The Pescatarian Keto Diet: A Beginner's Guide (With Food List & Meal Plan) - Perfect Keto

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The Pescatarian Keto Diet: A Beginner’s Guide (With Food List & Meal Plan)

Disclaimer

Pescatarian and ketogenic diets are known for their many health benefits, such as a reduced risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease (* , *).

The pescatarian diet is essentially a vegetarian diet that includes fish and seafood. Meanwhile, a ketogenic diet reduces carbohydrates enter a metabolic state of ketosis.

If you’re interested in a very low-carb eating approach and would like to get your nutrition from plant-based foods, fish, and seafood — the pescatarian keto diet might work for you.

This article shows you why combining pescatarian and keto diets may be a good idea, a list of foods you can eat, tips for getting started, and a sample meal plan.

What is Pescatarian Keto?

The pescatarian keto diet is an eating plan that merges certain aspects of pescatarian and keto diets.

In other words, a person on this dietary strategy would restrict their carbs to just 20-50 grams per day while avoiding all animal products except for fish, seafood, eggs, and dairy.

When it comes to vegetables and fruits, these are limited to low-carb options, such as leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, avocados, and berries. Most nuts and seeds are allowed since they’re low in net carbs.

70-80% of your daily calories should come from fat, while 20-30% should come from protein. There are plenty of healthy fat sources to choose from that provide omega-3 fatty acids (*).

Benefits of Combining Keto and the Pescatarian Diet

Following the keto diet for pescatarians may be more effective for improving certain aspects of your health (or reaching specific goals) than doing one diet alone.

1. Achieve Better Control Over Your Blood Sugar

Keeping your blood sugar levels within an acceptable range helps avoid problems, especially if you’re at risk for prediabetes or already have diabetes (*).

On a traditional pescatarian diet, a lot of food options tend to be rich in carbs, which could spike blood sugar.

Examples are starchy vegetables, such as white potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, butternut squash, and taro. Fruits high in simple sugars (fructose and glucose) are also best avoided since they easily increase your carb intake. Stay away from sweeter fruits like bananas, apples, grapes, mangoes, and pineapples.

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Studies have shown that a low-carb diet approach may lead to rapid improvements in glycemic control. Furthermore, it reduces insulin resistance to prevent the onset of diabetes (* , *, *).

A 2021 narrative review also shows that limiting the intake of carbs prevents glucotoxicity or the impaired function of your beta cells (cells that secrete insulin) (*).

2. Lose Weight and Keep It Off Long-Term

While both pescatarian and keto diets aid weight loss, combining them will likely lead to lasting results.

This is because carb restriction depletes your glycogen stores, causing your body to burn its stored fat to produce ketones for fuel (*).

Low-carb diets have also been known to suppress hunger compared to other traditional weight loss approaches. For example, 17 obese men in a crossover study did not only lose more weight, but they also reported experiencing less hunger on a very low-carb diet (* , *).

If you’re an athlete or living a physically active lifestyle, a study shows that peak whole-body fat oxidation (or fat breakdown) is greater on a keto diet during exercise, compared to other diets with varying macro ratios (*).

That said, it’s possible to use a low-carb pescatarian diet for sustainable fat loss.

3. Consume High Levels of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Pescatarians eat fish and seafood, which are excellent dietary sources of omega-3s.

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that may reduce inflammation, thereby helping lower your risk of cancer, arthritis, and neurodegenerative diseases (*).

They’re also noted for their cardiovascular benefits by lowering triglyceride levels and increasing HDL “good” cholesterol levels (* , *).

In addition to fish and seafood, you can get your omega-3s from plant sources like walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and brussels sprouts. These are all low in net carbs, making them keto-friendly.

4. Avoid Nutritional Deficiencies

A plant-based diet can lack certain nutrients that happen to be more abundant in animal-sourced foods. Examples of these nutrients are protein, vitamin B12, iron, and taurine which play vital roles in the body.

This is why people following a vegetarian diet must ensure that they’re obtaining all the nutrients they need — whether through supplementation or finding other foods that contain them.

