Considering jumping on the keto train and riding it all the way to weight loss and a vitality boost? Are you also a dedicated vegan who has no intention of eating animal-based foods?
If so, it sounds like a vegan keto diet is just the ticket. But we won't beat around the bush here, sticking to a strict vegan diet on keto can be tough. After all, so many of the keto recipes and meal plans you see are stuffed with meat, cheese, fish, and eggs.
That said, tough doesn't mean impossible, and as the adage goes, when there's a will, there's a way. With that affirmation in mind, here we go over everything you need to know about a vegan keto diet. We'll cover the basics and offer up some nifty ways to make this keto vegan thing work for you.
But first up, what does it even mean to eat vegan keto?
Vegan Ketosis Diets
In a nutshell, a vegan keto diet is characterized by two key factors:
The prime reason why people follow this diet plan is to reach a state known as ketosis. In ketosis, your body makes a rather remarkable shift; it begins to use fat for energy rather than its standard carbohydrates.
And because you're not consuming much carbohydrate (less than 50 grams a day is standard) the body turns to stored fat. The result can be a rather dramatic weight loss, more on that in the next section. Dieters also want to follow a way of eating which is ethically and environmentally sound.
Contrary to popular belief, a keto diet is not primarily about eating a lot of protein. It isn't the Atkins diet, after all. Instead, keto followers rely on fat for the majority of their daily energy needs. And when it comes to fats, there are plenty of healthy plant-based choices such as avocado, olive oil, and coconut oil. So you can see that eating a vegan keto diet isn't as incompatible as many first suspect.
If you're struggling in the grocery store, try getting meal delivery on a vegan diet.
Why Eat Keto Anyway?
At this point, you might be wondering why people choose to eat keto. And the answer to that question is not universal, rather, there are a range of reasons to follow a keto eating plan. According to anecdotal evidence and scientific literature on the subject, here are some of the top reasons why people make the switch to a keto diet:
To control blood sugar levels
For many people struggling with type 2 diabetes, a ketogenic diet is a godsend. Because the diet helps the body to maintain glucose (sugar) levels at an even level and avoid spikes, there is a correlation between keto diets and a lowered need for insulin (1).
To lose weight
Ketogenic diet plans are known for their efficacy when it comes to losing weight fast. For that reason, many clinicians suggest something akin to a keto diet when there is a need for rapid weight loss, such as prior to an essential surgery. Outside of a clinical context, much anecdotal evidence abounds from dieters who have lost tremendous amounts of weight on a high fat keto diet.
To help control epilepsy
Did you know that the ketogenic diet was invented in the 1920s? Back then it was primarily used to control epilepsy and it remained the control measure of choice until the advent of antiepileptic medicines. Today, a keto diet is still prescribed to people with epilepsy who do not respond well to medication (2).
According to relatively new research from 2005, a "dietary regimen can dramatically affect the expression of genes and the function of neurons within the brain, which enhances the ability of these neurons to withstand the metabolic challenges of epileptic seizures" (3).
Relieve the symptoms of polycystic ovary disease (PCOS)
PCOS is characterized by a hormonal dysfunction that frequently results in infertility and irregular menstruation. Because PCOS comes hand in hand with insulin resistance, it seems that a ketogenic diet can help women struggling to control the symptoms of the disease.
While abundant anecdotal evidence is available online, studies covering the link between PCOS and ketogenic eating are few and far between.
For greater energy levels
While this might be hard to quantitatively measure, many people who follow a keto diet note that they have increased energy levels and feel better in themselves.
These are just a few of the reasons why dieters turn to a keto diet plan. There are other health conditions, such as metabolic syndrome (which is linked to heart disease), that may also benefit from ketogenic eating plans. For example, Healthline lists 15 distinct health conditions that keto could potentially aid (4).
Why Eat Vegan Anyway?
There is little doubt that a vegan diet offers up some serious environmental, ethical, and health benefits. Proponents of veganism are often strident about their choice of diet, and with many good reasons to be.
After all, ditching animal products and making the switch to a plant-based lifestyle is one way to do your part for the environment and the climate, all while eating a range of delicious foods that are not animal-based.
Here are some of the top arguments for a strict vegan diet:
Of course, for every argument for veganism, you will find an equal number of arguments against. It has become a hot topic of discussion and one that can be quite polarizing, just think of all those anti-vegan memes and jokes!
Ultimately, though, the decision to switch to a plant-based vegan diet is an individual choice. If you feel that a vegan or vegan keto diet is right for you, go for it. Remember that you don't have to justify your diet choices to others, nor do you need to spend time and energy defending a vegan diet, how you get enough protein, or any other pesky vegan questions.
How to Eat a Vegan Keto Diet
Now that we've looked at why people might want to start a keto diet plan, we can take a look at how vegan keto actually works, what you can eat, what you should avoid, and how to keep your healthy fat levels up and your carbs low.
As we mentioned above, a true keto diet has three defining features:
The biggest challenge involved in keto for vegans is hitting your daily protein needs. You need to get enough protein to keep you feeling sated, although, the high levels of healthy fats you eat on a vegan keto diet will also help with that.
As you can see from the percentages above, 75 percent of your daily calories should come from fats, while 20 percent is protein and the remaining 5 percent is carbs.
Note that the carbohydrate percentage here refers to net carbs, which is the total amount of carbohydrate in any foods minus the fiber. So, you can still eat veg on keto, but you'll need to choose wisely to keep your carbohydrate macros low enough to stay in ketosis.
