keto-friendly category, it’s important to steer clear of processed trans fats and vegetable oils. Avoid canola oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, vegetable shortening, and margarine.
PROTEIN SOURCES FOR KETO VEGETARIANS
Eliminating meat, poultry and fish from your diet can certainly make it more difficult to meet your macro goals. However, there are several plant-based and lacto-ovo vegetarian keto-friendly protein sources that can still do the trick.
You can get enough protein by consuming:
- Protein powders: Pea, hemp or whey can be utilized in smoothies, shakes or other recipes in order to up to your protein count. Note that for those who have trouble tolerating lactose (whey), plant-based protein powders can be much easier on your digestive system.
- Pasture-raised eggs: These not only taste better than your typical grocery store variety, but they also provide your body with quality fats. By consuming eggs, keto lacto-ovo vegetarians can take in vitamins A, B5, B6, B12, D, E, K, as well as calcium and zinc. (Talk about a nutritious mouthful!)
- Cheese: You can consume cheese in moderation, but only if your body handles dairy well. Of course, there are also vegan cheeses available for those who want to stick to a plant-based protocol, but make sure to read ingredient labels for fillers, starches and added sugars, which are not-so-keto-friendly. In addition, while vegan cashew cheese may be safe to consume, tempeh cheese is made of soy, which is not recommended on the keto diet.
Remember, you don’t want to pack too much protein into your vegetarian keto diet. In general, you’ll want to keep your macronutrient percentage intake at around 20%.
BEST LOW-CARB NUTS AND SEEDS FOR VEGETARIAN KETO DIETERS
Sometimes you may just need a snack. And while some nuts and seeds do fall into the low-carb category, you’ll want to exercise caution.
To illustrate, it’s always important to note carb count when it comes to nuts. A couple of spoonfuls that turn into a few handfuls can cause your macros to go through the roof! And, if you exceed your carb allotment because you’ve had a more-than-generous portion of nuts, you can quickly get kicked out of ketosis! (Trust me, it takes a good amount of work to get back in!)
At the end of the day, though, nuts and seeds are great for keto (and especially vegetarian keto) because they contain both fats and protein, as well as different types of nutrients. Some excellent low-carb nut options include the following:
- Macadamia nuts
And, while some consider coconuts to be fruit, at Bulletproof, we consider them to be keto-friendly nuts—that do a great job of fueling your body and brain with beneficial fats.
However, keep in mind that peanuts are actually are a legume, so unfortunately they don’t fit in well with a keto diet. Furthermore, peanuts may cause inflammation for some, so it’s best to stick to low-carb nut options to feel your best.
As for seeds?
Your vegetarian keto meal plan can include pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds and chia seeds. Seeds not only pack quality fats and protein, but they also contain important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.
Pro tip: Nut butters and seed butters are also great ways to hit your macros. In addition, nut milks are great plant-based, low-carb alternatives to milk, half-and-half and heavy cream.
FRUITS AND VEGGIES (OBVIOUSLY)
Mama always said to eat your fruits and veggies, right? Since these are at the core of a vegetarian lifestyle, the majority of your carb intake will come from fruits and vegetables.
However, that doesn’t mean all of them fit into a vegetarian keto diet. Commonly-consumed fruits, like bananas, apples and oranges, contain too much natural sugar that can cause blood sugar spikes. And some vegetables, such as white potatoes and corn (which are major no-nos) have high carb counts that don’t support a ketogenic lifestyle.
WHAT FRUITS CAN I EAT ON A VEGETARIAN KETO DIET?
So, which fruits can you incorporate into your weekly vegetarian keto meal plan? You can consume:
- All the berries! Strawberries, blackberries and raspberries are keto-safe, while blueberries are a bit higher in carbs, and should be consumed in moderation.
- Melon from time to time, but not in excess.
- Avocados, which are also a great source of quality fats (any guacamole fans out there?)
- Citrus options, like lemons and limes, for cooking and infused waters.
- Tomatoes are in the clear—if you don’t have a problem with nightshades.
WHAT VEGGIES ARE KETO-FRIENDLY?
Certain veggies, especially tubers, don’t work well with a ketogenic diet because of their high carb content. However, there are plenty of other produce options to consider adding to your vegetarian keto food list, including:
- Leafy greens: Spinach, kale, lettuce, arugula, collard greens and cabbage
- Cruciferous vegetables: Brussels sprouts, bok choy, broccoli and cauliflower
- Root and taproot vegetables: Radish, jicama and turnip
- Squashes: Yellow squash, zucchini, pumpkin, Delicata, kabocha and chayote
You can also whip up delicious salads and other keto-friendly dishes using refreshing veggies, like cucumbers and celery. Additionally, cook with mushrooms, bell peppers (unless you have a nightshade problem!), onions and garlic…sparingly.
VEGETARIAN KETO BAKING ESSENTIALS
Whether you consume animal products on a keto diet or you stick to a vegetarian keto approach, you’ll definitely want to have some baking essentials on hand whenever the craving for a keto dessert strikes.
Luckily, there are several keto-approved sugar substitutes that many keto dieters use, like:
- Monk fruit
Note: Although xylitol is human-friendly, proceed with extra caution if you’re a dog lover. Xylitol is toxic to our furry friends, so make sure to store it safely out of reach of your pooch!
Of course, you’ll also need ‘flour’ to make your baked goods come to life. Some gluten-free, grain-free, low-carb flour substitutes include the below:
- Coconut flour
- Almond flour
- Flaxseed meal
- Pumpkin seed flour
Finally, you may need a thickening agent to bring everything together. In that case, xanthan gum and psyllium husk work well. The latter is a great source of fiber, which can only spell out good things for your digestive system and your gut health.
