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.

Wendy’s Announces New Vegetarian- and Vegan-Friendly Black Bean Burger

Wendy's Black Bean Burger

Move over, McDonald’s and Burger King; there’s a new vegetarian-friendly burger in town and it’s drawing rave reviews among diners, especially among vegetarians and vegans.

Wendy’s, America’s third largest fast food chain, is test marketing a new Black Bean Burger that finally gives vegans and veggie lovers alike real, edible options – virtually unheard of at other quick service chains.

Unlike McDonald’s not-so-successful attempt 15 years ago at making a meatless patty called the McVeggie Burger, Wendy’s has crafted a completely different blend of black beans, peppers, wild rice and zesty spices.

Wendy’s is also giving Burger King’s Veggie Burger and some stiff competition. While BK’s burger has historically received reasonably high ratings, critics say it’s high in sodium and cholesterol – a whopping 1,090 grams and 10 mg, respectively. Calorie-wise, BK’s Veggie Burger is comparable to Wendy’s vegan version at 420 calories each. Wendy’s standard recipe packs 19 grams of protein, compared to BK’s whopping 23 grams—great if you like textured soy protein.

Black Beans vs. Textured Soy Protein

Rather than try to offer another soy-based meat substitute, Wendy’s instead focused on creating a mouthwatering burger packed with wholesome flavor, something that vegetarians will love, and meat eaters can appreciate too.

If you’re looking for that chargrilled flavor meat lovers crave, you’re more likely to find it at Wendy’s than the other quick-service chains. The Wendy’s Black Bean Burger is even courteously cooked on a separate grill so there’s no cross-contamination with meat products served at the restaurant. (Thank you for realizing that the grimy meat grill is a huge turn-off for vegetarians!)

This zesty burger is tender on the inside with a hearty outer crust you’d expect from a grilled hamburger. There’s simply no comparison with BK’s microwaved version, which uses a Morningstar Farms© Veggie Burger, running the risk of sacrificing taste and texture. BK’s Veggie Burger derives its meaty taste from mushrooms, water chestnuts, black olives, rolled oats, and sugar — sadly, an ingredient carb conscious consumers might want to nix. Both the McVeggie and BK Veggie Burger were made with textured soy protein, a far cry from the fresh legumes, grains, vegetables and spices Wendy’s includes in its Black Bean Burger.

Is the Wendy’s Black Bean Burger Healthy?

While we won’t say that a black bean burger from a fast food restaurant is a “healthy” food, we can say that studies suggest that black beans can help prevent colon cancer, Type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. They’re a low-sodium and cholesterol-free food, but we can’t say the same for the other parts of the burger. Even without the cheese and sauce, this burger is a hefty portion of sodium, so we don’t necessarily recommend making this a staple of your diet. At the end of the day, it’s still a special treat.

The Wendy’s Black Bean Burger is naturally vegetarian-friendly, and without the cheese or Asiago Ranch sauce, it can be vegan-friendly as well.  The standard preparation includes milk and cheese, but customers can opt for Wendy’s vegan version without dairy products. The vegan version is just as tasty with only 420 calories, zero cholesterol, a mere 12 grams of sugar, 14 grams of protein and just 68 carbs.

Wendy’s new vegetarian Black Bean Burger is a quarter pound patty – round, not square in the Wendy’s burger tradition – topped with a slice of Colby Pepper Jack cheese, tomato and leaf lettuce, crowned with a hearty dollop of Asiago ranch sauce on a toasted multi-grain bun. Wendy’s new burger patty combines tender black beans blended with red and green bell peppers, quinoa, farro (an ancient grain), brown rice, wild rice, sea salt, oregano, and a Southwestern trio of cilantro, garlic, and chili powder for a little kick. It’s hard to believe this is straight off of a fast food menu.

Wendy’s Black Bean Burger Test Markets

At present, the Black Bean Burger is being tested in just three U.S. cities: Columbus, Ohio, home of Wendy’s corporate headquarters; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Columbia, South Carolina. Tasters say Wendy’s new veggie burger is pleasant and savory enough to justify paying an average $4.59 per sandwich. Yes, the price is higher than your standard dollar menu Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, but it’s an absolute steal for vegetarians who historically don’t get to enjoy the occasional quick-service drive-through meal like the rest of America. It’s also a great price if you want robust flavor in a healthier and more environmentally sound alternative to meat in your fast food experience.

People are practically begging to have the Black Bean Burger brought to their cities. If you’re interested in getting Wendy’s to debut its new veggie Black Bean Burger in your hometown, try voicing your opinion in the online petitions at and to hopefully bring the Black Bean Veggie Burger to your neighborhood.

Learn more about the Wendy’s Black Bean Burger straight from the restaurant here, and view the commercial here: