Ketotarian Diet Guide: Dissecting the Hybrid Diet Approach

Our nutrition coach delves into this seemingly impossible Keto-Vegetarian mix.

For some people, a hybrid of two popular diets may seem to be the most appealing option when trying to pick the best diet plan, which is exactly what the ketotarian diet aims to do.

The ketotarian diet is a version of the keto diet that blends with a vegetarian or plant-based diet.

But, how can you combine two diets that seem so glaringly different from one another?

In this diet guide, we will discuss what the ketotarian diet involves, what you can and cannot eat, and the benefits of the ketotarian diet plan.

Let’s jump in!

A variety of food on a vegetarian diet.

What Is the Ketotarian Diet?

A ketotarian diet is a “vegetarian keto diet” or “plant-based keto diet.”

Therefore, the ketotarian diet combines the keto and vegetarian diets into one, meaning that you follow a plant-based diet (no meat) that is high in fat, relatively high in protein, and extremely low in carbohydrates (keto).

A ketotarian may seem impossible because the typical keto diet and vegetarian meal plans have fairly little overlap.

The keto diet involves eating a high-fat, relatively high-protein diet while significantly reducing carbohydrates.

Although there is some variability in the specific macronutrient ratios used on the keto diet, experts suggest that most ketogenic diets involve consuming 70–75% of your calories from fat, 20-25% of your calories from protein, and 5% of your calories from carbohydrates. 

On the other hand, the vegetarian diet, due to its reliance on plant-based foods rather than animal-based foods, by default, tends to be high in complex carbohydrates and relatively low in fat and protein.

The keto macro percentages on a cutting board.

The term “vegetarian diet“ is rather loose but generally refers to a style of eating that includes no animal flesh.

Therefore, vegetarians can consume eggs and dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, and ice cream, but they do not eat animal flesh of any kind, including red meat, pork, poultry such as chicken and turkey, fish, or seafood.

A vegetarian diet is usually distinguished from a stricter vegan diet by the inclusion of eggs and dairy products, which is why the vegetarian diet is often called an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet.

Many plant-based protein sources, such as legumes, whole grains, soy, and even some dairy products like Greek yogurt, as well as other foods central in a vegetarian diet plan, such as starchy vegetables and fruits, are quite high in carbohydrates.

Most keto meals are typically built around meat and fatty fish, but it is possible to follow a ketotarian diet—following keto as a vegetarian—by focusing on using healthy fats.

Coconut oil, avocado oil, and olive oil can be used to cook plant-based proteins such as tofu, tempeh, and spirulina, and you can eat lots of eggs, nuts, seeds, hemp seeds, avocado, coconut, cheese, and other full-fat dairy products.

Green vegetables.

What Can You Eat On a Ketotarian Eating Plan?

A healthy ketotarian diet should focus on getting nutritious fats, plant-based protein sources, and non-starchy vegetables while avoiding animal flesh and aiming for 70-75% of calories from fat and no more than about 5% of your daily calories from carbs.

Here are some of the best foods to eat on a ketotarian meal plan:

  • Non-starchy Vegetables: Spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, bok choy, watercress, broccoli, mushrooms, kale, radishes, cauliflower, zucchini, asparagus, celery, artichokes, onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers.
  • Fatty Fruits: Avocados, olives, and coconut.
  • Healthy fats: Olive oil, coconut oil, walnut oil, flaxseed oil, avocados, MCT oil, hemp seed oil, avocado oil, etc.
  • Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, filberts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, and Brazil nuts.
  • Seeds: Squash seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds
  • Nut Butter and Seed Butter: Almond butter, peanut butter, other nut butters, sunflower seed butter, tahini, soy nut butter
  • Full-fat dairy products: Milk, yogurt, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, cheddar, Parmesan cheese, and other cheeses
  • Protein: Eggs, tofu, tempeh, seitan, spirulina, and nutritional yeast
  • Herbs and seasonings: Cinnamon, red pepper flakes, garlic, basil, paprika, pepper, turmeric, salt, oregano, rosemary, and thyme
  • Butter
A plate of avocados.

Foods to Avoid On the Ketotarian Diet 

The ketotarian diet eliminates all foods incompatible with a vegetarian diet, or that contain too many carbs to stay within the limited carbohydrate intake on the keto diet.

Therefore, there are quite a few foods that you need to omit or limit on the ketotarian diet. 

The foods to completely avoid on the vegetarian keto diet include all meat, poultry, fish, and seafood, or foods that contain any of these foods (such as chicken noodle soup or bolognese sauce), as these foods are not vegetarian.

