The short answer to the question, “Can I do the AIP as a Vegetarian?” is … NO … but before you throw up your hands and say – “the AIP isn’t for me” – I want you to understand why and a little bit more about the protocol itself.
Trust me, this is not just some off the cuff response from someone that doesn’t love animals! Before I started my AIP journey I had SERIOUSLY considered becoming a vegetarian or pescatarian myself, so I found this information extremely interesting and it helped me make my decision too.
I see a LOT of people join my AIP Recipe Collection Facebook Group who mention they’re struggling trying to find vegetarian recipes for the elimination stage of their AIP journey … well, there’s a actually good reason for that, and you’ve come to the right place to learn why.
Through my AIP research I’ve run across a number of AIP bloggers and experts that USED TO BE vegetarian but found it necessary to incorporate quality grass-fed, grain free meat and wild caught fish in their diets in order to achieve maximum nutrient sufficiency which is required for healing.
Update to the AIP & What It Means for Vegetarians
In January of 2024, the AIP received a bit of an update. The main protocol remains the same, there has just been a new, additional option for the elimination phase that might make vegetarianism during the AIP elimination stage a possibility. For complete details on the “Modified” AIP Elimination Stage, please read more here – ANNOUNCING Modified AIP: A 2024 Update to the Autoimmune Protocol
FAQ: Can I do the AIP Elimination Stage as a Vegetarian or Vegan?
The Short Answer: “No!”
The Reason + Good News: “With Core AIP Elimination we never recommend doing a vegetarian or vegan implementation of that original protocol, simply because it is protein deficient – you cannot meet minimum nutrient needs. But with Modified AIP I do think that you could do a vegetarian approach … if it’s well planned. And so my recommendation would be to work with someone who understands minimum protein and nutrient needs that can help design an elimination phase that is compliant with a modified AIP. And it’s far better if you’re someone that’s willing to eat some seafood or even some poultry. I’ve worked with a lot of people who have done Core AIP that way and have been very successful. But now, with Modified AIP, because you can include beans and rice, you have a better chance of meeting nutritional needs, but I would still say it’s still hard, so I would seek professional guidance for trying that.”
Source: The 5th Annual AIP Summit (2024) – “Introducing the New AIP Modified Elimination Phase” (Presentation by Mickey Trescott, M.Sc., FNTP and AIP Certified Coach and Jaime Hartman, M.Ed., NBC-HWC, FNTP and AIP Certified Coach)
More About The Why’s
If you’ve made it this far, I encourage you to learn more about this topic from our friend, Mickey Trescott. Mickey was a vegan at one point in her life and her story is a valuable one for anyone facing this question about managing the AIP as a vegetarian or vegan – Read more about Mickey’s Recovery Journey by clicking here.
Mickey also wrote a fantastic article, called AIP is a Plant-Based Protocol, that helps dispel some of the myths surrounding the AIP. Unfortunately many people think the AIP, being a variation of the Paleo diet, concentrates heavily on the consumption of animal protein … this is not the case. The AIP is actually a plant-based protocol with its focus on nutrient density. I found it interesting to hear Mickey say she eats more vegetables on the AIP than she did as a vegetarian!
On the topic of eating more veggies, you might enjoy my article – Eat the Rainbow – click here to read about our veggie intake goals on the AIP.
You can learn even more in this in-depth article on the topic by Eileen Baird that compares the nutrition of vegetarians to those on a Paleo or AIP diet and then she offers excellent tips on how to transition to eating meat after being a vegetarian – it’s recognized that this can be a real challenge. Check out the article here – such a great resource.
And then you can read Mickey’s latest article Transitioning to AIP from a Vegan or Vegetarian Diet.