By transitioning to a pescatarian keto diet, your nutrient sources increase since you’re adding fish and seafood. Plus, the added benefit of blood sugar control and weight loss as a result of reducing carbs.

A word of caution, though:

If this is your first time trying a low-carb pescatarian diet, you might experience electrolyte imbalances, which result from water weight loss. Because glycogen, the storage form of carbs, is stored with water molecules in your muscles. When glycogen is broken down, water is also excreted through urine (*). At the same time, you lose electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. 

While you’re in ketosis, make sure to replenish lost electrolytes through proper nutrition and taking an electrolyte drink that’s keto-friendly.

5. You Can Build Muscle

Since the low-carb pescatarian diet has more protein sources than a vegetarian diet alone, you can work on gaining muscle mass on top of losing body fat (a.k.a. body recomposition.)

A study done on 8 high-level athletes found that a very low-carb diet has no negative effect on their strength performance. While their menu wasn’t purely pescatarian-based, it included fish, raw and cooked green vegetables, eggs, and cheese (*).

In another study, females aged 20-40 years who did 10 weeks of resistance training while on a keto diet lost body fat while preserving lean body mass. Their calorie percentages from carbs, fat, and protein were as follows: 6, 66, and 22 respectively (*).

On top of ensuring the right amounts of protein and resistance training, it’s important to slightly increase your calorie intake and use carbs strategically (for example, eat them around your training sessions to support your performance.

Read more: A Guide to Building Muscle on Keto

Pescatarian Keto Food List

Here’s a list of healthy foods you can eat:

Vegetables

  • Leafy greens: spinach, kale, swiss chard, arugula, romaine lettuce
  • Cruciferous veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy, collard greens, arugula
  • Herbs and spices: garlic, onion, ginger, paprika, turmeric, black and white pepper
  • Others: asparagus, mushrooms, olives, eggplant, bell peppers, green beans, snow peas

Fruits

  • Avocados
  • Tomatoes
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Coconut meat

Fish

  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Anchovies
  • Sardines
  • Swordfish
  • Mackerel
  • Trout

Seafood

  • Oysters
  • Abalone
  • Octopus
  • Squid
  • Shrimp
  • Clams
  • Mussels
  • Crabs

Nuts and Seeds

  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Flax seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds

Eggs and Dairy

  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Butter
  • Heavy whipping cream

Beverages

  • Water
  • Sparkling water
  • Herbal teas
  • Coffee
  • Low-carb green smoothie
  • Low-carb fruit smoothie
  • Almond milk
  • Dairy milk

IMPORTANT: If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or considering becoming pregnant, it would be best to avoid eating raw or undercooked fish. This is to reduce your risk of getting exposed to potentially harmful bacteria that could affect you and your baby. Also, check with your healthcare provider for any nutrition concerns.

pescatarian keto

How to Start a Pescatarian Keto Diet

Keto for pescatarians may offer many benefits and it takes the right strategies to make it work to your advantage. If you’re a beginner, here’s how to transition smoothly.

1. Remove High-Carb Food Items from Your Kitchen

The first thing you need to do is remove anything from your kitchen that prevents you from entering ketosis, including non-pescatarian foods, such as meat and poultry.

Tip: If you live with other people who are not on this plan, consider having separate storage for your specific foods. Until you can fully control your carb cravings (in case they strike), steer clear of anything that might derail you from your new diet.

2. Determine Your Unique Daily Macronutrient Intake

The pescatarian keto diet follows the typical keto macronutrient ratio of 70-80% fat, 20-30% protein, and 5% or lower carbs. Your macros may change if you’re specifically looking to build muscle on pescatarian keto.

Use our free keto calculator to have a clear idea of how many calories, fat, protein, and carbs you need in a day to reach your goals.

3. Do a Pescatarian Keto Meal Planning Brainstorm

Meal planning helps you save time and makes it easier for you to stick to your diet. Here are a few ways to effectively plan your meals:

  • Start small. There’s no need to plan a whole month’s worth of meals. Begin by imagining the foods you can eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner during the first week.
  • Always include quick-cook meals for unexpected busy days. You’ll never know. In that case, explore five-ingredient recipes that can be ready in 15 minutes. This flourless pancake recipe, for example, is one to try.
  • Prepare (wash, peel, chop) your veggies and fruits in advance once you get home from the grocery. This will slash meal prep time. Just make sure to keep them in an airtight container in the fridge.
  • Vary your menu for a more enjoyable experience. On top of that, variation allows you to optimize your nutrient intake.

