HOW TO START A VEGETARIAN KETO DIET
It is a common belief that you have to consume large amounts of fatty meats and seafood on the keto diet. But this is not true at all, you can follow the keto diet and eat a vegetarian diet at the same time. Keto is a high fat, moderate protein, and low carb diet and there are so many vegetarian and highly nutritious foods that naturally meet these criteria, that we don’t need to worry at all.
So many people have successfully lost weight and improved their health on the vegetarian keto diet. It is a great way to stay healthy and at the same time eat delicious, natural, and low sugar whole foods that won’t mess with your blood sugar.
HOW TO START?
The keto diet is simple but may seem difficult to adapt to at first. It requires a massive change in your eating habits and lifestyle. Not everything that you’ve learned about nutrition will apply to the keto diet. We have been told for such a long time that fat is unhealthy and will make us sick and overweight. Fat took the blame, while it is actually sugar that made us sick. You will have to overcome the fear of fat and build a new and healthy relationship with your food. Your body may need a little time to adapt too, you can’t just eat one keto meal and hit ketosis. You have to show commitment and strictly avoid carbs to stay in ketosis. If you constantly go over your carb limit, in combination with eating lots of fat you will gain weight and undo all positive health effects that keto provides.
This article will hopefully help you to find out how to start keto correctly so you turn it into a healthy lifestyle.
Before you start the vegetarian keto diet, learn about keto. Do your research, find out which vegetarian foods are low in carbs and how to plan your meals to get all the important nutrients. What effect sugar has on your health, what constantly high insulin levels do to your body, and what health benefits keto can provide.
Knowledge is power and the more you know and understand about keto, the better prepared you are to do it right and to achieve your goals. If you have any health or dietary concerns speak with your healthcare provider or dietician.
Here is a brief overview of the foods to avoid on the keto diet and the foods to eat:
Food to avoid on the keto diet:
- Grains (wheat, corn, rice, oat, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, amaranth, spelt, bulgur, etc.)
- Sugars ( sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup, corn syrup, date syrup, coconut sugar, etc.)
- Processed Foods (pasta, bread, most ready meals, pizza, fries, etc.)
- High Sugar Fruits (bananas, grapes, dried fruits etc)
- High Carb Vegetables ( potato, yams, corn, etc.)
Foods to eat on the keto diet:
- Low-carb Vegetables (spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.)
- Low Carb Fruits (olives, avocado, berries, etc.)
- Eggs (whole, yolk+white)
- Full Fat Dairy (cheeses, cream, butter, greek yogurt, etc.)
- Nuts and seeds (almonds, macadamias, walnuts, chia seeds, sunflower seeds)
- Fats (butter, ghee, coconut oil, avocado oil, mayonnaise, etc.)
- Sweeteners (stevia, erythritol, monk fruit, xylitol, etc.)
- Protein (Tofu, Tempe, Whey Protein, Spirulina, Micro protein, etc.)
KNOW YOUR MACROS
Calculate your daily macros. A tracking app like carb manager can help calculate your macros according to your goals. Macros are the three energy-providing macronutrient
In general, it is believed that we will achieve ketosis when we consume within 20-50g of carbs a day
When you are just starting out, counting and keeping track of carbs and other macros might sound confusing. In the first few weeks I wouldn’t focus so much on counting macros, but more on how to slowly reduce the carbs and up the fat in meals that you enjoy.
As we want to eat a vegetarian keto diet, we might consume a few carbs more, then one would on an omnivore keto diet. This is simply because vegetables have more carbs than meat. Eating up to 50g of carbs a day is considered keto, so do some research and look for keto-friendly and low carb recipes to help you get into the groove. See how you feel and if you can, then lower your carb intake whenever possible.
Everyone is different, I find it easy to eat 20-25g net carbs a day and I wouldn’t want to go higher than 30g net carbs a day because that’s when I stop being in ketosis and also start to get more migraines.
When I started the keto diet, I tried to reduce my carbs as much as I could and tracked every single food. I ate large amounts of fat for the first month. Once I got through the keto flu, I felt amazing and I noticed a few weeks later that I didn’t need as much fat anymore to feel satisfied. That’s when I was properly fat adapted and well in ketosis. Nowadays, I don’t track my macros that religiously anymore. By now I kind of know which foods to eat and how much of it. Everyone has to do what works best for them.
Now that you know more about the keto diet and what to eat, check out all the foods that you have at home. Give your pantry, fridge, and freezer the keto check cup. Read the nutritional information on all your food products to determine whether they are keto-friendly or not. A little tip Nutella, bread and crisps are not keto-friendly. Now it’s up to you what to do with the non-keto foods. Unopened and long life products can be donated to food banks or friends and family. Other already opened carby items can either be thrown away (I hate food waste) or maybe you want to have one last little feast before changing your life for good.