HOW TO CRAFT A VEGETARIAN KETO MEAL PLAN
Now that you know what a vegetarian keto food list looks like, it’s time to build out a meal plan that allows you to hit your macro goals and provides your body with all the micronutrients it needs.
But if you’re new to a vegetarian keto approach, fret not. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of what a typical keto meal plan looks like vs. a plant-based approach.
STANDARD KETO DAY
A typical day of eating on a standard keto diet that includes animal products could look like this:
- Breakfast: A cup of Bulletproof Coffee, or scrambled eggs with sugar-free bacon or sausage
- Lunch: Seasoned chicken thighs cooked in avocado oil over a salad of fresh greens
- Dinner: A grass-fed ribeye steak with a side of spinach and broccoli cooked in grass-fed ghee
- Dessert: A serving of Dark Chocolate Collagen Pudding
VEGETARIAN KETO DAY
However, for those who do not consume dairy or animal products, a vegetarian keto diet meal plan would obviously look much different. Here’s an example of what a day of eating might look like if you’re following a more plant food-forward keto approach:
- Breakfast: A cup of Bulletproof Coffee (minus the ghee, if you’re not lacto-ovo) or a plant-based protein shake with added MCT oil
- Lunch: A fresh salad topped with avocado, hard-boiled eggs (optional), a mixture of nuts, seeds and a fat-fueled keto dressing
- Dinner: Cauliflower fried rice with various veggies flavored with coconut aminos and cooked in coconut oil
- Dessert: A small bowl of fresh, mixed berries with a dollop of coconut cream
As you can see, you don’t have to make widespread changes to successfully eat keto as a vegetarian. You can still enjoy the benefits of ketosis by building out an enjoyable meal plan full of plant-driven flavors and quality fats!
VEGETARIAN KETO RECIPES
Ready to test out your cooking skills? From frittatas to zucchini noodles, there are many vegetarian ketogenic diet recipes out there that incorporate healthy fats in a tasty way.
After all, the keto diet requires you to get about 70% of your caloric intake from fats. Vegetarian recipes can get a healthy boost simply by using quality fats while cooking. Sauteing seasonal vegetables in high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil (or roasting them with avocado oil) will make you think twice about ever picking up something from the grocery store’s “hot food” section again…
As you continue to build out your personalized keto meal plans, take some time to research the different types of vegetarian recipes. Below, you’ll find a collection of staples you can include in your vegetarian keto arsenal. Hit all of your macros consistently when cooking up these savory eats and sweet treats:
- Vegetarian Curry
- Quick Pickled Vegetables
- Avocado-Cucumber MCT Oil Salad Dressing
- Guacamole With Radish and Jicama
- Mashed Turnips
- Thyme and Zucchini Fritters
- Whole Roasted Cauliflower With Chimichurri Sauce
- Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad With Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette
- Zucchini Chocolate Cake
- Keto Lemon Bars
CAN SUPPLEMENTS SUPPORT THE VEGETARIAN KETO JOURNEY?
Following a vegetarian keto diet can certainly be helpful for those who have trouble digesting animal and dairy products, or who choose not to eat them for ethical reasons. However, removing those foods from your diet can potentially result in some micronutrient deficiencies.
Enter supplements, a helpful solution to combat this problem. In particular, vegetarian keto dieters may want to try supplementing with:
- Bulletproof Methyl B-12: Because it’s difficult to get vitamin B12 from non-animal protein sources (grass-fed red meat is considered the best), this supplement can help bridge the gap with any B12 deficiency.
- Bulletproof Unfair Advantage: CoQ10 is an antioxidant that your cells use for energy and protection from oxidative stress. Typically, vegetarians get this coenzyme from eating whole grains and legumes, but you may come up short on CoQ10 since a ketogenic diet does not include grains. Plus, removing animal products may also result in a deficiency. Unfair Advantage can help make up for this by powering your brain and body with CoQ10, pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) and Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil.
- Bulletproof Zinc With Copper: This is an important supplement that contains two essential minerals that vegetarians may miss out on since many minerals are sourced from animal products. Zinc helps support functions such as immunity and mood, while copper helps with energy production…and the two can be taken together in one convenient capsule form!
- Bulletproof Zen Mode: This supplement is great for vegetarian keto dieters who are experiencing stress. This holistic relaxation supplement includes magnesium, L-Theanine and a Zen Blend that will calm your body (and mind) for some much-needed relief.
- Bulletproof InnerFuel Prebiotic: This plant-based, keto-friendly prebiotic supplement aids in the production of healthy gut bacteria. And because it’s unflavored, it’s easy to mix into a fat-powered smoothie or a cup of Bulletproof Coffee.
- Bulletproof Coconut Charcoal: For many vegetarians, removing animal products from their diet is the first step toward cleansing the body of unwanted bacteria and toxins. This ultra-fine charcoal powder sourced from 100% coconuts can help bind to—and remove—everyday toxins.
The bottom line: Keto for vegetarians is absolutely safe and feasible! As long as you keep your home stocked with items from our vegetarian keto food list, you can follow this eating protocol without worry, and reap the health benefits of sustained ketosis. Plus, you can add supplements to your diet, as well as various vegetarian keto recipes, to help make up for any micronutrient deficiencies.
Looking for a slightly hybrid approach to your diet? Learn about the paleo-vegan diet (yes, it’s called pegan), which incorporates quality fats and proteins from sustainably raised animal products.