4. Create a Grocery List Based On Your Meal Ideas

Having brainstormed some pescatarian keto meals, you now have a good idea of what to include on your grocery list.

It helps to categorize your list based on grocery aisles — for example, fresh produce, frozen section, seafood, pantry, and canned goods. 

One benefit of having a clear grocery list is that it lessens the likelihood of buying unnecessary items (or items that aren’t keto-friendly).

5. Stick to Pescatarian Keto for More Than a Few Weeks

Sticking to a whole new way of eating is easier said than done.

While there is no one perfect diet — because we have unique genetics, preferences, circumstances, and more — give your current diet enough time to see if it works for you.

The first few days of the pescatarian keto diet are probably going to be the most challenging because of the keto flu, which happens within 24-72 hours of lowering your carbs.

A few tips that would help are setting realistic expectations, planning ahead (this includes unexpected situations and social gatherings), and keeping track of your progress.

A 7-Day Pescatarian Keto Meal Plan Sample

This one-week sample meal plan provides meal ideas, including our very own pescatarian keto-friendly recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Monday

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: Cheese omelet
  • Lunch: Shrimp Stacks
  • Dinner: Zucchini noodles with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Should You Try the Pescatarian Keto Diet?

The pescatarian keto diet may be a helpful approach for managing blood sugar, losing weight (and building muscle), and getting more omega-3s — among other benefits that a standard keto diet provides.

If you enjoy eating fish and seafood, in addition to vegetarian diet foods like veggies, fruits, eggs, and dairy — low-carb pescatarian may be worth trying.

It’s possible for you to feel overwhelmed in the beginning if you’ve never done keto or pescatarian before since these diets cut out food groups, specifically high-carb foods, poultry, and meat.

Simple strategies like having a definitive food list, meal planning and prepping, and being patient with the process may help make this lifestyle sustainable for you.

18 References

McGrievy G et al. A plant-based diet for overweight and obesity prevention and treatment. 2017 May

Dashti H et al. Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients. 2004

Gammone M et al. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Benefits and Endpoints in Sport. 2018 December 27

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Manage Blood Sugar. 2021 April 28

Wheatley S et al. Low Carbohydrate Dietary Approaches for People With Type 2 Diabetes—A Narrative Review. 2021 July 15

Bolla A et al. Low-Carb and Ketogenic Diets in Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. 2019 May

Yamada Y et al. A non-calorie-restricted low-carbohydrate diet is effective as an alternative therapy for patients with type 2 diabetes.

Wheatley S et al. Low Carbohydrate Dietary Approaches for People With Type 2 Diabetes—A Narrative Review. 2021 July 15

Ludwig D. The Ketogenic Diet: Evidence for Optimism but High-Quality Research Needed. 2019 December 11

Ludwig D. The Ketogenic Diet: Evidence for Optimism but High-Quality Research Needed. 2019 December 11

Gibson A et al. Do ketogenic diets really suppress appetite? A systematic review and meta-analysis. 2015 January

Coleman J et al. Body composition changes in physically active individuals consuming ketogenic diets: a systematic review. 2021 June 5

Gammone M et al. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Benefits and Endpoints in Sport. 2018 December 27

Nejad A et al. Omega-3 Supplements and Cardiovascular Diseases. 2014

Zibaeenezhad M et al. Comparison of the effect of omega-3 supplements and fresh fish on lipid profile: a randomized, open-labeled trial. 2017 December 19

Murray B et al. Fundamentals of glycogen metabolism for coaches and athletes. 2018 February 10

Paoli A et al. Ketogenic diet does not affect strength performance in elite artistic gymnasts. 2012 July 26

Jabekk P et al. Resistance training in overweight women on a ketogenic diet conserved lean body mass while reducing body fat. 2010 March 2

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