A keto diet can bring certain health benefits, and you can follow a keto eating plan even if you’re vegan. To succeed at vegan keto, ditch the animal products and construct a low-carb, high-fat eating plan using vegan foods such as nuts, seeds, avocados and broccoli.
The keto diet is known for being quite restrictive in nature.
In order to reap the benefits of keto, you need to cut sugars and keep net carbs to under 25 grams per day. It ain’t easy.
Plus, you’re not only cutting carbs, you’re also bulking up on fats. On keto, about 80 percent of your diet and calorie intake consists of high-fat items, such as steak, pork, eggs, seafood and cheese.
Since these high-fat foods are staples in the keto diet, it presents a challenge for vegans who want to give the keto lifestyle a go.
So how exactly do you do “vegan keto,” and is it worth trying? Let’s dive in.
What is vegan keto?
Vegan keto is a plant-based ketogenic diet. “It combines a vegan diet, which is plant-based and excludes all animal products, with the ketogenic diet, which is a diet focused on making fat the primary fuel,” says Randall Evans, MS, RDN, LD.
In other words, vegan keto helps you stay plant-based while taking advantage of the benefits of ketosis for weight loss.
Alright, so what can you actually eat on vegan keto, and what’s off limits?
The biggest challenge
The biggest challenge with vegan keto is that many plant-based proteins are also very high in carbs. For example, a half a cup of lentils has about 61g of net carbs.
To put that in perspective, in order to get your daily recommended protein intake (about 46-75g of for the average female and 56-91g per day for the average male), you would also be blowing your 25g net carb budget. This makes vegan keto a bit more challenging than standard keto or a standard vegan diet.
“Soy milk, beans and lentils aren’t an option, and those foods can play a big role in a regular vegan diet. People following a vegan keto diet will most likely need to use unsweetened pea protein powder,” says Seattle-based registered dietitian, Ginger Hultin, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Yet as long as you eat enough good proteins allowed from the list below and combine when needed, you should be okay. Plus, adding supplements will help you get the nutrients you need.
What to eat on a vegan keto diet
On a vegan ketogenic diet, fat is the primary fuel.
As long as you’re hitting your macros — 70-80% fat, 20-25% protein and 5-10% carbs — you’ll be in good shape for ketosis.
Foods you can eat on vegan keto:
Here’s a list of foods that are vegan keto-friendly. We’ve included each food’s net carb count per 100 grams.
Nuts and seeds
- Hazelnuts (7g net carbs)
- Walnuts (7g net carbs)
- Pecans (4g net carbs)
- Macadamia nuts (5g net carbs)
- Brazil nuts (4g net carbs)
- Chia seeds (8g net carbs)
- Flax seeds (2g net carbs)
- Hemp seeds (5g net carbs)
Nut butters of these nuts and seeds are also recommended.
- Avocados (2g net carbs)
- Coconut (8g net carbs)
- Olives (3g net carbs)
- Avocado oil (2g net carbs)
- Coconut oil (0g net carbs)
- Olive oil (0g net carbs)
- MCT oil (0g net carbs)
- Almond oil (0g net carbs)
Greens and non-starchy veggies
- Kale (3g net carbs)
- Lettuce (2g net carbs)
- Broccoli (4g net carbs)
- Cauliflower (3g net carbs)
- Bell peppers (3g net carbs)
- Asparagus (2g net carbs)
- Cabbage (3g net carbs)
- Celery (1g net carbs)
- Spinach (1g net carbs)
- Brussels sprouts (5g net carbs)
- Sauerkraut (3g net carbs)
- Summer squash (3g net carbs)
- Radish (2g net carbs).
Low-carb and low-sugar fruits
- Lemons (6g net carbs)
- Tomatoes (3g net carbs)
- Blackberries 5g net carbs)
- Raspberries (5g net carbs)
- Strawberries (6g net carbs)
- Tempeh (8g net carbs)
- Tofu (1g net carbs)
- Edamame (5g net carbs)
- Unsweetened almond milk (0g net carbs)
- Unsweetened coconut milk (0g net carbs)
- Hemp milk (8g net carbs)
Sugars and sweeteners
- Monk fruit sugar (0-25g net carbs)
- Erythritol (5g net carbs)
- Inulin-based (1g net carbs)
- Sucralose (0g net carbs)
Alcohol, coffee and other beverages
- Coffee (0g net carbs)
- Water with Lemon (0g net carbs)
- Tea (0g net carbs)
- Wine (2g net carbs)
Foods you can’t eat on vegan keto:
Here’s a list of foods we recommend avoiding on the vegan keto diet. Again, we’ve included each food’s net carb count per 100g.
