Meat, poultry, and fish often make up the main course of a ketogenic diet, a diet based on high-fat, very low carbohydrate, and moderate protein intakes that help you achieve ketosis. As a vegetarian, you may hesitate to go on the ketogenic diet because most vegetarian foods like beans and lentils, though high in protein, also contain high amounts of carbohydrates.
Concerns that sticking to a low-carb diet as a vegetarian is hard are valid, a vegetarian keto diet plan is absolutely doable. It will, however, need you to pay particular attention to the foods you can eat and those you should avoid because you are on the keto diet. Below is a list of what can vegetarians eat on a keto diet and 10 staples that every vegetarian keto diet plan should have. Go ahead and add these to your food list!
Eggs are nutrient dense foods that are high in protein and a perfect staple if you are on a vegetarian keto diet. One large egg contains about 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat while containing less than 0.5 grams of carbs. (1) By including two eggs in your breakfast, you can substantially add to your protein and fat intake without the carbs.
Another advantage is that eggs are very versatile and can provide variety to your diet as they can be cooked in several different ways such as deviled eggs, fried, poached, boiled, omelets or frittata. To increase your fat intake, use healthy fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, or avocado oil for frying your eggs.
Whether you are a vegetarian or not, avocados are one of the perfect staple foods to have if you are on the keto diet. They are naturally high in fat and are a staple you should always have on hand for a quick, easy snack or to integrate into your meal. One avocado provides about 21 grams of fat. Although it contains 11.8 grams of carbohydrate, as much as 9.25 grams are fiber, so that you are adding only 2.5 grams of net carbs to your diet. (4)
Slices of avocado stuffed in an omelet is a great filling meal. Make zesty avocado salsa with lime and cilantro to go with your keto tortilla chips for a snack or turn it into a keto breakfast smoothie with coconut or almond milk.
Yogurt is another staple food you should include in your keto diet plan. But you cannot pick any yogurt from the grocery store! You will need to carefully read the nutrition facts panel and ingredient list carefully to find a yogurt that does not contain added sweeteners. It is best to get plain yogurt made from whole milk. A 100 gram serving of Greek yogurt made from plain, whole milk provides about 9 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, and 4 grams of carbohydrates. (5) Because it is high in protein, yogurt is a filling snack that can help decrease appetite. You can add MCT oil or coconut oil to the plain yogurt to increase fat content, which will increase satiety and keep you filling full for hours.
Another advantage of including yogurt in your keto diet plan is that it contains active probiotics that help improve digestion and lessen digestive issues. Yogurt and other dairy products are also rich in calcium that is beneficial for bone health. You can add low carb berries or nuts to yogurt to add variety to your diet.
All kinds of cheese are an excellent choice on the keto diet plan. Hard cheese like parmesan, cheddar, provolone, Swiss, and Colby-Jack or soft cheese like cottage cheese, feta, blue cheese, brie, ricotta cheese, and goat cheese is a great addition to your vegetarian keto diet plan. These appetizing cheeses will not only add flavor but will also provide protein, fat, and calcium without the carbs to your keto diet.
One cup of cottage cheese provides you with about 24 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, and 9 grams of carbohydrates. (6) Cottage cheese, cinnamon, and berries are a great keto-friendly breakfast that will keep you satiated for a long time.
Tofu is a high-protein product made from soybeans that you can include in your keto diet plan as a vegetarian. Most soy grown in the world is GMO, so it is best to only consume organic, non-GMO tofu and soy products. A 100-gram serving of tofu provides more than 10 grams of protein, about 4 grams of fat, and less than 1 gram of carbohydrates. (2) You can easily replace meat, poultry, or other animal products with tofu because it is an excellent source of protein. Available as soft, firm, or extra firm, tofu can be cooked in several different ways to provide variety in your meals. Although tofu is rather bland in taste, it easily takes on flavors from herbs and spices. So season it well with your favorite seasonings or marinade to a great tasting meat alternative.
Soybeans contain compounds that may lower the body’s ability to absorb the vitamins and minerals they contain. Soaking, sprouting, fermenting, and cooking are ways to reduce these antinutrient levels in soy. This leads us to the next item on our list.
Tempeh is another vegetarian source of protein that is made by fermenting soybeans. A 100 gram serving of tempeh contains about 20 grams of protein and 11 grams of fat, both of which are more than double that present in tofu. It, however, contains more than 7 grams of carbohydrates per 100-gram serving, something you will have to factor in when including tempeh in your meal. Apart from its protein and fat content, tempeh is rich in probiotics, calcium, and other minerals. (3)
In addition to being nutritious, tempeh can be baked, steamed, fried, or sautéed and can be used to replace meat in your favorite dishes. Tempeh is firmer than tofu and can be ground and used as a substitute for ground meat, or diced and used in soups and stews. A search for vegetarian keto recipes with tempeh will give you ideas on how to use it in your keto diet plan.
Nuts are a great choice of snack when you are on the keto diet. Pecans, macadamia, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and Brazil nuts are some of the high-fat, low-carb nuts you should include in your keto diet plan. Other nuts like cashew, peanuts, and pistachios contain higher amounts of carbohydrates, something you should consider based on your diet plan. (7-15) Nut butter, such as almond butter and peanut butter are also a great addition to your keto diet meal plan.
Chia seeds, hemp, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds are excellent sources of fat and protein that can add flavor and taste to your keto meal plan. Sprinkle some of these healthy seeds on your yogurt, cottage cheese, or other foods to add flavor and omega-3 fatty acids to your meal. Most seeds contain low amounts of net carbs as they are rich in fiber and make a great keto snack. (16 – 19)
There are many keto-friendly, low-carb vegetables that you can have on the keto diet. Vegetables like cauliflower are a keto favorite as it can be grated and eaten like rice, boiled, and mashed to make faux mashed potatoes or used to make a cauliflower crust pizza. A 100 gram serving of cauliflower only has 3 grams of net carbs.
Zucchini is another popular vegetable that can be spiralized to make keto-friendly spaghetti, zucchini noodles, or cut into thin slices and used to make lasagna. Mushrooms, bell peppers, spinach, bok choy, broccoli, kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are some other vegetables that you should include in your keto meal plan. (20,21)
While most fruits are sweet and high in carbs, fruits like strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are low in net carb and are good if you are on a vegetarian keto diet. You can add them to yogurt, cottage cheese or top these fruits with heavy cream for a delicious dessert. Small portion sizes of different fruits and carefully calculating your carb intake is the best way of including fruits in your diet. (22 – 24)
You can still follow the keto diet plan even though a vegetarian keto meal plan can be challenging because many vegetarian foods are exceedingly high in carbs, including protein rich foods like beans, legumes, and grains. Once you figure out staples that you can eat from the foods listed above, add them to your shopping list. You will find that the vegetarian keto diet plan has many health benefits and can be very rewarding when you experience weight loss and feel healthier.
note: If you're attempting a vegan keto diet, you'll want to steer clear of the eggs and dairy products listed in this article, but there are plenty of substitutes, including soy milk and egg replacements.