How to Be Vegetarian on a Paleo, Keto, Whole30 or Gluten-Free Diet

Man Holding Paleo Vegetarian Lunch Bowl

Often, vegetarians will find that they need to watch what they eat more closely than they did in the past. After all, meat becomes off-limits, and in some types of vegetarianism, so do dairy, eggs, or other animal products.

But what if a vegetarian were to also take on a Paleo diet? Or a keto, Whole30, or gluten-free diet? What happens then? This can become a challenge for members of the vegetarian community. The following guide will discuss the challenges of being a vegetarian while on a second intersectional diet, and suggest a few solutions.

Paleo + Vegetarian Diet

First, what is the Paleo diet? The Paleo diet, short for Paleolithic, is a diet composed of foods that were eaten by humans during the Paleolithic era. To put things more simply, you “eat as cavemen did.” This includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, meat, fish, seeds, nuts, eggs, and healthy oils. This does not include refined vegetable oils, cereal grains, beans, dairy, potatoes, refined sugar, and processed foods.

Man Holding Paleo Vegetarian Lunch Bowl

What makes this diet difficult for some vegetarians is that going Paleo cuts out many vegetarian sources of protein. Thankfully, there are ways to get around this nutritional obstacle if you are willing to make a few changes to the Paleo diet.

Paleo Modification 1: Eat Beans

Beans are not considered to be part of the Paleo diet. The reasoning includes the fact that beans contain phytates, lectins, and protease inhibitors. Phytates prevent minerals in a food from being absorbed, whereas lectins and protease inhibitors can irritate your gut. However, you can counteract two out of three of these reasons. Soaking and sprouting the beans reduces the phytic acid content and cooking the beans well will break down the majority of the lectins. Pressure cooking can remove them completely.

Paleo Modification 2:  Eat Dairy in Moderation

While dairy is also on the “no-no list” for Paleo dieters, it may be beneficial to consume some in moderation. While dairy may not react well with everyone – for example, if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), lactose intolerance, or casein sensitivities – it contains protein, healthy fats, and vitamin B12, which is often lacking in vegetarian diets.

Paleo Tip 3: Focus on Healthy Fats

Healthy fat sources like olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, macadamia oil, and nuts are both vegetarian and Paleo-friendly. A light amount of olive oil goes a long way in making cooked or raw vegetables more flavorful and satisfying.

Vegetarian Keto Diet

Keto is short for “ketogenic,” and this diet has been trending rapidly upward. The keto diet is intended to be low-carb and high-fat. The keto diet puts the body in a state of ketosis where fat instead of carbohydrates is released from cells and turned into ketones.

However, like with the Paleo diet, a problem that vegetarians may face while on the keto diet is insufficient protein. Therefore, vegetarians who eat eggs and dairy should keep these forms of protein handy.

Healthy Fats in Ketogenic Pescatarian Diet

  • Having hard-boiled eggs handy in the refrigerator could go a long way in boosting protein intake.
  • Very low-carb diets can be lacking in magnesium, so taking a supplement or vitamin with magnesium could be beneficial. (Always discuss dietary supplements with your doctor or nutritionist.)
  • If this diet plan does not feel suitable for you, listen to your body and adjust or revert.

Vegetarian + Whole30 Diet

The Whole30 is a 30-day meal plan intended to cut out foods that could negatively impact your health and instead emphasizes whole foods and clean eating. Participants in the Whole30 diet eliminate grains, legumes, sugar, alcohol, dairy, and soy from their diets for the entirety of the 30-day period.

Vegetarian Whole30 Plant-Based Dinner

It is encouraged to eat meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, and healthy fats. However, for someone who doesn’t eat meat or fish already and gets their protein largely from legumes, soy, and/or dairy this can be  challenging.

Many vegetarians are doing slightly modified versions of the Whole30 so that they can still participate, while making sure that they obtain sufficient nutrients. Some people are calling it the “Veg Whole30.” This variation of the diet includes organic yogurt and kefir, tempeh, tofu, edamame, pea protein powder, lentils, beans, hemp, and natto.

