The research on vegetarian keto diets is limited, but anecdotally speaking, MacDowell says she noticed a handful of positive changes once she started following the diet. “I found that not only did I lose weight very quickly [though in a healthy amount of time], I also noticed things like joint pain was disappearing, my digestion was normalizing, little things that I didn’t at all expect,” MacDowell says.
Vegetable-sourced iron, known as non-heme iron, is harder to absorb than heme iron, which is found in animal products. This is why iron levels can plummet even when a plant-based dieter eats iron-rich foods like Swiss chard, nuts, and seeds. It’s wise, then, for vegan keto eaters to add a vegan-based iron supplement to their diets. This goes double for women, who lose some iron every month through menstruation. For women 19–50, 18mg of iron per day is recommended.
To help lower their carb intake, keto dieters are advised to cut out all grains, legumes, and high-carb fruit and vegetables. Ketoers are also encouraged to boost their intake of high-fat dairy, fatty cuts of meat, fatty fish, and nuts and seeds. Ketoers also need to stay moderate with protein-rich food like eggs, lean cuts of meat, meat substitutes, and low-carb fruit and vegetables.
Vegans consume no animal products. Like vegetarians, they don’t eat meat, poultry, or fish, but they also avoid dairy, eggs, and other foods that contain even trace amounts of animal ingredients. Most vegans won’t eat gelatin (made from bones), casein (a milk protein), and fish oil supplements, or refined sugar (some brands of which use cow bones as a whitening agent).
While there are nutritional benefits associated with eating red meats and poultry in moderation, you can certainly still live a ketogenic lifestyle without them. In fact, looking at the bigger picture, the keto diet and vegetarian diet are more sustainable ways of dieting because they rely less on eating massive quantities of meat. Here are a few keto diet recipes you can try today:
Eggs are quite possibly the perfect food. They’re full of protein, easy to cook, simple to work with and they’re even easy to carry with you, thanks to their shell. A hardboiled egg might not be the most exciting breakfast, but if you’re on the go, it’s certainly a fast and filling way to get your protein. I like to cook a big batch of hardboiled eggs in my Instant Pot to use for snacks, fast breakfasts and meals all week long.
Top Tip: Move more to stress less. "I've learned to exercise instead of eating when I'm stressed," Sarah says. "I've started walking two to three miles outside two to three times a week. The fresh air instantly puts me in a good mood, and I think of it as time to unplug. Now I put exercise on my to-do list just like any task—it's about committing to myself. My mom bought a Fitbit and aims for 10,000 steps per day."
Another trick to encourage mindful eating is to focus on the taste of food instead of the activity you're doing while eating (like staring at a TV screen or reading emails). "Cultivate [your] taste buds by focusing on the first three to six bites of food," says Chere Bork, MS, RD, a speaker and wellness coach in Minneapolis. "Taste buds are chemical sensors that get tired very quickly, so unless you're very hungry, the first few bites of a food will taste better than the next few bites. After a larger amount, you may actually have very little taste experience left." By savoring the early bites, especially when it comes to rich foods like chocolate and cheese, you will satisfy hunger and cravings without eating large portions.
The following menu, courtesy of Dr. Nelson, will give you an idea of how a day of eating on a vegan keto diet could look (with a Mod Keto carb allowance). One thing’s for sure: you can eat a high volume of food without having to worry about taking in too many calories, so you’re unlikely to gain weight by accident with this style of eating. It’s easy to stay satiated due to the fat content and the abundance of fresh vegetables makes this diet rich in phytonutrients and fiber. On the downside, it’s very tough to get enough protein in. As you can see, aiming for the bare minimum amount—20% of calories—almost certainly requires supplementation.
“If you were only to do cardio and diet, you’d lose weight, but your metabolism would be compromised. Resistance training has a protein-sparing effect in that it doesn’t like for protein to be metabolized for energy. Cardio doesn’t make the same distinction — if you’re running and you’ve burned up all your carbohydrate stores, your body will start leeching from your fat and protein stores,” Sharp explains.
Is your fridge yawn-inducing? Meals are bound to get boring if we fall into the routine of eating the same fruits and vegetables. Amanda Carlson-Phillips, R.D., a Phoenix-based dietitian with Core Performance, recommends adding fruits and veggies of three different colors to every plate—you'll be chowing down on a mix of nutrient-dense, low-calorie, high-fiber foods to help keep you slim. Also, a heart-healthy salad will feel like much more like a satisfying indulgence when it's a visual feast and taste-bud party.
For anyone following any vegan diet, and athletes especially, the question always comes up: “How do you get enough protein?” Nelson recommends about 0.7g of protein per pound of your goal body weight as a baseline daily intake for active people—and most nutritionists recommend up to one gram per pound if you’re weight training. (Goal body weight means the amount you want to weigh—not the number that currently comes up on the scale. So, if you weigh 205 pounds but remember looking and feeling your best when you weighed 175, eat 0.7g of protein x 175, or about 120 grams daily.)
The best option is to, of course, read your nutrition labels thoroughly and track your nutrients using one of the apps mentioned here. For vegetables or foods that you pick up at the farmer's market or other food that lacks nutritional information, this spreadsheet covers the carb count for a huge number of foods and drinks. This spreadsheet will save you so much time.
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Cutting out grains, rice, bread, and pasta will reduce your carb intake substantially, but you’ll also have to cut way back on nearly all fruits (exceptions are in the food list above, though even those should be eaten sparingly). Starchy vegetables like potatoes and yams are out, too. And the sugary dressings and sauces you may be so accustomed to that you don’t even question them anymore… well, start questioning them.
Here, we’ve broken down our protein grocery list into animal and plant sourced — so depending on where on the plant-based eating spectrum you find yourself, you have ample choices available. If you go for soy products, try to stick to non-GMO and organic options, and pick ones that are fermented as they are even more abundant in nutrients (think organic tempeh).
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