by Dr. Will Cole
Like many people—maybe like you—my diet has changed many times over the years. As a functional medicine practitioner, I’ve spent countless hours studying the human body and how to optimize nutrients in food for thriving health, and my diet has evolved along with my knowledge. When I first started my journey toward healthier eating, I was a staunch vegan; however, the more I learned, the more I realized that a typical high-carb vegan diet, depending on sprouted whole grains and legumes for energy, was not optimal for my body over the long term.
Each of us has our own particular health issues, tendencies, and needs, and as I grew in awareness and learned more about what my particular health problems were and what kinds of nutrients I was missing from my conventional vegan diet, as well as what foods were contributing to my adrenal fatigue, poor gut health, and weak immune system, I recognized that I needed to make some changes. I also learned that, while people respond differently to different foods, three general principles remain the same for everyone across the board:
- Eat plants. Plant foods are uber-powerful disease fighters.
- Go easy on carbs. High-carbohydrate diets increase inflammation.
- Enjoy healthy fats. Diets rich in healthy fats are essential for brain and metabolic health.
Based on these principles, I created a plant-based ketogenic diet that I call ketotarian. A ketotarian diet has all the benefits of a traditional ketogenic diet, but with a whole-food, plant-based twist. Gone are the inflammatory foods from traditional keto that are problematic for many people (processed meats, dairy, and artificial sweeteners) as well as the inflammatory foods from traditional plant-based diets (grains and legumes). I wrote a book about how this plant-based keto alternative works and how to do it, called Ketotarian. I also follow this diet in my life. Here’s a sneak peek of a typical day for me:
Breakfast: IF or Matcha Latte and Chia Pudding Breakfast Bowl
I usually start my day with intermittent fasting (IF), which has been shown in numerous studies to increase the benefits of ketosis. While there are many different ways to intermittent fast, I find having my last meal at 6 p.m. the night before, then breaking my fast at noon, to be an easy yet highly effective way to fast during a typical workweek.
On my intermittent fasting mornings, I have a cup of Earl Grey tea with bergamot. This is a great way to jump-start my body in the first hours of my day. Extending the time between meals helps the body rejuvenate in many ways, and the bergamot that I add to my tea also increases autophagy—the “self-cleaning” method your cells perform.
But I don’t do this every day, and when I am not intermittent fasting, I love to indulge in a matcha latte. I make mine with coconut milk for extra-creaminess and enough healthy fats to wake up my brain and get me going. Having this alongside a coconut chia pudding bowl makes for a filling breakfast.
Matcha Latte (Vegan, Vegetarian, AIP)
- ½ cup full-fat coconut milk
- ½ cup water
- 1 teaspoon matcha tea powder
- 1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
- 2 to 4 drops liquid stevia (optional)
- In a small saucepan, combine coconut milk and water. Heat over medium heat until hot and steamy but not boiling.
- Pour into heatproof blender container; add matcha powder and coconut oil.
- Cover and blend until frothy. Sweeten to taste with stevia, if desired. Pour into a mug.
Chia Pudding Breakfast Bowls (Vegetarian)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 drops liquid stevia
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 tablespoon hemp protein powder
- 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
- 2 teaspoons bee pollen
- 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond milk, coconut milk, vanilla, and stevia. Add the chia seeds and hemp protein powder; whisk to combine. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, whisking occasionally to distribute the chia seeds, until the chia seeds have absorbed the liquid and the mixture has thickened.
- Divide the pudding between two bowls. Top with the blueberries, bee pollen, and hemp seeds.
Lunch: Spicy Frittata “Pizza”
Although eggs don’t work for everyone, I have found I need to add cage-free eggs—a vegetarian keto superfood–into my diet on occasion. Eggs contain important nutrients such as choline, calcium, and iron, as well as vitamins A, D, E, and B, which are necessary for healthy hormones and to support methylation pathways. Supporting methylation is especially important for me and the other 40 percent of the population who have the MTHFR gene mutation, which can interfere with optimal methylation.
This frittata pizza is easy to make ahead and take with me for lunch since all I have to do is reheat it.
Spicy Frittata Pizza with Spinach and Olives (Vegetarian)
- 5 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons plain unsweetened almond milk
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt, divided
- ⅛ teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, divided
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 8 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves, washed well and spun dry
- 4 ounces soft fresh vegan cheese, sliced or crumbled
- 8 pitted Kalamata or Nicoise olives, halved
- 6 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 375⁰F.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and half of the salt and pepper.
- Heat oil in a medium oven-safe nonstick skillet over medium-high. When hot, add the garlic and crushed red pepper. Cook for 2 minutes (do not let brown). Add the spinach and remaining salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes.
- Immediately pour the eggs into the pan, and reduce heat to medium. Sprinkle cheese and olives evenly over the top. Cook until the edges of the eggs are just set, about 3 minutes. Carefully transfer pan to oven, and bake until the eggs are cooked through, about 5 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and serve.
A note about snacking.
Meals as rich in healthy fats and nutrients as these usually mean I don’t need a snack in the afternoon—I get full and stay full longer. Intermittent fasting also tends to decrease the hunger hormone ghrelin, so incorporating that into my daily routine cuts down on unnecessary cravings throughout the day.
Dinner: Cauliflower Steak
For dinner, I like to go completely plant-based while still staying in ketosis, and these grilled cauliflower steaks hit the spot! As a sulfur-rich cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower provides excellent fuel for my methylation pathways. The addition of healthy fats from the almonds makes this a dish that is hearty enough to keep me satisfied until I break my fast the following day at lunch.
Note that this recipe uses a grill, but you can also prepare the steaks in the oven using the broiler function.
Grilled Cauliflower Steaks With Romesco Sauce and Toasted Nuts (Vegan, Vegetarian)
- 1 to 2 ¾-pound head(s) cauliflower (for two “steaks”)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, divided
- ¼ teaspoon ras el hanout seasoning
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, divided
- ¼ cup raw unsalted almonds, lightly toasted, divided
- ¼ cup roasted red peppers, drained
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
- Preheat grill to medium-high heat (350°F to 400°F). Hold cauliflower head stalk-side-down on a cutting board. Cut into 1½-inch-thick slabs all the way across, yielding two large “steaks” from the middle of the head, and florets from the edges. Trim and discard green parts from “steaks” and the bottom inch of stalk. (Reserve florets for another use.) Pat both sides of the “steaks” dry.
- Whisk 2 tablespoons oil, 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, ras el hanout seasoning, and ¼ teaspoon sea salt until thoroughly combined.
- Brush cauliflower steaks with approximately half of the olive oil mixture.
- Grill steaks covered on well-oiled grill grates for 8 minutes until slightly charred. Turn and brush with remaining oil mixture. Cover and continue to grill 8 to 10 minutes or until cauliflower is tender but not mushy. Remove from grill; cover with foil and keep warm.
- Meanwhile, add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, half of the almonds, peppers, 1 tablespoon vinegar, garlic, and remaining salt and pepper to a small food processor, and puree until almost smooth, about one minute. Finely chop the remaining almonds, and set aside. Divide sauce between steaks. Sprinkle with the chopped almonds and the parsley.
As you can see, eating ketotarian is hardly deprivation, and plant-based keto doesn’t mean you need to eat like a rabbit. We are meant to enjoy our food as well as use it for fuel.. While everyone’s individual macronutrient ratios are going to differ—as well as the choice whether or not to include eggs or wild-caught fish—fueling your body with a diet rich in high-fat plant foods can be delicious and nourishing as it feeds health and minimizes cravings for unhealthy foods.
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