- Meat (0g net carbs)
- Fish (0g net carbs)
- Poultry (0g net carbs)
- Eggs (1g net carbs)
- Milk (11g net carbs)
- Cheese (1g net carbs)
- Gelatin (0g net carbs)
- Honey (82g net carbs)
- Soybean oil (0g net carbs)
- Canola oil (0g net carbs)
- Peanut oil (0g net carbs)
- Sesame oil (0g net carbs)
- Oats (57g net carbs)
- Quinoa (57g net carbs)
- Brown rice (72g net carbs)
- White rice (77g net carbs)
- Buckwheat (62g net carbs)
- Barley (62g net carbs)
- Millet (64g net carbs)
- Potatoes (15g net carbs)
- Corn (17g net carbs)
- Peas (8g net carbs)
- Sweet potatoes (17g net carbs)
- Apples (12g net carbs)
- Bananas (20g net carbs)
- Watermelon (7g net carbs)
- Mango (13g net carbs)
- Oranges (9g net carbs)
- Grapes (16g net carbs)
- Pineapple (12g net carbs)
- Blueberries (12g net carbs)
- Lentils (61g net carbs)
- Chickpeas (50g net carbs)
- Black beans (46g net carbs)
- Pinto beans (14g net carbs)
- Kidney beans (46g net carbs)
Sugar and sweeteners
- Cane sugar (100g net carbs)
- Ggave nectar (75g net carbs)
- Corn syrup (77g net carbs)
- Maple syrup (67g net carbs)
Alcohol and other beverages
- Energy drink (28g net carbs)
- Beer (13g net carbs)
- Hard cider (13g net carbs)
We recommend avoiding sweetened wines and other alcoholic beverages or cocktails as well.
Does it work for weight loss?
“I have not seen research on vegan keto, but it may exist. Keto research is now very popular, but much of the research we have on types of keto is new. It’s still evolving, as is the research on the mechanisms that make the diet effective for chronic health issues and weight loss,” says Evans.
“Vegan diets are strongly linked to a number of health benefits. They are used to prevent and treat diabetes and heart conditions including high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They have been shown to reduce the incidence of some cancers, too,” says Hultin.
There is a lot that we don’t know. We have plenty of research on using vegan diets for weight loss and there is similar research showing keto to be effective for weight loss. It makes sense there could be some synergy in combining the two diets.
Are there drawbacks?
The biggest danger with this type of diet is that it’s very restrictive. “Anyone with an eating disorder or problems with their relationship to food should not attempt it,” says Hultin. Plus, it will be a challenge on a vegan keto diet to meet protein and fiber needs, so work with a registered dietitian to make sure you’re being safe.
“Over time, we have seen vegan patients become low in B12, other B vitamins, and other nutrients such as magnesium, zinc, calcium, vitamin D and iron. It’s best to check with your doctor when considering major diet changes so you can work together to keep track of nutrient levels,” says Evans.
As with any restrictive diet, it’s important to make sure you’re meeting all your nutritional needs. “As a dietitian, I use a lot of caution with a diet this restrictive. Anyone on a vegan diet needs to be supplementing with B12. A multi-vitamin, extra calcium, vitamin D or iron may also need to be considered,” says Hultin.
Who is vegan keto not for?
This diet isn’t for everyone. “Anyone underweight, with blood sugar or blood pressure control issues, with an eating disorder, pregnant or breastfeeding, at risk for malnutrition or who has increased needs due to a chronic disease or condition should probably not use it. I definitely would not support using this diet for a child or teen,” adds Hultin.
Lastly, “constipation is always a real challenge on keto so if this type of GI issue is a problem for you, use extra caution,” says Hultin.
Should you go on a vegan keto diet?
As long as you properly monitor macronutrient requirements and intake, take supplements if needed, plan balanced meals accordingly, and don’t fall into one of the categories mentioned by Hultin above, you should be able to thrive on a vegan keto diet.
You’d be burning ketones and fat, losing weight, and remaining fueled on a meatless lifestyle.
Here are some tips on how to do it well
Tip #1: Ease into it. It is best to transition to a new diet gradually.
“For vegan keto, we would prefer someone to be a long term or stable vegan patient who slowly transitions to vegan keto over time. Doing this allows your body and metabolism to adjust to diet changes,” says Evans.
Tip #2: Consider working with a dietitian. A dietician can help you meal plan efficiently. This professional can also track your macro intake to make sure you are in ketosis and getting enough nutrition each day.
Vegan keto meal plan ideas
Here are few vegan keto meal plans to get you started.
Breakfast: Tofu scramble with kale and avocado
Lunch: Zoodles with avocado pesto sauce, sauteed greens, and mushrooms
Dinner: Tempeh slices over salad on greens with peanut sauce
Dessert: Chia seed pudding (use stevia for a sweetener)
Snacks: Nuts/seeds (as much as you can while controlling carb content), protein shake (hemp milk with a low-carb protein powder, such as pea)
Fries are not keto, but these are made keto by using avocado for good fats, and they are totally vegan too. Give them a kick with good spices like cayenne, garlic and chili powder. These spices add flavor and speed up your metabolism.
Fat: 48g, carbs: 9g, protein: 13g
These vegan grits are made of cauliflower as a low-carb substitute for grains, and there’s mushroom for that savory and meaty flavor. It’s a good choice when you want something hearty and rich. Top with avocado for fats.
Fat: 38g, carbs: 11g, protein: 9g
These energy bites are low in carbs and high in fats from the almonds and coconut, plus there is protein to keep you fuller longer. They’re a quick and easy snack to enjoy when you’re on the go.
Fat: 20g, carbs: 20g, protein: 6g
Explore the vegan keto lifestyle by experimenting with the recipes and meal plan ideas discussed above.
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