For me, the pantry clear out was a slow but steady process. My husband started the keto diet, while I was still eating all the carby foods. Then my husband’s keto foods slowly took over the pantry and eventually I decided to eat keto too, because it would make shopping and cooking for the both of us so much easier. (yeah, that was my exciting reason to start keto)
AVOID HIDDEN CARBS
To ensure that you are keeping your carb intake as low as possible, always read the nutritional label very carefully, as the product may contain hidden carbs. Food manufacturers are very clever and like to trick us into thinking that we are buying a product low in sugar or that’s only sweetened with “healthy” sugars like fructose, coconut nectar, or agave syrup. In reality, these ingredients are all simple sugars, that increase blood sugar levels and kick you out of ketosis. AVOID products that contain:
- Fruit juice
- Cane sugar
- Corn syrup
- Glucose syrup
- Modified starch
- Potato starch etc.
REFILL THE PANTRY
Now that we know which foods are suitable for keto, we can refill our pantry, fridge, and freezer with all the keto goodness. It is always good to have a few stables in the house, so you’re always prepared and ready to whip up some delicious keto meals.
Here is a list of my keto essentials, which I always have in my fridge, freezer, and pantry. It might look like a lot but I can make so many different meals and treats with these ingredients.
- Almond flour
- Coconut flour
- Mixed seeds
- Chia seeds
- Psyllium husk
- Stevia drops
- Monk fruit drops
- Baking powder
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Cocoa powder
- Sugar-free syrup
- Low carb veg like cauliflower, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus and cucumber
- A bag of frozen berries
- Frozen herbs
- Heavy cream
- Sour cream
- Cheese (mozzarella, cheddar)
- Greek yogurt
- A few Quorn products
- 90% dark chocolate
- High-quality salt like rock salt or Himalayan salt
- Spices like pepper, chili, garlic powder, bagel seasoning
PLAN YOUR MEALS
Planning the first few weeks or even the first month on keto can really help. Some people need a good meal plan to help them get through the first stage until they are fat-adapted and know what to eat and whatnot. Some need the structure and simplicity of knowing exactly what they are going to eat each day. It can help you stick with keto. To set up a meal plan, it really helps to find keto-friendly recipes and versions of all your favorite meals, snacks, and treats. I wouldn’t recommend trying so many new recipes with foods you may not like. It takes time for your taste to redevelop. I have heard so many times that people didn’t like food before keto but then a few months into keto they absolutely love it. For example foods like broccoli or Brussel sprouts.
Keep it simple at first, pick out a few foods and recipes that really speak to you, and with that create a meal plan that’s easy for you to stick with.
When you start restricting carbs, you’ll notice that so many of your favorite foods come with added sugars and carbs. These foods can quickly kick you out of ketosis and turn your keto diet into a lackluster low carb diet. Keto is supposed to be a long term lifestyle and not just a quick fix, so we need to find foods that we really like in order to be able to do keto long term. If you were living on bread, pasta, pizza, rice, fries, and cake, then look for some keto alternatives. Just because you are eating keto foods doesn’t mean you have to cut out pizza, pasta, rice, sweets, and desserts. Here are some alternatives:
- Bread: 90-second bread, keto gluten bread or Lettuce
- Pasta: Zoodles (zucchini noodles), palmini (heart of palm pasta) or konjac noodles
- Pizza: Fathead dough pizza crust, cheese crust pizza or cauliflower crust pizza
- Rice: Cauliflower rice, Broccoli rice or konjac rice
- Fries: Celeriac fries, turnip fries or swede fries
- Cake: Almond flour cake or coconut flour cake
Now that you have a meal plan or at least an idea of what you want to eat, you can start meal prepping. Cooking a few large meals and then portioning them out, to store either in the fridge or freezer will save you time and money. Having a few meals ready for when you are also helps to stick with keto. There is nothing worse than coming home from work, starving, and then needing to prepare and cook dinner. Isn’t it much nicer to have dinner ready and waiting for you? Just quickly reheat and off you go.
Meal prep also promotes healthy eating, since you will have cooked the meal yourself and you know what ingredients you’ve used. You will also be less likely to overeat since you have already portioned out your meal already. It will also help you to avoid eating more carbs then you need to.