While this might not be quite the same as the traditional Whole30, it takes into account the nutritional needs of the vegetarian. For example, lunch on the Veg Whole30 might have tofu as a source of protein, squash, and asparagus. Then, later, a snack might be full-fat yogurt with macadamia nuts.

Gluten-Free + Vegetarian Diet

A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes gluten, which is a mixture of the proteins found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. There are multiple reasons why a person may decide to go gluten-free. Some people discover that they have a gluten sensitivity or are outright allergic to gluten, which is called celiac disease. Other people choose a gluten-free diet for nutritional, inflammation or other health reasons.

Healthy Gluten-Free Yogurt, Berry & Granola Breakfast

Combining the vegetarian and gluten-free diets may seem especially challenging because so many foods are off-limits. However, it is quite possible to be successful with the intersection of these two diets. Here are some tips:

  • Most of what you eat should be in the produce area of wherever you do your grocery shopping. Fruits and vegetables are a solid source of nutrients.
  • While seitan is not gluten-free, there are many other vegetarian, gluten-free sources of protein that are available. These sources include beans, nuts, seeds, soy, quinoa, amaranth, some meat substitutes (although these need to be investigated for gluten beforehand), and some vegetables.
  • Processed and pre-packaged foods can be tricky, so it is important to carefully read the ingredients to make sure that they do not include meat or sources of gluten.

Diet intersectionality: challenging, but not impossible.

While incorporating a second diet into your meal plan can seem daunting, it is certainly not impossible for many dietary needs. However, it is important to listen to your body and prioritize your nutritional needs, even if that means customizing your diet. Always consult with your physician or nutritionist to ensure you are getting critical vitamins and nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.

Are you a vegetarian with a second dietary restriction?

Do you have tips for people who are vegetarian while also eating a Paleo, Keto or Whole30 diet? Any favorite recipes you recommend? Share in the comments below!

Managing Diabetes Through a Vegetarian Diet

Woman with Diabetes Measuring Blood Sugar & Eating Fresh Vegetables

While there is no cure for diabetes, whether Type I or Type II, it can be controlled and managed through several treatment methods.

Diet can play a large part in managing diabetes, to the point where some patients may even experience a remission of diabetic symptoms and can decrease their insulin use.

However, according to the Joslin Diabetes Center, that does not mean the disease has been cured, as by the time Type I has been diagnosed about 90 percent of insulin-producing cells in the body have already been destroyed.

The same mechanism can still be active, even though weight loss and blood sugar management through dietary means could potentially reduce the need for insulin. It can also significantly reduce the complications from the diabetes disease later on. One of potentially beneficial diets to help manage blood sugar levels and begin a weight loss program is the vegetarian diet.

Woman with Diabetes Measuring Blood Sugar & Eating Fresh Vegetables

Different Types of Vegetarian Diets and Their Impact on Mortality

Strictly speaking, vegans do not eat any form of dairy or eggs, as well as no red meat, poultry, or seafood. However, that change can be too drastic for some people to start right away, and isn’t critical if you are just trying to get health benefits from reducing red meat consumption in your diet.

However, vegans experience a 15 percent drop in mortality rates compared to non-vegetarians, according to a study done by the Seventh Day Adventists on a sample of over 73,000 individuals surveyed between 2002 and 2007.

Friends Enjoying Healthy, Vegetarian Meal Together

But most vegetarian diets show a drop in mortality rates even if they’re not strictly vegan. For instance, here are a few possible diets that can help with diabetes that aren’t strictly vegan:

Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet

In this diet, people are allowed to eat eggs and dairy as well as a plant-based diet. No meat is allowed. This group experienced a nine percent drop in mortality rates for the same study.

Semi-Vegetarian Diet

This diet includes poultry and fish, but very sparingly. It avoids red meat completely. The bulk of the diet is plant-based. However, semi-vegetarians in the study experienced an eight percent drop in mortality rates compared to non-vegetarians.

