By Rachael Link, RD
The keto diet has gained a massive following in recent years because it can help promote a healthy weight and weight management even when loading up on healthy, high-fat, flavorful foods. For many people, the keto diet doesn’t seem as restrictive as some other diets, plus it’s also filling, easy to follow and doesn’t require you to start meticulously counting calories.
Like the keto diet, vegan diets have also become more popular in recent decades due to associated benefits such as help with healthy weight management and support for cardiovascular and metabolic health.
For people who are willing to go the extra mile, combining these two diets — and committing to a vegan keto diet — may have big payoffs; however, it can also be difficult to follow due to many restrictions.
As a diet that’s high in fat and low in carbs — essentially the opposite of many plant-based diets — it can be difficult to adapt the ketogenic diet to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. But by making a few simple switches, you can reap the benefits of going keto while still enjoying a well-planned, plant-based diet.
What Is A Vegan Keto Diet?
A vegan keto diet is a plant-based version of the ketogenic diet. The keto diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein and very low-carb diet that maximizes the body’s ability to create and burn ketones for fuel rather than carbs. When someone follows a vegan keto diet, they avoid both animal products and high-carb foods.
How does the keto diet work exactly? Severely restricting your intake of carbs deprives your body of glucose, which is the primary source of fuel for the cells. Instead, your body starts burning up fat (from your diet and your own stored body fat) to provide extra energy, which can result in a number of potential benefits to your health.
Increasing your intake of healthy fats and protein while reducing your intake of empty carbs can help ensure that you’re getting all of the essential nutrients that you need, even while you burn fat for energy.
A higher intake of fat and protein can also help suppress your appetite and lower levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, more effectively than carbohydrates alone can.
Vegan vs. Vegetarian Keto Diet
A vegan diet is a strict plant-based diet that excludes all animal products — including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products and even honey.
When someone follows a vegan diet that is also very low in carbs and high in fat, it’s considered a vegan keto diet. This type of diet is even more restrictive than a typical vegan diet because it also excludes plant-based foods that are naturally high in carbs and sugar, such as fruit, potatoes and whole grains.
A vegetarian diet is also a plant-based diet, meaning it doesn’t include meat, poultry or fish/seafood, but may include dairy and eggs, unlike a vegan diet. A vegetarian keto diet excludes meat, poultry, fish and high-carb foods like fruit, potatoes, whole grains and potentially some dairy products and legumes.
While both diets eliminate meat entirely from the diet, vegetarians may choose to include non-meat animal foods like eggs, grass-fed butter and ghee in their diets to help meet their protein and fat needs. Vegans, on the other hand, rely solely on plant products such as nuts, seeds and veggies.
Vegan Keto Diet Plan and Rules
Although swapping out animal products and meat can make the ketogenic diet slightly more challenging, it’s far from impossible to follow a vegan or vegetarian keto diet.
Just like on a standard keto diet, the key is to trade in most fruits and starchy veggies for low-carb vegetarian options, while also being sure to get in hearty servings of healthy or performance fats and protein.
- On a vegan keto diet, healthy plant-based fats, protein foods and non-starchy vegetables should make up the bulk of your diet.
- High-carb foods should be consumed in moderation. This includes high-sugar fruits, starchy vegetables, legumes, sugar and grains.
- A vegan keto diet should not include any meat or animal products, including dairy, honey or eggs.
- The standard keto diet should consist of about 75 percent of calories from fat, 20 percent from protein and just 5 percent from carbohydrates.
- On a less restrictive modified keto diet, fat should make up about 40 percent of calories and 30 percent of calories should come from proteins and carbs, respectively.
- For most people, 30-50 grams of net carbs daily is enough to stay in ketosis. Net carbs are calculated by subtracting the grams of keto friendly fiber consumed from the amount of total carbohydrates.
- Include plenty of low-carb, nutrient-dense foods in your diet instead. Nuts, seeds, low-carb fruits and veggies, leafy greens, healthy fats and fermented foods are all excellent choices on a plant-based keto diet.
- Be sure to eat plenty of plant-based proteins, such as tempeh, natto, nutritional yeast, spirulina, nuts and seeds.
- Additionally, consume a good amount of healthy plant-based fats such as avocados, and performance fats such as coconut milk and coconut oil.
Vegan Ketogenic Diet Food List
Most ketogenic diet plans emphasize the consumption of animal-based products such as grass-fed butter and unprocessed meats, which can make it hard if you’re trying to cut back on your intake of these foods or follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Fortunately, however, there are also plenty of other high-fat, plant-based choices available for you to choose from:
- Leafy greens
- Brussels sprouts
Low-Sugar Fruits (stick to about ¼ to ½ cup daily):
- Nutritional yeast
- If following vegetarian keto diet, eggs, cheese and a small amount of full-fat yogurt can also be included
Healthy Fats and Performance Fats:
- Coconut oil
- MCT oil
- Olive oil
- Palm oil
- If following vegetarian keto diet, grass-fed butter and ghee can be included
Vegan Keto Protein Supplements
Because a vegan keto diet does not include any meat, fish, eggs or dairy, consuming enough protein can be challenging.
Eating an adequate amount of protein is important for functions including building muscle mass and supporting health energy levels. This is where Ancient Nutrition’s Keto Plant Protein supplement can come in handy; it’s a vegan protein powder made from a blend of superfoods, including hemp, chia, pumpkin, sunflower seeds and others.
Adding some to your daily routine makes it super convenient to consume a serving of plant-based protein each day, plus it’s ideal for keto dieters since it’s low in both sugar and carbs. It’s also one of the only vegan and made without dairy, made without soy and made without grain protein powders available.
Keto Plant Protein comes in two delicious flavors, vanilla and chocolate, and offers 11 grams of protein per serving, along with 11 grams of fat and a blend of superfood botanicals.
This unique combination can help support you as you transition into ketosis and can also support a generally healthy body composition, fat metabolism, increased muscle recovery, sexual function, a positive mindset and much more. You can benefit from this product whether or not you are following a keto diet or lifestyle.
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat diet, but it’s crucial to be smart about what types of fat you’re including. Filling up on fatty foods like processed faux meats may help you hit your goals for fat intake, but they can also negate the potential health-promoting properties of the ketogenic diet.
Additionally, although following a plant-based keto diet can come with a multitude of health benefits, a poorly planned vegetarian or vegan keto diet can actually increase your risk of running low in certain essential nutrients, for example vitamin B12, iron and zinc.
To maximize the health of your diet, include a good variety of nutrient-dense foods as well as plenty of plant-based protein foods. Remember non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats, fermented foods, nuts and seeds are all healthy foods that should be staples on a plant-based keto diet.
You may also choose to supplement with some of the best supplements for vegans and vegetarians to help ensure you’re meeting your nutritional needs. As always, if you have any concerns, consider consulting with a doctor or dietitian to find what may work best for you. Of course, you should also consult your healthcare professional prior to starting any new diet or lifestyle regimen.
Rachael Link, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian based in New York City. She completed her undergraduate degree in Dietetics at the University of Central Missouri and later received her Master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. Rachael is passionate about plant-based nutrition and enjoys providing easy-to-understand information to readers looking to support their health.