Even if you prefer a plant-based diet, you can still enjoy the benefits of a keto or paleo diet. As a lifelong vegetarian, I’ve learned how to stock my pantry so that I have plenty of healthy options on hand. Here’s what you’ll need to eat vegetarian AND keto!
Origins of the Plant-based Diet
When I first heard about the paleo diet, I glanced at the main components and shook my head. Beef. Chicken. Fish. No thanks. As a lifelong vegetarian, I can’t imagine biting into a dead animal. (Of course, many kids now days don’t realize that the packaged meat in the stores actually comes from animals. True story.)
I wrote it off as an impossible way for me to eat. According to Healthline.com, the paleo diet consists of all the foods that paleolithic man ate. As a Christian and a creationist, I look with skepticism on things ‘cavemen’ allegedly ate.
I’ve always followed the Maker’s Diet:
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.Genesis 1:29-30
God created all of us to eat vegetarian—including the lions and tigers. Think about it, all those animals won’t eat meat in Heaven. Once sin entered the world, our diet changed (Genesis 4:1-12). By the time of the flood, God gave Noah express permission to eat meat—with a caveat.
“Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.4 “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.”Genesis 9:3-4
This interesting paper talks more about biblical food restrictions.
What about A Medium-rare Steak?
As time progressed, diets continued to change and eventually God gave the Israelites rules for clean and unclean animals (Deuteronomy 14:1-21). He also reiterated the ban on eating the blood of animals (Leviticus 17:10-12)
Which brings me back around to plant-based diets, lacto-ovo vegetarianism, pescatarian, and veganism. The biblical account of what humans ate makes it clear that early man ate a plant-based diet—and survived without problems. Eventually, early man supplemented his diet with meat without the blood, and eventually narrowed the meat choices to certain clean animals.
God created us to live on a plant-based diet, but sin messed up his perfect system. After Adam ate the fruit, growing crops became more difficult. Thus, in order for large populations to survive, people had to start eating meat. But with the availability of plants in our modern world, we no longer have to hunt, kill, and eat animals to survive.
Even if your worldview includes cavemen, evidence suggests that a plant-based diet will benefit your health. Even reducing the amount of animal protein will help prolong your life.
oes this have to do with My Keto Diet?
Like the paleo diet, the low-carb and keto diets require increasing protein intake and cutting back on foods laden with carbohydrates. And in a meat-centered culture, this may seem impossible. Especially if you want to or need to eat out.
I may have snuck some tasty tofu into a fancy restaurant to eat with my salad. Sure, the restaurant served ‘grilled tofu.’ But I’d sampled it before and knew a meatatarian prepared it. It looked pale and gelatinous with a few black ‘grill marks’ crisscrossing its quivering mass. No thank you.
Fortunately, plants have a lot more healthy protein in them than most people think. This article from Medical News Today highlights 15 high-protein plant-based foods.
Plant-Based Protein Sources for Your Keto Pantry, Refrigerator, or Freezer
Low-carb Pantry Stars
Nuts. My breakfast most days consists of a half-cup of mixed nuts and an ounce of cheese. I eat between classes, so this combo works well. Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, pecans, and peanuts all have low net-carb counts. Walnuts do, too, but I can’t eat those. Nuts also contain large amounts of good fats.
Chia seeds. Chia seeds have healthy omega-3 fats in them, zero net carbs, lots of fiber, and you can eat them savory or sweet. I add them to TVP when I make vegeburgers or add coconut milk and cinnamon for a sweet dessert.
TVP—also known as texturized vegetable protein or soy curls. TVP comes in many shapes, sizes, and flavors. One of my favorites has a slightly spicy flavor and looks like dried up ground beef. Although Amazon sells TVP, I find it less expensive to buy it online from Andy’s Market or from Wal Mart where they sell Augason Farms products (you can also purchase these online). (Neither of these links is an affiliate link)
Canned coconut milk. You could purchase ready-to-drink coconut milk at the store (beware added sugars), or you can make your own. When I make my latte in the morning, I use 1/3 cup of coconut milk and 2/3 cup of water. You can also use it for creamer in your regular coffee. Coconut milk has high amounts of MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil, which helps support weight loss. You can read more about the benefits of MCT oils here.
Olives. Olives taste great as a snack with some cheese (or eaten one by one from your fingertips). They have a negligible amount of net carbs (<1 gram per serving). I sprinkle them on top of omelets or pizza. They pair well with spinach and feta cheese.
