Many people associate the ketogenic diet with eating lots of meat and are surprised to hear that it’s possible to follow it while being meat-free. One variation of the meat-free ketogenic diet is the pescatarian keto diet. Being a pescatarian (also spelled “pescetarian”) is very similar to being a vegetarian except that you eat fish. Pescatarian keto is not nearly as restrictive of a diet as you might imagine, and there are a variety of benefits to following it. Here are five of them.
1. Following a meat-free keto diet is easier if you add fish.
Vegetarian keto is entirely possible, and many people are able to achieve ketosis without eating any meat. Just check out the subreddit r/vegetarianketo, and you’ll see how many people have vegetarian keto recipes and tips to share. You may also want to consider ordering the book Ketotarian: The (Mostly) Plant-Based Plan to Burn Fat, Boost Your Energy, Crush Your Cravings, and Calm Inflammation. Vegan keto is possible too (see meatfreeketo.com for tasty recipe examples if you’re skeptical) although more challenging, and it’s vital to be somewhat savvy in the kitchen.
Regardless, there’s little denying that meat eaters have it easiest when it comes to keto. Vegetarian protein sources are often pricey, and you may be limited in your choices if you don’t live in an area with specialty grocery stores nearby. The pescatarian keto diet may not be as simple as the traditional keto diet, but it means you have more food options than a full vegetarian. Check out the Pescatarian Keto Food Shopping List to get an idea of what you can eat on this diet.
2. A pescatarian keto diet is more ethical and sustainable than a traditional keto diet.
Ethical and environmental concerns are typically cited as reasons to avoid or limit meat consumption. If animal welfare and sustainability are on your mind, you may be concerned about following a ketogenic diet and thus increasing your consumption of animal products. A pescatarian diet is a great compromise, especially if you make sure to purchase foods like sustainably farmed fish and free range eggs.
Boulder-based company LoveTheWild produces sustainable fish fillets and sauces that can be prepared at home. They reached out to me on Twitter to add the following information to this article: “Fish requires a lot less resources to raise. A sustainably farmed fish, for example, needs 1.2 pounds of feed and 1 gallon of fresh water, whereas a chicken requires 2.3 pounds of feed and 2,000 gallons of fresh water.” You can find the company on Twitter under the handle @LoveTheWildCo. Definitely check them out!
3. You get all the health benefits of being in ketosis.
If you’re already convinced that a ketogenic diet is beneficial for both physical and mental health, go ahead and skip to the next point on the list. Chances are that you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t already aware of the reasons people choose keto. You can get all the benefits of ketosis as a pescatarian as long as you’re hitting your macros. Those benefits include:
- Reduced cravings
- Easier weight loss
- Improved mental focus
- Increased energy
It’s important to note that following a ketogenic diet does not guarantee weight loss; this is a popular misconception based on the fact that it makes weight loss easier. You still need to eat fewer calories than you burn to lose weight, but you’re more likely to overeat carbs and sugar than fat and protein. Many people lose weight on keto without counting calories.
There’s also a lot of evidence that keto can improve a variety of physical and mental health issues, even sometimes causing them to go into remission. These conditions include depression, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis. To learn more about the health benefits of ketosis, see this article: The Biggest Ketogenic Diet Benefits.
4. Research supports lowering meat consumption and eating lots of plants.
If you’re hardcore into the ketogenic lifestyle and a meat-eater, not eating meat sounds like blasphemy, and you’re probably pretty skeptical of claims that red meat is unhealthy. On the other hand, if you’re interested in vegetarianism, you probably disagree. Michael Pollan, an author who has investigated food and diet extensively, recommends that people “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” He also comments that this advice offends vegans and meat lovers alike. However, if you’re not invested in one extreme or the other, his recommendation seems like a logical compromise that is backed by research.
Following a pescatarian keto diet that consists of ample fish and veggies while avoiding meat is certainly one way to follow this advice.
5. Fatty fish is the perfect keto food, and it’s delicious!
Fatty fishes are often mentioned by keto experts when discussing what foods to eat on the traditional keto diet. Keto enthusiast Dominic D’Agostino is a professor and scientist who has been featured on both Joe Rogan’s and Tim Ferris’s podcasts, and he’s quick to talk about sardines as a great keto food. He specifically recommends Wild Planet sardines, which are sustainably caught in the North Pacific ocean.
Another fatty fish commonly referenced as a keto food is salmon, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids (the “good fats”) as well as potassium, selenium, and B vitamins. Dr. Rhonda Patrick is another health expert with impressive credentials, and while she does not follow a ketogenic or vegetarian diet, she frequently references salmon and its health benefits on her podcast appearances.
See What Are the Best Fatty Fishes to Eat on the Keto Diet? to learn about more fishes with high fat content as well as which fishes are low in fat.
Keto vs. Pescatarian
Looking to make a lifestyle change, but not sure if you want to eat a keto diet or a pescatarian diet? Considering that a pescatarian keto diet is an ethical choice that also gives you the benefits of being in ketosis, there is no reason not to be both keto and pescatarian or vegetarian.
It’s important to ask yourself exactly why you’re trying to choose between keto and pescatarian. If your motive is weight loss, a pescatarian diet alone may not be as effective for accomplishing your goals as either a plant-based or traditional keto diet. There are many ways to eat vegetarian or pescatarian that are extremely unhealthy and definitely not how our bodies are meant to eat. Vegetarians and pescatarians can eat lots of sugar and bread, whereas the keto diet forces you to avoid grains and sugar. The keto diet also gives you additional mental energy and better focus, whereas these effects are not as prominent when one switches from being an omnivore to a vegetarian or pescatarain.
If you are more concerned about animal welfare than your overall health, choosing to try a vegetarian or pescatarian diet over a keto diet that includes meat makes the most sense. Becoming a pescatarian is still a positive lifestyle change from the standard American diet. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be keto vs. pescatarian. You can absolutely eat ketogenically as a pescatarian or vegetarian!
Is pescatarian keto the right diet for you?
Pescatarian keto is only one of many healthy diets you can choose to follow that deviate from the standard American diet. It isn’t for everyone, but that goes without saying. For many people who are conscious of their health, the environment, and animal welfare, it’s an excellent dietary choice. If pescatarian keto aligns with your values and lifestyle, it may be right for you.
Do you follow a pescatarian keto diet, or are you considering one? What are your reasons? Feel free to talk about your lifestyle in the comments section!