You will also need to limit or avoid the following due to the carbohydrates: 

  • Starchy vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, carrots, winter squash, beets, etc.
  • Whole grains or grains of any type: Bread, pasta, rice, granola bars, pancakes, English muffins, quinoa, tortillas, muffins, bagels, waffles, pizza dough, etc.
  • Legumes: Beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, hummus, etc. 
  • Most fruits: Sugary fruits like bananas, papaya, pineapple, mangos, cherries, dates, grapes, etc.
  • Sweets: Cookies, candy, pudding, ice cream, 
  • Processed foods: Pretzels, chips, granola bars, 
  • Sweetened yogurt, fruit on the bottom yogurt
  • Sweetened beverages: Soda, juice, 
  • Cereal, oatmeal, granola, etc.
  • Condiments and sauces like barbeque sauce and jelly
  • All sweeteners: Sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc.
  • Alcoholic beverages like beer, sugary cocktails, sangria, etc.

Note that you can eat some low-sugar fruits, veggies, and legumes in moderation.

However, because the carbohydrate content of these foods is rather high, you have to be mindful of your portions, how frequently you are eating these foods, and the overall carbohydrate content of your diet.

A variety of nuts.

Health Benefits of the Ketotarian Diet 

There haven’t been any research studies investigating the health benefits of the ketotarian diet specifically, but there are many studies demonstrating the benefits of the keto diet1Masood, W., Uppaluri, K. R., & Annamaraju, P. (2019, March 21). Ketogenic diet. National Library of Medicine; StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/ and vegetarian diet independently.2Key, T. J., Appleby, P. N., & Rosell, M. S. (2006). Health effects of vegetarian and vegan diets. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society65(01), 35–41. https://doi.org/10.1079/pns2005481

‌Therefore, it seems reasonable that a ketotarian diet plan may provide a blend of the benefits from its two constituent meal plans.

As such, here are some of the potential ketotarian diet benefits for your health: 

#1: Decreasing the Risk of Certain Chronic Diseases

Studies have found that plant-based diets can improve numerous risk factors for heart disease, such as reducing LDL cholesterol, BMI, and blood pressure, and the vegetarian diet may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.3Kahleova, H., Levin, S., & Barnard, N. D. (2018). Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and Cardiovascular Disease. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases61(1), 54–61. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pcad.2018.05.002

Moreover, long-term studies have found that following the keto diet can indeed result in significant decreases in body weight, triglycerides, total cholesterol, as well as LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and blood sugar.4Dashti, H. M., Al-Zaid, N. S., Mathew, T. C., Al-Mousawi, M., Talib, H., Asfar, S. K., & Behbahani, A. I. (2006). Long Term Effects of Ketogenic Diet in Obese Subjects with High Cholesterol Level. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry286(1-2), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11010-005-9001-x

Peanut butter.

#2: Managing Blood Sugar Levels

A ketotarian diet may help regulate blood sugar levels, type 2 diabetes, and insulin resistance.

The low-carb nature of the keto diet can make it particularly beneficial for improving insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control, with evidence suggesting the keto diet can reduce HbA1c levels by 16% and the reliance on diabetes medications to manage blood sugar levels.5Yancy, W. S., Foy, M., Chalecki, A. M., Vernon, M. C., & Westman, E. C. (2005). A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet to treat type 2 diabetes. Nutrition & Metabolism2(1), 34. https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-2-34

Plus, one long-term study of nearly 3,000 adults found that adopting a vegetarian diet decreased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 53%,6Chiu, T. H. T., Pan, W.-H., Lin, M.-N., & Lin, C.-L. (2018). Vegetarian diet, change in dietary patterns, and diabetes risk: a prospective study. Nutrition & Diabetes8(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41387-018-0022-4 while a review found that following a vegetarian diet can lead to significant improvements in HbA1c levels, which is a marker of long-term blood sugar control.7Yokoyama, Y., Barnard, N. D., Levin, S. M., & Watanabe, M. (2014). Vegetarian diets and glycemic control in diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Cardiovascular Diagnosis and Therapy4(5), 373–382. https://doi.org/10.3978/j.issn.2223-3652.2014.10.04

A carton of eggs.

#3: Supporting Weight Loss

The keto and vegetarian diets have both been shown to help support weight loss, so it’s likely that ketotarian diet weight loss is also possible.

