If you have been wanting to follow a Keto Vegetarian Diet, or just increase your vegetable consumption while on keto, this article will show you exactly how to do it. It includes a list of Vegetarian friendly keto foods you can enjoy.
Enjoying a Keto Vegetarian Diet Lifestyle
Many people have asked me whether you can enjoy all of the benefits of the keto diet while maintaining a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, and the answer is a resounding yes!
Whether you are a vegetarian looking to lose weight and benefit from all of the advantages of a keto diet, or you're looking to cut out meat from your diet for ethical reasons, with a little planning you can get all of the health benefits from both lifestyles.
However, in order to do so, some basic principles of your vegetarian diet will have to change. Vegetarians often get a lot of their calories from grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables which isn't compatible with a keto diet.
To get started and be certain we're on the same page, I've classified the different categories of vegetarian diets as:
- Vegans avoid dairy, eggs, seafood, poultry, meat, and other animal products.
- Lacto vegetarians eat dairy but avoid eggs, seafood, poultry, and meat. People in India who are vegetarians mainly follow this way of eating.
- Lacto-Ovo vegetarians eat dairy and eggs but avoid seafood, poultry, and meat. This is the most common form of vegetarianism in the US, Europe, and other western countries.
- Pescatarians eat seafood, dairy, and eggs but avoid poultry and red meat.
There is a way to follow a keto vegetarian diet for each category, it just takes more planning for the stricter categories to ensure that you are hitting your macros and that you don't become deficient in nutrients, including protein and certain essential fats, vitamins, and minerals.
Getting Started On A Keto Vegetarian Diet
- The first thing vegetarians will have to do to begin a keto diet is cut down their carbohydrates. The general rule for keto is no more than 20 grams of carbs per day to get into and stay in ketosis. To put that in perspective one cup of cooked quinoa has 39.4 grams of carbohydrates, a ½ cup of lentils has 25 grams. Vegetarians must, therefore, cut out many popular vegetarian protein sources, such as quinoa, buckwheat, and legumes, as they have too many carbs to be considered keto. Following is a list of foods to avoid:
- Grains — Wheat, corn, rice, cereal, etc.
- Legumes – lentils, black beans, peas, etc.
- Sugar — honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.
- Fruit — apples, bananas, oranges, etc.
- Tubers — potato, yams, etc.
- If you take in dairy, switch to the full-fat versions such as heavy cream and full-fat yogurt as they have fewer carbs.
- Completely avoid starches such as potatoes, rice and pasta.
- Ensure that you're eating enough protein. Most people need between 60—100 grams of protein on a keto diet per day, depending on their weight, body composition, activity level, and age. Typically people tend to do best when eating 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kg. of body weight. I recommend getting protein through real food rather than protein powders, bars or shakes.
- But don't forget about the protein hiding in some of your vegetables:
- Kale contains 4.3 g of protein per 100g
- Brussels sprouts contain 3.4 g of protein per 100g
- Spinach contains 2.9 g of protein per 100g
- Mushrooms contain 3.1 g per 100g
- Supplement your diet. Vegetarians often rely on grains and legumes to meet the daily needs of a number of micronutrients. When these foods are restricted as well as meat and seafood, vegetarians should make sure they consume adequate quantities of omega-3 fatty acids, iron, calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc, potassium, and magnesium.
Are Beans Keto?
As you probably know, most beans are too high in carbs to include in a keto diet. But black soybeans are the exception. Half a cup of canned black soybeans has 8 grams of carb, mostly fiber (7 grams) with a small amount of sugar.
This ham and bean soup is a great keto friendly recipe, and you can omit the ham to make it vegetarian and vegan friendly.
Is Tofu Keto?
Tofu is a great source of protein for many following a Vegetarian or Vegan diet. The good news is, is that it is keto friendly. There are 1.6g carbs in a 100g serving of tofu so it's a great ingredient to include in your diet. If you can, buy sprouted and organic tofu that is free from GMO's.
Try my no cook chocolate pudding for a delicious tofu based vegan dessert.
What you can eat on a keto Vegetarian diet
I've made a list below of Vegetarian sources of fats, proteins, and carbs that are good to start off your keto diet. Make sure that most (70%) of your daily calories come from fat, 20% from protein and 5% from carbohydrates.
So, you will see that I've included fat, protein and carbohydrate sources for all vegetarian categories. Just pick the ones that work for you.
While Vegans can reach ketosis by relying on high-fat, plant-based products like coconut oil, avocados, seeds and nuts, Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians might use cheese, butter, and ghee to get to their 70% fat intake.
Vegetarian Fats (70% of your diet)
- Coconut products: Full-fat coconut milk, coconut cream, unsweetened coconut.
- Oils: Olive oil, nut oils, coconut oil, avocado oil.
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, chia seeds, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds.
- Nut and seed butter: macadamia, pecan, walnut, hazelnut, and almond. You need to make sure it's not one that loaded with sugar and hydrogenated oils. Neither are good for your keto lifestyle.
- Tahini: This works really well as a salad dressing.
- Vegan full-fat “dairy”: Coconut yogurt, vegan butter, cashew cheese, vegan cream cheese. Again, just watch out for the sugar and carbohydrates in some brands.
- Avocados: Whole avocados, guacamole
- Cheese (Parmesan is a great one for keto)
- Dark Chocolate (As long as its higher than 70% Cacao and free of artificial sweeteners. I like Lily's).
Vegetarian Proteins (20% of your diet)
- Full-fat tofu
- Hemp seeds
- Full fat yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Tuna or Salmon or really, any other fish or shellfish (Pescatarians)
Vegetarian Carbs (5% of your diet)
- Non-starchy vegetables: Leafy greens, brussels sprouts, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms
- Berries: Blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries can be enjoyed in moderation.
- Condiments: Fresh herbs, lemon juice, hot sauce, salt, pepper, spices.
Vegetarian Keto Recipes
And to see for yourself just how yummy being a Vegetarian on a keto diet can be. Try out some of my Keto Vegetarian diet recipes:
- Vegetarian Butter Chicken: All of the butter chicken flavor without the meat.
- Palak Paneer: The Instant Pot makes this otherwise complicated dish easy.
- Eggplant Baingan Bharta: You'll get the wonderful smoky flavor in the Instant Pot without roasting.
- Tabbouleh with Hemp Hearts: My Tabbouleh with Hemp Hearts is the keto tabbouleh you've been dreaming of!
- Keto Coconut Macaroons: For a sweet treat try these coconut macaroons
Check out my list of 70+ Vegetarian Low Carb Recipes here.
In conclusion, with some thoughtful planning and supplementation you can lead a healthy keto vegetarian lifestyle. I'm interested to hear back from you on your favorite keto vegetarian foods and recipes.
Check out my How to start a Keto diet post here for weekly keto meal plan outlines, for information on how to calculate macros, and other great keto tips.
Don't forget to check out my other Keto cookbooks.
Keto Instant Pot, Keto Fat Bombs, Sweets, & Treats, and Easy keto in 30 minutes.
Really appreciate this write up and all the helpful links ! As a lacto vegetarian I find the keto choices to be a bit limited, but certainly doable. Any future input, and/or new vegetarian recipe is much looked forward to and will be very appreciated.
Thank you for this! Getting ready this week to go pescatarian keto