When our friend or family member talks about being on the keto diet, images of bacon swimming in runny eggs, or a steak topped with butter often come to mind. In other words, "meatless" and "keto" don't really seem to go together.
Because the goal of the diet is to keep fat intake high (accounting for 70 to 80 percent of total calories) and carbohydrate intake very, very low (about 10 percent or less of total calories), the foods keto followers typically gravitate to are high-fat meats (think pork belly, bacon, sausage and burgers) along with avocados, whole eggs, butter, cream, oils and cheese.
If you are following the diet and finding success, you're likely consuming a lot of animal-derived protein and fat. But it is possible to cut back and do more meatless meals while still "keeping keto" — and you might just be better off for it.
A growing body of research shows the health benefits of eating a more plant-based diet. In fact, in a review published June 2017 in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, researchers looked at more than 80 studies and found that, compared to omnivores, vegetarians and vegans had lower BMIs, total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and glucose levels.
So whether you're a ketotarian or a meat-eater looking to mix it up, we've pulled together some of our favorite keto-friendly recipes for your next Meatless Monday — or any day of the week.
1. Keto Cacao Smoothie
Smoothies are great because you can sneak in tons of superfoods, oftentimes without even noticing a change in taste or texture. This smoothie combines avocados (hello, creaminess!), cacao butter, almond butter, chia seeds, collagen peptides, raspberries and cacaco nibs. Keep in mind, though, that it also calls for a cup of coconut milk and coconut oil, topping the saturated fat content off at 14 grams per serving, which meets the daily limit set by the American Heart Association (for a 2,000 calorie diet).
2. Avocado Kebabs with Chimichurri Sauce
Whether you're hosting a party and serving these as hors d'oeuvres or simply pulling together a meal for your fam, these kebabs are sure to be a hit. While the main components — avocado, cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella — are simple (yet delicious) — the real culinary and nutritional winner that also helps bring it all together is the chimichurri sauce starring fresh herbs. According to the book "Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects," parsley, cilantro and arugula all contain antioxidants that help fight free radicals in our bodies.
3. Pesto Zucchini Noodle Pasta with Avocado and Soft-Boiled Egg
Zucchini noodles (aka zoodles) can make a delicious, low-carb swap for regular pasta noodles come meal time. Swapping in the veg also bumps up the nutrition content as well. One cup of zucchini has just 30 calories but is an excellent source of vitamin A and a good source of vitamin C, manganese and potassium.
4. Big-Ass Keto Salad
While salads can be kind of skimpy and unfulfilling, that is not the case with this one. Topped with cherry tomatoes, avocado , broccolini and Emmental cheese, along with dressing, the healthy fats and fiber will help keep you satisfied. This salad alone provides 10 grams of fiber, which is about half of the amount women need in a day and meets a little less than a third of men's needs, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
5. Avocado Cucumber Gazpacho
Give traditional gazpacho a facelift with this delicious and equally-as-healthy soup that combines avocado, cucumbers, red onion, garlic, cilantro and spices. Using vegetable stock keeps this 100 percent plant-based. Avocado gives this soup its creamy texture and ups the satisfaction level. In fact, a 2013 study published in Nutrition Journal found that when half of an avocado was added to lunch, subjects reported feeling more satisfied for up to five hours post-meal compared to those who didn't add avocado.
- American Institute for Cancer Research: "Limit Red & Processed Meat"
- American Heart Association: "Saturated Fat"
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: "Vegetarian, Vegan Diets and Multiple Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies"
- Herbal Medicine: "Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects:Antioxidants in Herbs and Spices"
- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: "Appendix 7. Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations"
- Nutrition Journal: "A Randomized 3x3 Crossover Study to Evaluate the Effect of Hass Avocado Intake on Post-Ingestive Satiety, Glucose and Insulin Levels, and Subsequent Energy Intake in Overweight Adults"