Pesco-Vegetarian Diet

This diet includes fish as a meat substitute in the diet with some surprising results. The drop in mortality rate was even higher than for vegans. The drop in mortality rates was 19 percent higher than non-vegetarians, and 15 percent higher than strict vegans.

How a Vegetarian Diet Helps Promote Health

Red meats and poultry tend to have higher quantities of fats that can clog the arteries and thus can contribute to the development of heart disease, cancer, and obesity. The extra pounds tend to exacerbate conditions like diabetes. High blood pressure can also result.

However, once a vegetarian diet is implemented the same drawbacks can become positives that vegetarians experience:

Beneficial Weight Loss

By reducing meat consumption, many people easily reduce total inbound calories in their diets. By including more plant-based fiber, they still get the experience of feeling full without all the extra fat. The weight loss can help lower the need for insulin in some diabetes patients.

Less fat in the diet can also lead to a lower Body Mass Index (BMI). Overall, diabetics can help control blood sugar levels more easily and with fewer complications from the disease when patients are not dealing with being overweight as well.

Lower Risk of Heart Disease and Cancer

The Loma Linda University did a study on vegetarians and their rate of colorectal cancer decreased when compared to non-vegetarians. In particular, vegetarians reduced their risk of the disease by 22 percent, whereas pesco-vegetarians reduced their risk by as much as 43 percent. The Omega-3 fatty acids are believed to help in the reduction of heart disease and cancer and thus a pesco-vegetarian diet, which is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, can be helpful for the reduction of chronic conditions like diabetes as well.

Eating Vegetarian Diet for Heart Health

Management of Blood Sugar Levels

Not only can a vegetarian diet help in the control of blood sugar levels but, according to the Mayo Clinic, it can also help with insulin response. This can help reduce the need for insulin.

What About Nutritional Requirements?

Vegetarian diets are often criticized for lacking important nutrients. After all, red meat is one of the best sources of protein, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, right?

Fortified milk is a good source of vitamin D and calcium. Fish is essential for omega-3 fatty acids and iodine. However, many of the fears of nutritional deficiencies can be alleviated with a semi-vegetarian or pesco-vegetarian diet.

If one goes full vegan, it is wise to pay attention to what foods can take the place of meat to provide the same nutritional benefits and even supplement the diet with vitamins and minerals, when necessary. (Learn more about where vegetarians get their protein, calcium and iron.)

How to Make the Switch and Stay on Track

Dietary changes can be challenging, but with so many different types of vegetarianism to choose from it can be less daunting. Going strictly vegan from a Standard American Diet (SAD) is simply not doable for some people, and might impact their nutritional needs.

There is some education that an individual must undergo as one starts to pay more attention to their food choices, particularly for diabetics. They may not realize that if they choose to be strictly vegan they will need to substitute nuts and beans to obtain the same proteins they got from meat. So, it can be easier for some to try a semi-vegetarian diet for a while before going full-blown vegetarian or vegan.

In addition, high-glycemic foods can derail even the best vegetarian diet if eaten to excess. By testing out the different forms of vegetarianism, people can get a good idea of how it feels emotionally and physically to be on a different diet and find the right dietary arrangement that works for them and their diabetic conditions.

After some reading and experimentation with new recipes, the switch often becomes more smooth and it becomes easier to stay on track when you have a repertoire of good vegetarian recipes to choose from with the ingredients in your pantry or refrigerator.

Make It A Fun Exploration, Not A Chore

For some, switching to a new diet can even be fun. It means you get to explore new recipes and new ingredients you may never heard of before. You may find you like tofu and tempeh, or that lentils and rice are your new comfort food. You can find novel ways to use nuts, including whirring them in a blender to produce your own almond milk.

Explore ethnic foods that have a high degree of vegetarianism built in, like Indian and Mexican cuisines. Go to vegetarian restaurants and see what’s on the menu then try to reproduce it at home. Explore whole grains like quinoa and brown rice. Be adventuresome with the diet!

Couple Enjoying Dinner at a Vegetarian Restaurant

Keep In Mind Your Diabetic Needs

To make sure that your diet is on track to meet your diabetic needs, always seek advice from your physician or nutritionist. They may steer you clear of high-glycemic foods, depending on how your diet turns out.

Your physician or nutritionist can educate you on the need for combining legumes with grains for a complete protein, or how to add products that are fortified with necessary dietary requirements, like soy milk fortified with vitamin D.

Beans & Legumes as Vegetarian Protein Source

They can also monitor your progress and provide additional community resources as you continue on your fascinating voyage of vegetarianism to manage blood sugar levels, reduce your need for insulin, and reduce complications from diabetes.

W.H.O. Links Red Meat to Cancer

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a research division of the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), recently announced that processed meats and red meats have clear correlative links to to cancers. Any meat that has been modified to change the taste or to add preservatives is considered “processed.” This includes a variety of foods common to your grocery store shelves, like bacon, ham, hot dogs, beef jerky, canned meats, and even meat-based sauces. Red meats, or muscle meat from mammals, including beef, pork, lamb, horse and goat.

A team of 22 experts from 10 different countries around the world worked together analyzing more than 800 studies of meat consumption worldwide, as well as past scientific research, and concluded that processed meats increase the risk of developing cancer, and that excess consumption of red meat may increase the risk as well. According to their findings, a mere 50 grams of processed meat per day in a person’s diet can increase their risk of developing colorectal cancer by 17 percent. Processed meats have thus been classified as Class 1 carcinogens, placing them in the same category as substances like tobacco and diesel fumes. Unprocessed red meat, given a classification of 2A, was found to be “probable” carcinogens that may cause colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer.

The U.S. Ranks #2 Worldwide in Meat Consumption

Considering the fact that the United States ranks third worldwide in meat consumption at 90.0 kg of meat per capita (almost 200 pounds of meat per year per person), just slightly behind Australia in the #1 spot, these findings may be quite alarming because of the number of meat products included. The World Health Organization has essentially revealed that many of the meats that make up a huge portion of American diets are dangerous.

Everything in Moderation

So is the W.H.O. suggesting that we all become vegetarian or vegan? Or should we limit our meat consumption to only fresh poultry and fish and become pescatarian? Not necessarily. Officials at the W.H.O.’s International Agency for Research on Cancer are saying that while the risk of developing cancer from these meats remains small, but increases with the amount consumed. While we at Vegetarian Nation always support anyone who wants to reduce or eliminate meat and meat byproducts from their diet, eating red meat is not automatically a carcinogenic death sentence. Many health and nutrition experts agree that it is all about moderation.

Although processed meats and red meats have been found to be associated with cancer, you do not necessarily have to eliminate them completely from your diet. Although processed and red meats have been linked to cancer, they are still far less dangerous than smoking. For years, processed foods and red meat have been said to have unhealthy effects if consumed in great quantities, so the W.H.O. announcement does not come entirely by surprise. This new evidence just further proves that balance is a very important part of a healthy diet.Although processed meats and red meats have been found to be associated with cancer, you do not necessarily have to eliminate them completely from your diet. Meats have protein and other beneficial nutrients – aim for organic, grass-fed, hormone-free, and humanely farm-raised meats in small portions for optimal nutrition and safety – and many of their harmful affects can be counteracted with greater intake of healthy, fibrous fruits and vegetables.

(Warning: Terrible pun forthcoming.)

The “Steaks” Were Never Higher

What does this announcement mean for the meat industry? Not surprisingly, the meat industry is reeling against the W.H.O. announcement in defense of their industry.

Many people have already started eliminated meats and processed foods from their diets in recent years, and for a number of reasons. Beef consumption peaked in the mid-1970s and has been on the decline since, while turkey has held relatively steady, and chicken consumption has risen dramatically to an all-time high.

Could this news about red meat being linked to colorectal and other cancers encourage even more people to stop eating processed and red meats? Anything is possible, and for that reason the meat industry has had a lot to say about the World Health Organization’s findings, going so far as to call the organization’s findings “biased,” “dramatic,” and “misleading.” The executive director of human nutrition for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Shalene McNeill, told CNN that she feels the evidence does not support “any casual link between any red meat and cancer.”  The North American Meat Institute made light of the World Health Organization’s report, citing that they have also classified yoga pants as a cancer hazard. The Meat Advisory Panel in the U.K. said that “avoiding red meat in the diet is not a protective strategy against cancer.”

