Just as there will always be customers for multi-level marketing schemes, there’s always a sucker for the latest fad diet.
We all have that one co-worker whose lunch in April is some weird chartreuse-colored mail-order shake, but by May will be eating nothing but bok choy and radishes.
They do tend to look miserable all year-round, however.
Those faddish diets never last very long though – not in the news nor in the office break room. The worst-kept secret in the world of weight loss is that 90 percent of diets don’t last more than a month.
Here comes the keto kraze
However, there is one diet plan that has shown some solid staying power: the keto diet.
The moderately protein-heavy, high-fat, ultra-low carb eating plan is a hit across the spectrum – and importantly, over the long-term.
Keto boasts adherents from the typical Hollywood woo-woo types and well-to-do suburban soccer moms all the way to hardcore bodybuilders and even regular schlubs who rarely hit the gym.
But what about people who don’t eat meat?
Is it even possible to translate a diet that cuts out carbs almost entirely and relies on meat, poultry and fish to deliver high-fat, moderate-protein and low-carb nutrition and change it into a vegetarian or vegan option?
We’ll take a closer look at how a plant based keto diet or even a vegan keto diet might be possible, and even show you a recipe for an awesome keto fresh basil and bell pepper pizza!
But first let’s review what exactly is meant by a keto diet and how it works.
What is a keto diet?
Keto is short for ‘ketosis.’ And a keto diet adopts a strategy of shifting your body into the state known as ketosis, which forces you to rely on burning fat instead of sugar for energy.
Here’s the science:
Your body is built to convert carbohydrates into sugar (aka glucose) and burn it to meet your body’s energy demands.
However, when you severely cut carbs for some time, your stores of glucose run low. When that happens, your body will shift to burning what are called ‘ketones’ which are made not from sugar but from fat stored in your body, along with other fat that you ingest.
The benefits of the keto diet – and as we’ll soon see, the benefits of the less common plant-based keto diet – are pretty impressive.
From regular keto to a plant based keto diet
First of all, unlike on a typical diet where you restrict your calorie intake or rely on carb-laden foods, you won’t experience the typical severe hunger pangs on a keto diet.
On a typical diet, you suffer this way because sugar comes and goes. You starve yourself for x number of hours, then eat whatever meager meal you’re allowed, enjoy an hour or two of satiation, then await the onset of ‘hangry’ misery once more.
However, once you’re in ketosis, your body produces ketones at a steady pace, sparing you the dreaded sugar crash and subsequent hunger.
Another point that’s important to remember is that, whether it’s a plant-based keto diet or standard keto diet, they work fast. With the reduction in glucose production, your body also cuts how much insulin it produces, and turns to consuming fat.
But how can we achieve this laudable goal while not eating meat or fish? Or for vegans, without even cheese or eggs?
Well, the target calorie distribution for a keto diet is around 70-75 percent of your calories from healthy fat and 20-25 percent from protein, while reducing your carb intake to less than 5 percent of the total, or about 25 grams of carbs.
The good news is that not only do you get used to the changes quickly, your body starts shedding pounds right away as well. While it’s true that animal-based food sources make this food distribution ratio much easier to reach, it can absolutely be done without meat and animal-based foods.
Enter the plant based keto diet handbook: ketotarianism
You can’t look far in a search for a plant-based keto diet without running across author Will Cole.
His book Ketotarian: The (mostly) Plant-Based Plan To Burn Fat, Boost Your Energy, Crush Your Cravings And Calm Inflammation has almost as many people touting its benefits as it has words in the title.
Cole promotes a plant-based or vegan keto diet that follows largely along the lines of standard keto, with the typical ratio of 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein, and 5 percent carbs.
But he adds a few important caveats, like emphasizing sticking to real, whole foods, making sure you balance fats and non-starchy veggies in real time, (i.e. if you eat a non-starchy veggie, add some healthy fats, and vice versa) and not being afraid to eat until you’re satiated.
Perhaps most importantly, Cole emphasizes that you not only can, but you should eat when you are hungry.
The word “diet” conjures such odious memories of deprivation and misery for so many of us, that this last bit is likely to come as a surprise. But that’s why Cole calls his plan not only a “ketotarian diet,” but even simply “ketotarianism.”
Remember that statistic about 90 percent of diets failing in the first month? According to Cole’s book, it’s absolutely possible to adopt this vegetarian or plant-based keto diet of his and stick with it long-term.
Advantages of a plant based keto diet versus standard keto
Among the criticisms of a standard keto diet are the effects of relying so heavily on meat and dairy and cutting out most veggies messes with your gut biome.
That can be a huge problem for people who are simply eating regular foods, but it can be badly exacerbated by meat-based keto dieting.
Our ancestors – from whom we’ve inherited a gut biome resulting from eons of evolution – likely ate much like modern chimps: mostly plants and fruits, some tubers and nuts, some grubs, some ants and other insects, and the occasional bit of meat.
So when you take a gut biome designed to process this kind of diet and suddenly shift to 75 percent meat heavily laden with saturated fat, problems can and do come up over the long term.
With ketotarianism, Cole promotes a lifestyle in which you can shift into and out of ketosis periodically without causing your body and especially your gut too much stress.
Try the plant based keto diet – you might like it!
Ready to give plant based keto a try? Below you’ll find an awesome sample recipe for a vegetarian and plant based keto diet-friendly Fresh Bell Pepper And Basil Pizza. (Yes, Dorothy, there is pizza in keto-land!)
But first here’s a basic breakdown of what Cole recommends for ketotarianism’s main food sources:
Non-starchy veggies: Artichokes, asparagus and salad greens.
Plant based healthy fats: Nuts, seeds, coconuts, olives, vegetable-based oils and avocados.
Low-fructose fruits: Berries, lemons and limes.
Optional: For those who are not strictly vegetarian, or who are simply looking to reduce their intake of animal-based foods, consider organic eggs, ghee, and wild-caught fish.
This article contains general nutritional tips and advice. However, no diet or exercise program should be started without consulting your physician or other industry professional first. For more information read our full disclaimer here.