GET THROUGH THE KETO FLU
I hate to point this out but you are most likely to get the keto flu. The keto flu commonly strikes about one or two weeks into going keto. This is when things get tough and you have to stick with keto even though you think it’s making you ill and all you want is to give in to the carb cravings.
Carb addiction is real, you will feel the carb withdrawal. You may experience flu-like symptoms, as your body adapts to the significant decrease in carb consumption. Your body was used to burn easy energy provided by carbs/simple sugar and now it has to produce ketones to turn them into energy.
Keto flu symptoms might include
- Foggy head
- Feeling weak
- Feeling cold
- Serve carb cravings
- Mood swings
- Extreme thirst
If you experience any of these symptoms within the first two weeks of keto try to
- take electrolytes ( sodium, potassium, and magnesium)
- drink more water
- if you feel cold, drink a nice and warm vegetable broth
- eat more fat (fat bombs, bulletproof coffee, extra butter or mayo)
If you feel nothing is helping and you are seriously ill, please seek help from a medical professional.
Once you get through the keto flu, which lasts between 1-2 weeks, you will feel a boost in energy, a clear head, decreased hunger, and less need for fat.
I can only speak from my experience and I still remember how unwell I felt when I got the keto flu about one week into keto. I had all the symptoms above but I knew that if I would push through, it would get better and I would feel amazing afterward. I drank a lot of hot vegetable broth to keep me warm and ate plenty of fat bombs to keep me full. I’m glad I didn’t give up on keto, even though at that time I would have liked to.
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body is consistently using and burning ketones for fuel. To produce ketones and enter ketosis, we have to trigger a process in the liver called ketogenesis. You will probably reach ketosis within 1-2 weeks into eating a keto diet. Ketones are only produced once we lack sugar/glucose in the body. Once all glucose is burned your body will produce ketones, stimulate ketogenesis and enter nutritional ketosis.
When we reach ketosis, most people notice an increase in energy, feeling more focused and reduced appetite. Keto naturally reduces your calorie intake, through the consumption of highly-satiating whole foods. Because of this, you will feel full throughout the day without needing to eat as many calories as before, this is why keto leads to weight loss in so many people.
HOW TO CHECK YOU’RE IN KETOSIS
If you keep your carbs at around 20-25g per day, you will most certainly be in ketosis after a week or two of starting keto. You may notice an increase in energy, a focused mind, and keto breath, thanks to breathing out acetone due to ketone production. There are also a few ways to see if you’re in ketosis:
- Urine, you can use urine ketosis to determine if you are in ketosis. They may work in the beginning but are less accurate over time.
- Breath, you can use a breath ketone meter, it will measure the acetone level in your breath
- Blood, you can very accurately measure ketone levels in your blood. You will need to get a ketone meter, with a lancer and test stips.
I used keto sticks in the beginning but after about two months they were not showing any results anymore, so I got a blood meter and since then I could accurately measure my ketone levels. I check every now and then to see if I’m still in ketosis or if I try a new food or restaurant to see how they affect me.
STAY IN KETOSIS
Since keto is a long term lifestyle, you have to stay in ketosis to get the most benefits from this diet. This means that you have to constantly keep your carb intake low. If you eat more carbs, than your carb limit allows, you will not stay in ketosis. If you combine a high-fat diet with too many carbs you will not lose weight but you will however raise insulin levels, which leads to inflammation and weight gain. Your body will use the carbs as an easy source of energy and all that fat will be stored. Keep your meals simple but keep them keto, otherwise you could seriously harm your health.
KETO AND EXERCISE
You do not have to exercise to trigger ketosis but there is nothing wrong with combining keto and exercise. Exercise in general is good for your body, health, and wellbeing. You can decide for yourself what you want to do.
A lot of people don’t want to eat keto every day, as they miss some of their carby comfort foods too much. So some plan on having cheat days, where they eat whatever they fancy. There is nothing wrong with a cheat day once a week or once a month, it just will kick you out of ketosis and may slow down your progress.
I don’t do cheat days as they would trigger migraines, so it’s just not worth it for me. I’m happy with the food I’m eating so I’m not missing anything. You need to find a way that works for you and if that means you want a cheat meal to keep you sticking with keto then that’s great!
HOW TO HANDLE SETBACKS
If you “ fell off the wagon” and didn’t stick with the keto diet for some time, then you might feel slightly awful due to carb bloat, water retention, and all the other side effects of sugar. Don’t beat yourself up! That will just make you feel worse! Remember you can always re-start. Just remember how good you felt when eating all the healthy keto foods and then just start again. No one is stopping you- but you. Maybe check out Instagram or Facebook for motivation. The keto community has grown a lot and helps to keep one accountable and motivated.