What Happens Next

Despite the news that processed meats and red meats have been linked to colorectal and other cancers, the meat industry isn’t in full panic mode just yet. It has been a well-known fact for many years that consuming too much of these foods can lead to a number of health issues. But to say that a few slices of bacon or a hot dog will give you cancer would be a huge reach, nor is the W.H.O. report claiming as much. It is very likely that people who consume processed and red meat will continue to do so. The World Health Organization’s findings instead support the need for a balanced diet, which can include these meats in small portions and lots of healthy fruits and veggies.

It is highly unlikely that people will eliminate these foods, purely out of habit and desire. Hot dogs will continue being served at barbecues and bacon will still be present at breakfast. At first glance the World Health Organization’s findings may be shocking to some, but there are many carcinogens associated with cancer. People are aware that things like tobacco and over-exposure to the sun can increases the risk of developing cancer, but cigarettes are still sold and families still go to the beach.

Planning to Cut Back Your Meat Consumption?

If you are one of the many people who will consider reducing or eliminating meat consumption, though, we welcome you to the Vegetarian Nation with open arms. No judgment here. If you need any help cutting back on meat and adding more healthy, balanced, vegetarian-friendly dishes to your menu, we’re here to help. Whether it’s help with vegetarian and vegan recipes, recommendations for meat substitutes, or simply moral support – call on the vegetarian community and we’ll be there for you every step of the way.

Vegetarian Diet Makes #11 on 2014 U.S. News “Best Diets” List

The beginning of each new year brings about the promise of a fresh start, a chance to make good on our good intentions. For many of us, this means changing our diets to lose weight or to control certain health issues. Each year, U.S. News and World Report magazine researches major diet trends, compiling a list of the best and worst diets and rating them according to seven specific criteria: both short- and long-term weight loss, ease of implementation and use, nutrition, safety, and diabetic and heart health. A panel of health experts, including physicians, nutritionists, and food psychiatrists, carefully examines each dietary plan and ranks it on a scale of 1 to 5; all seven factors determine the diet’s overall score.

balsamic-caramelized-onion-mushroom-baked-potatoesU.S. News evaluated more than 32 diets for Best Diets 2014. The list is “designed to help consumers identify a diet that suits their specific needs,” according to Angela Haupt, Health and Wellness editor for the magazine. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension plan (DASH), developed primarily to combat high blood pressure through portion control and protein/carbohydrate balance, came in at number one. But both the flexitarian and vegetarian diets placed in the top third of this year’s list. Last place was awarded to the popular “Paleo Diet,” which was deemed too restrictive and difficult to follow to regularly achieve the desired results.

The flexitarian diet placed at #6 for 2014. Flexitarians follow a vegetarian diet most of the time, but with some flexibility factored in to allow for the occasional consumption of meat products. It is balanced, nutritious, usually results in weight loss, and is entirely customizable according to taste and health needs.

Vegetarianism placed 11th on the list. A vegetarian diet is nutritionally sound, aids in the control of diabetes, and is heart healthy if followed correctly – consisting mostly of plant-based proteins, fruits, and vegetables rather than high amounts of fats or sugars. It is restrictive in that no meat is consumed at all, and therefore requires a certain amount of planning. It can also be somewhat costlier to begin than a traditional mixed diet as you’re learning to modify your meals to not include meat and animal byproducts. However, the cost is quickly offset by its numerous health benefits, and by eliminating the cost of meat in the long-term from both your grocery bills and restaurant tabs.

Studies show that balanced, plant-based diets are instrumental in preventing heart disease, losing weight, and keeping blood pressure and bad cholesterol in check. Both flexitarian and vegetarian diets are deliciously varied, safe to follow, and highly beneficial to one’s overall well-being.