One large review of 12 studies investigating the potential weight loss effects of following a vegetarian diet found that vegetarians lost an average of 4.5 pounds (2 kg) more than omnivores over 18 weeks.8Huang, R.-Y., Huang, C.-C., Hu, F. B., & Chavarro, J. E. (2016). Vegetarian Diets and Weight Reduction: a Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of General Internal Medicine31(1), 109–116. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-015-3390-7

‌Furthermore, another study found that following a vegetarian diet resulted in significantly more fat loss and total weight loss compared with a traditional low-calorie diet for individuals with type 2 diabetes over a period of 6 months.9Kahleova, H., Klementova, M., Herynek, V., Skoch, A., Herynek, S., Hill, M., Mari, A., & Pelikanova, T. (2017). The Effect of a Vegetarian vs Conventional Hypocaloric Diabetic Diet on Thigh Adipose Tissue Distribution in Subjects with Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Study. Journal of the American College of Nutrition36(5), 364–369. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2017.1302367

‌Similarly, one study found that a keto diet resulted in significant reductions in body weight and body mass index (BMI) in adults with obesity. Participants lost an average of 31 pounds (14 kg) over six months.10Dashti, H. M., Mathew, T. C., Hussein, T., Asfar, S. K., Behbahani, A., Khoursheed, M. A., Al-Sayer, H. M., Bo-Abbas, Y. Y., & Al-Zaid, N. S. (2004). Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients. Experimental and Clinical Cardiology9(3), 200–205. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/

‌The high intake of healthy fats in the ketotarian recipes and meals can help promote satiety, and may help you stay fuller for longer.11Johnstone, A. M., Horgan, G. W., Murison, S. D., Bremner, D. M., & Lobley, G. E. (2008). Effects of a high-protein ketogenic diet on hunger, appetite, and weight loss in obese men feeding ad libitum. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition87(1), 44–55. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/87.1.44

Note that to lose weight on the ketotarian diet (or any diet), you need to be in a caloric deficit.

Overall, the ketotarian diet may be a healthy diet if you choose nutritious foods, but consider working with a registered dietitian or nutritionist to find the best diet for your personal needs.

A nutritionist and a patient.

References

  • 1
    Masood, W., Uppaluri, K. R., & Annamaraju, P. (2019, March 21). Ketogenic diet. National Library of Medicine; StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/
  • 2
    Key, T. J., Appleby, P. N., & Rosell, M. S. (2006). Health effects of vegetarian and vegan diets. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society65(01), 35–41. https://doi.org/10.1079/pns2005481
  • 3
    Kahleova, H., Levin, S., & Barnard, N. D. (2018). Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and Cardiovascular Disease. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases61(1), 54–61. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pcad.2018.05.002
  • 4
    Dashti, H. M., Al-Zaid, N. S., Mathew, T. C., Al-Mousawi, M., Talib, H., Asfar, S. K., & Behbahani, A. I. (2006). Long Term Effects of Ketogenic Diet in Obese Subjects with High Cholesterol Level. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry286(1-2), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11010-005-9001-x
  • 5
    Yancy, W. S., Foy, M., Chalecki, A. M., Vernon, M. C., & Westman, E. C. (2005). A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet to treat type 2 diabetes. Nutrition & Metabolism2(1), 34. https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-2-34
  • 6
    Chiu, T. H. T., Pan, W.-H., Lin, M.-N., & Lin, C.-L. (2018). Vegetarian diet, change in dietary patterns, and diabetes risk: a prospective study. Nutrition & Diabetes8(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41387-018-0022-4
  • 7
    Yokoyama, Y., Barnard, N. D., Levin, S. M., & Watanabe, M. (2014). Vegetarian diets and glycemic control in diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Cardiovascular Diagnosis and Therapy4(5), 373–382. https://doi.org/10.3978/j.issn.2223-3652.2014.10.04
  • 8
    Huang, R.-Y., Huang, C.-C., Hu, F. B., & Chavarro, J. E. (2016). Vegetarian Diets and Weight Reduction: a Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of General Internal Medicine31(1), 109–116. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-015-3390-7
  • 9
    Kahleova, H., Klementova, M., Herynek, V., Skoch, A., Herynek, S., Hill, M., Mari, A., & Pelikanova, T. (2017). The Effect of a Vegetarian vs Conventional Hypocaloric Diabetic Diet on Thigh Adipose Tissue Distribution in Subjects with Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Study. Journal of the American College of Nutrition36(5), 364–369. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2017.1302367
  • 10
    Dashti, H. M., Mathew, T. C., Hussein, T., Asfar, S. K., Behbahani, A., Khoursheed, M. A., Al-Sayer, H. M., Bo-Abbas, Y. Y., & Al-Zaid, N. S. (2004). Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients. Experimental and Clinical Cardiology9(3), 200–205. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/
  • 11
    Johnstone, A. M., Horgan, G. W., Murison, S. D., Bremner, D. M., & Lobley, G. E. (2008). Effects of a high-protein ketogenic diet on hunger, appetite, and weight loss in obese men feeding ad libitum. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition87(1), 44–55. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/87.1.44
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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