Is a Vegetarian or Keto Diet the Answer to Your Nutritional Woes?

On a weekly basis there is a new diet solution, new fat loss secret, or new research study that unlocks your body’s ability to lose weight. With this onslaught of this new information and discoveries you are bound to second guess your current nutrition approach and think that you are not taking advantage of new science that will make you healthier and get you to your goals faster. Much of this noise centers on versions of a vegetarian (or vegan) diet or a ketogenic (or just low carb) diet.

Don’t worry - you are not missing out and the same foundational principles of nutrition that have worked for years still work. Let’s look how you can reap the benefits of each diet without needing to overly restrict your food choices.

Vegetarian Diet

Ovo-lacto vegetarian is the most common form of vegetarian diet. This means that you eat eggs and milk but abstain from all other animal products. Vegetarian diets have long been touted as superior to traditional omnivore eating plans. This isn’t necessarily the case. Vegetarian diets, when eaten correctly, are high in fiber, lower in calories (if your diet is based in fruits and vegetables it is hard to eat a lot of calories), low in saturated fats, and high in many vitamins and minerals. These are all great things for your body. However, you can achieve all these nutritional benefits by eating lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet (aim to fill 1/2-3/4 of your plate with them anyway!) while still using to one’s advantage the calorically efficient protein that generally only come from animal sources.  

What can you do?

Make vegetables and fruits a priority in your diet. Make sure that at least ½ your plate is made up of fruits and vegetables. Eating more minimally processed fruits and vegetables displaces higher calorie, lower nutrient foods from your plate. This gives you the double benefit of eating more nutritious fruits and vegetables while automatically eating less foods that don’t promote optimal health.

Low Carb/Ketogenic Diet

Over the last several years ketogenic diets have burst on the scene as the nutritional solution for optimal performance, fat loss, and health. Ketogenic and low carb diets are nothing new. Ketogenic diets have been used medically to help control seizures for over a century.

The current promise of low carb and ketogenic diets is that they control hormones associated with appetite and fat storage allowing you to eat all that you want while still losing weight and having unlimited energy.

Low Carb and ketogenic diets cut out most if not all carbohydrates from your diet. Ketogenic diets allow for <50g of carbs per day (sometimes <20g). For context, 1 banana contains around 27g of carbohydrates. This means that you need to rely heavy on vegetables as your carbohydrate source so that you can get a regular amount of food. This leaves zero room in your diet for refined carb, sugars, sweets, cookies, crackers, cakes, or pizza. Removing or greatly minimizing these kinds of foods in your diet is a good move (ketogenic or not). Low carb and ketogenic diets also focus on protein. Regularly consuming protein throughout the day plays an important role in controlling appetite and helping maintain (and build) muscle mass.

What can you do?

Just as with a vegetarian diet, make vegetables and fruits a priority. Pay extra attention to overly processed foods that contain refined carbohydrates and added sugars just as you would if you were following a low carb diet but don’t shy away from minimally processed wholesome carbohydrates like high fiber whole wheat breads, yams, potatoes, brown rice, etc. Anchor your plate with protein, which means start your meal with protein in mind and then build around that with vegetables, fruits, and high fiber grains.

You don’t need to adopt a specific rigid dietary approach to get the results your way. Use the tips covered in this article to harness the best parts of both of these popular eating patterns and you will be well on your way to reaching your goals.

Michael Roussell, PHD

Michael Roussell, PHD

Author, Speaker, and Nutritional Consultant - https://mikeroussell.com/

Dr. Mike Roussell is known for transforming complex nutritional concepts into practical nutritional habits that his clients can use to ensure permanent weight loss and long-lasting health. Mike holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Hobart College and a doctorate in nutrition from Pennsylvania State University. He now serves on the Advisory Board for Men’s Health Magazine. In addition, having published over 500 articles on health and nutrition and appearing in over 150 TV segments as a nutrition expert, he has authored and/or served as the consulting nutritionist for 10 books.