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With the growing popularity of vegan keto and other low carb vegetarian ways of eating, there seem to be new and different styles popping up everywhere. One way of eating that I’ve been getting a lot of questions about lately is eco-keto and eco-Atkins diets. I’m addressing these two topics together because they’re actually pretty similar in ideaology, though they do differ slightly in terms nutrition and macros.
So, What Exactly is an Eco-Keto Diet?
I think a lot of the confusion surrounding eco-keto and eco-Atkins is that the term “eco” to describe a diet is somewhat nebulous. With vegan keto, and vegan Atkins things are pretty straightforward – it’s a vegan diet that adheres to the ketogenic macronutrient template to achieve a state of ketosis. But with eco-keto and eco-Atkins, things are a bit more challenging. How exactly does one eat “eco?”
Put simply, an eco-keto diet is a ketogenic (high fat, very low carb) diet that strives to minimize the impact diet can cause to the environment. In general, this means roughly adhering to some or all of the following guidelines:
- Reduce or eliminate meat products
- Reduce or eliminate dairy and egg products
- Try to source food locally whenever possible
- Seek out foods that are sustainably raised and harvested
- Choose seasonal produce over out-of-season options
- DIY foods when possible
Eco-Atkins involves the same type of guidelines, but in relation to the higher-protein intake typical of the traditional Atkins diet.
Do I Have to Go Vegan or Vegetarian to Do an Eco-Keto Diet?
Here’s the thing about eco-keto: it’s not really a set of rules about what foods you can and cannot eat, as much as it is a set of recommendations and sort of aspirational ideals. You certainly can go vegan or vegetarian, but it’s definitely not necessary. The same can be said for eco-Atkins. While choosing local, responsibly-grown whole foods and prioritizing plants over animal products, the ecological footprint of the diet is certainly decreased.
There are more and more “flexitarian” keto-dieters out there every single day, from those who do “meatless mondays,” to pescatarians, to
How Do I Get Started on an Eco-Keto Diet?
If you’re already eating keto, then you’re way more than halfway there. Think about what your goals are and set out from there. Do you want to reduce your meat intake? Are you trying to eat more whole foods? Is supporting local farmers your mission? Maybe you’re looking to radically change your diet in all of those ways!
Whatever your driving force is, use that to determine how to start. If you are trying to focus on eating mostly locally grown food, seek out your local Farmer’s Market, CSA or farm stand. If you’re still planning on eating meat, eggs and dairy, look for a CSA or a co-op that offers meat products as well.
If you’re totally new to keto, things can be a little overwhelming, but don’t worry! It’ll get easier in time. The best way to get started is to understand what your target macros are (you can use a calculator like the one at MeatFreeKeto.com) and then start finding foods that meet your needs. Many fitness tracking apps like MyFitnessPal, Cronometer and Carb Manager will also be able to help you find a starting point for daily calorie intake and macronutrient ratios.
Of course, you don’t need to track macros and calories if you don’t want! Keto without tracking (often referred to as “lazy keto”) is a popular option, as it’s a really simple way to get started. Just focus on eating high-fat and low-carb foods. Check out this post for a list of vegan keto food options. Meat, fish eggs and aged dairy are all super low-carb (at least in their unprocessed form) and can fit into an eco-keto way of eating.
If you’re still confused, there are a few books that can help you transition to a more eco-friendly way of doing the keto diet. My book, Vegan Keto, and Keto-tarian by Dr. Will Cole are both great resources to help you get started, and feature information about keto, recipes and meal plans. Vegan Keto is entirely plant-based, while Keto-tarian also utilizes eggs, dairy, fish and even bone broth. Just something to keep in mind!
What’s the Difference Between Eco-Keto and Eco-Atkins?
At the core, they have many of the same characteristics. Both adhere to some or all of the above guidelines and aim to lessen their environmental impact. However, whereas ketogenic diets aim to reduce carbohydrate intake to the point of achieving a state of ketosis (where your body burns fat instead of the sugar it typically burns), Atkins doesn’t have this same end goal. Keto diets are lower in protein than Atkins is. Basically, it boils down to the following:
- eco-ketogenic diets are very low carbohydrate, moderate protein and high fat to achieve ketosis
- aco-Atkins diets are very-low to low-carbohydrate, and high protein and fat
On both diets, you end up eating the same foods, just in different amounts. Those on an Atkins diet tend to just focus on limiting carbs, while those on keto diets also try to keep protein relatively low.
With eco-keto diets, where meat, egg and dairy consumption is often limited, it’s a lot easier to keep protein intake within range. The reason for limiting protein somewhat is that it can convert to sugar in the body if eaten in excess, and that can kick people out of ketosis if they’re very sensitive to carbohydrates.
Do I Need Special Supplements to Do Eco-Keto?
So often, we see keto experts promoting pills and powders that they claim are totally necessary and “staples” of keto diets. Exogenous ketones and MCT oil come to mind immediately. The truth is that neither of these things are actually necessary for you to succeed on a ketognic diet. Up until very recently, these products weren’t even widely available, and plenty of people had been seeing great results.
You may want to invest in an electrolyte supplement, as you drink and excrete more water (and thus, more electrolytes) on a keto diet. However, you can also just add pink salt or sea salt to your foods and water as well as drink herbal teas and lemon juice to obtain even more minerals.
For those on a vegan diet, you will also want to supplement B12 and D. To read more about keto supplements, check out this article.