So last night I watched "The Magic Pill" on Netflix. It was a documentary about eating keto and it was VERY interesting.
While I'm always slightly skeptical about the biased nature of documentaries, I think it raised some really interesting points. Personally, I've found eating low carb has been extremely effective for weight loss and my general health. My moods are better, my bloodwork is always solid, and my hormones are balanced. I don't have weird sugar or food cravings and I'm not hungry all the time (as I used to be when I ate a high-carb diet).
Eating Meat on a Keto Diet
While I see the benefits of eating keto/low carb, I'm concerned about the emphasis of eating lots of animal products. Never before in history have we consumed as much meat as we do now. And while Paleo-followers will argue that it's the food of our ancestors, I don't believe they ate all that much meat.
Think about it - before we had the industrialized meat industry or even hunting rifles, humans had to chase animals down and kill them with a bow and arrow or rocks! In case you're wondering - our paleo ancestors ate plants more than anything else.
Looking toward the future, the reality is that our planet can't sustain a predominantly meat-eating human race. We simply can't feed 8 billion people beef, chicken, pork, and lamb. Grains, although not terribly healthy, are at least cheap and way more sustainable to produce.
So what to do?
I think the right answer is somewhere in the middle. Eat your healthy fats (avocados, coconut oils, olive oils, and nuts and seeds), but curb the obsession for bacon cheeseburgers without the bun. We don't need to eat meat at every single meal.
Is it possible to eat a plant-based low carb diet?
Sure, but it takes some effort and planning, especially if you eat out a lot. I'm also not suggesting that the entire human race should go vegan (although the planet would be better off if we did). A little animal meat is fine, but if we're all going to get healthy by eating a keto or low carb, we have to consider the impact this dietary choice will have on the planet.
There’s also a few other reasons to reduce your meat intake….
Vegan Keto is Arguably Better for Weight Loss
I hear from many of my readers that they do great on a keto diet for a while, but then the plateau or start gaining again. Here's the thing - keto is great for reducing inflammation and healing a leaky gut. With both of those things provide some pretty immediate benefits including reduced puffiness, water-retention and of course, some fat loss. But you still need to keep your calories in a deficit if you want to continue losing weight.
Now, that can be easier done on a low carb diet because you have more appetite control. However, keto foods tend to be very calorically dense, so if you're not minding your serving sizes, you can and will either plateau on your weight loss, or gain weight.
Plant-based keto foods such as high-fiber, low carb veggies are very low in calories, so it's hard to overeat them. Conversely, cheese, cream, bacon, and sausages are very high in calories, so guess what - you can't eat all you want of them and expect to lose weight. Even keto has its limits!
Keto is not a high-protein diet
If you want to stay in a state of ketosis, eating a ton of meat is counterproductive.. If you eat too much meat (aka protein), your body will only metabolize what it needs. What happens to the rest of those protein calories?
It doesn’t get pooped out, my friend.
Nope, your body turns unused protein into sugar through a process called gluconeogenesis. So when you eat a ton of meat, you're actually converting some of that food to sugar and that in turn can be stored as fat.
Bottom line, while I'm not trying to convert anyone to a particular style of eating, I do see a strong argument for eating fewer meat calories and adding more high fat, low carb plant-based foods. The trick is to find a good balance of plants that aren’t high in carbs. That actually limits your choices a little, but you’ve still got some great options.
Green leafy veggies are mostly water with some fiber and dense nutrients, so you can’t go wrong with the following:
- Kale (all kinds)
- Lettuce (all kinds)
- Brussel Sprouts
- Green beans
- Spaghetti squash (yes, this isn't as high in carbs as the other squashes and it's super good!)
Vegetables to avoid on a keto diet
- Potatoes & tubers (all kinds)
Sadly, some of my favorite veggies are the ones I have to avoid, but fortunately, cauliflower is replacing everything, so you can feel free to load up on that!
5 Keto Vegan Recipes You'll Want to Try
With all that said, if you're interested in exploring the world of keto-vegan or ketotarian eating, I have really great news for you - it's actually really simple because it's basically just veggies cooked in fat. Sounds great, right? Here are five vegan or vegetarian keto dishes that are not only simple to make, but they're also super damn delicious to eat.
Let's dig in!
Keto Eggplant & tomato stew - this stuff will blow your mind and it's SO satisfying!
Roasted Broccoli in Olive Oil - So crunchy and delicious!
Cauliflower & Artichoke Soup - if you want to bump up the fat content in this soup, add half a cup of full-fat coconut milk. So good!
Bonus option - Want a great Keto-Vegan snack or dessert? Go ahead and eat this superfood almond cashew nut butter with a spoon. It's crazy good.
So what do you think? Do you feel confined to eating a lot of meat on your low carb journey?
Caren is a certified yoga teacher, fitness instructor and author of The Fit Habit. Here she shares simple, low carb recipes, quick home workout ideas and practical ways to foster mind + body wellness.