Vital Wheat Gluten. A ¼ cup serving packs 23 grams of protein and just 3 net carbs. The trick lies in learning to prepare it well. Vital wheat gluten forms the base for many of the ‘fake meats’ or faux meats sold by Worthington and Moringstart Farms.
Hemp hearts. Don’t worry, they won’t make you high. A
Psyllium husk flour. The husk of the psyllium seed has virtually no net carbs and lots of fiber. It can make keto breads light and airy, too.
Almond flour. While not actually a flour, per se, ground up almonds make a great replacement for wheat flours in some recipes. Almond flour has low net carbs and good fats.
Coconut flour. Coconut meat gets ground up to form a fine flour-like substance. It has more carbs than almond flour, though. When I’ve made baked goods using just coconut flour, I find the results disappointing and hard to swallow (literally—the coconut flour seems to suck all the moisture out of one’s mouth). Used along with another flour alternative, it works fine.Discover the essentials for eating a plant-based keto diet. #plantbased #vegetarian #vegan #selfcare Click To Tweet
Worthington/Loma Linda Products
Super-Links—like a hot dog, only plant-based. We serve these in our cafeteria and our meat-eating students love them. They have one net carb per hot dog with 7 grams of protein.
Choplets—taste like a pork chop (although I wouldn’t know). They have 18 grams of protein with two net carbs per serving. Sometimes, I use the same low-carb breading mix that I use when making Eggplant Parmesan when I prepare the Choplets and Skallops. I break an egg into a gallon-sized freezer bag, add a dash of salt, squish the egg to mix it, dump in a drained can of Choplets or Skallops, zip the top up and shake until the faux meat gets covered with egg. I place four of five Choplets at a time in the container with the breading mix and shake again before frying them with a small amount of oil.
Vege-Burger—it’s cheaper to purchase dry TVP, but the vege-burger tastes great and doesn’t require as much preparation. It has zero net carbs and 12 grams of protein per serving.
Skallops—use these when you crave seafood (I grew up not knowing that a substitute consisting of a live animal from the ocean existed). Seventeen grams of protein per serving with only one net carb.
Companion Worldwide also makes a variety of plant-based protein products. The net carb counts on their products seem slightly higher (by 3-5 carbs per serving) than the Loma Linda products.
You can purchase all of the above-mentioned Worthington/Loma Linda products from Amazon (unless you live in Alaska). Andy’s Market and other specialty food stores also sell them. Occasionally you’ll also find them in Wal Mart or other large grocery chains.
Low-Carb Freezer Options
Morningstar Farms has a variety of low-carb plant-based options in the freezer section (usually the ‘Breakfast’ section in the freezer aisle at the grocery store). These include breakfast links, Stripples (like bacon), and burgers. Check the labels, because not all of them have low carb counts.
Worthington also sells frozen ‘fake meats’ (we lovingly call them phony-baloney) that you can purchase pre-sliced in a box or frozen in a giant roll. I love the smoked ‘turkey’ and the ‘Prosage.’ They also have Wham (fake Spam), corned beef, and chicken.
Our local grocery store sells Tofurkey (not as tasty as the Worthington smoked turkey) and other sliced, plant-based sandwhich meats.
Fill Your Refrigerator with these Plant-based Options
Eggs. I read somewhere that a person can (and did) eat 25 eggs a day with no change in his cholesterol. Just ick. But eggs provide the quickest, most readily available protein source if you want something hot in a hurry.
Fairlife Milk. With 6 net carbs per serving, Fairlife milk has almost twice as much protein as regular milk.
Cheese. Cheese makes the world go-round. Try parmesan tortillas (one net carb) with taco filling made from TVP—delicious!
Tofu. You can read about the three different kinds of tofu here. I prefer the extra-firm tofu that doesn’t come in a little tub. You don’t have to squeeze and press it to make it taste good.
Vegetables—but not just any vegetables. Stick to crunchy vegetables such as cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, spinach, kale, green beans, cauliflower, and broccoli rabe. Check out this chart (I snapped a photo of it with my phone and use it when shopping). Onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms also fit well into a ketogenic diet.
Fruits. Eaten sparingly, fruits can fit into a keto diet. Watermelon, strawberries, and raspberries have some of the lowest net carb counts. You can find a complete list here.
I don’t presume to offer a complete list of everything you need in your cupboards to follow a keto diet. But hopefully, you’ll find that my list helps you add variety to your keto (or paleo) diet.
What have you discovered as a great source of plant-based protein or essential to your keto cupboard?