Getting meal delivery for a keto diet can be an easy way to make sure you're getting everything you need.
Next, let’s go over which foods are suitable on a vegan keto diet. For easy reference, we’ve broken this down into fats, protein, and carbs.
Getting Your Healthy Fats on a Vegan Keto Diet
When it comes to plant-based fats, you have a lot more choice than you might have first imagined. On a keto diet, the rule is to stick to so-called good fats, such as in avocados. You should also avoid the "bad" fats, such as artificial trans fats and saturated fats found in fast food and its ilk. These bad fats have also been linked to heart disease, and so should be avoided by everyone, vegan keto or not!
To get your daily fats up to 75 percent of your daily calorie intake, try the following:
Getting the majority of your daily energy needs from fats might seem daunting at first, but you'll find that it's relatively easy once you get into the swing of things. Try adding a teaspoon of coconut oil to your morning coffee, or nibbling on a spoon of cashew butter for an afternoon pick me up.
Getting Enough Protein on a Vegan Keto Diet
One of the trickiest things about a vegan keto diet is hitting your goal of 20 percent protein in your daily macros. But as with fats above, there are more choices than many people suspect. And don't worry, you won't have to eat three bags of spinach a day, although you can if it takes your fancy of course!
Try these healthy plant-based alternatives to meat to keep your protein count up:
Carbs on a Vegan Keto Diet
Now we come to the trickiest of the three macronutrients to balance on a vegan keto diet: carbohydrates.
Where on a higher carb vegan diet individuals often combine rice with beans to make a complete protein, this isn’t possible on vegan keto. Instead, you should aim to keep your carbohydrate intake to around 5 percent of your daily calories.
What this means in practice is carefully choosing vegetables and fruits that have a low carbohydrate count. Remember, some fruits and veggies have a lot of fiber, and it’s net carbs you’re counting as opposed to total carbs.
Try these delicious, nutritious, and low-carb choices:
Sample Vegan Keto Diet (Three Days)
To help get you started, here's an example of what you might eat in three days on a keto-friendly vegan diet.
Breakfast: Overnight chia pudding with full-fat coconut yogurt, almonds, and a small handful of blueberries
Lunch: Tofu scrambled with avocado, cashew and basil pesto, and vegan cheese
Dinner: Vegetables pan-fried with coconut oil and spices, and pea protein based vegan "meat"
Snacks: Olives, nuts and seeds, almond butter
Breakfast: Smoothie of kale, hemp protein powder, water, and half an apple
Lunch: Zoodles (zucchini noodles) with bolognese sauce and soy protein
Dinner: Vegan moussaka with eggplant and vegan cheese
Snacks: Coconut milk, nuts and seeds, red cabbage dressed with olive oil
Breakfast: Coconut yogurt, strawberries, pumpkin seeds, and cashew nuts
Lunch: Tofu pan-fried with soy sauce and chilli
Dinner: Cauliflower “fried rice” with green beans and olive oil avocado and mushrooms
Snacks: Hemp protein powder smoothie, coconut milk, fat bombs
The Health Benefits of a Vegan Keto Diet
At this point you might be wondering how in the heck you're going to stick to a vegan keto diet, you might even be wondering if veganism is for you.
But don't despair, for all the drawbacks that come with this restrictive way of eating, there are plenty of pros. Here are some of the top health benefits of a strict ketogenic vegan diet:
Issues With a Vegan Keto Diet
Up until now we've mostly focused on the positives of a strict vegan ketogenic way of eating. But there are few downsides you should be aware of before jumping straight in. Here are some of the issues you may encounter on this eating plan:
Vegan Keto Diets FAQs
You asked, we answered. Here are your most pressing questions about keto vegan diets:
You certainly can, making the switch to a vegan diet has plenty of long-term health benefits alongside a range of environmental and ethical benefits. Ketogenic eating also offers up some pretty impressive health benefits.
Combined, the two do make one of the most restrictive eating plans, so you need to be well informed about keeping your high-fat diet safe and healthy. You will also need strategies in place to ensure you get enough protein each day.
Note that a vegan keto diet may not be for everyone and it could even cause health issues. If you have questions or concerns, please speak to your GP before going vegan keto.
Plenty of delicious plant-based foods! So long as the foods in question don't contain any animal products or products derived from animals and have a low-carb count, you're free to much away with impunity.
In many ways, a vegan keto diet is much like a vegan diet, except you'll need to keep your carbohydrate count a lot lower to enact metabolic changes in your body.
Do Eat: Plenty of healthy, plant-based fat, full-fat vegan dairy options, low-carb and high-fiber vegetables, seeds, and nuts
Please take a look above for a three-day sample vegan keto diet.
You need to avoid any foods that are made of animal products, so meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and honey are all off the table. Additionally, you need to limit your carbohydrate intake to 50 grams or less per day.
Don't Eat: Any animal products, high carbohydrate vegetables like carrots, beetroot, potato, and sweet potato, trans fat foods, low-fat foods or low-fat vegan dairy alternatives, high-sugar fruits
Ah, the million-dollar question! Unfortunately, there is no absolute answer to this. Because we all differ slightly in our physiology, our bodies respond differently to different diets. While a keto diet may serve one person well, it may not suit another. And likewise with a vegan diet.
Vegan diets have been linked to plenty of health bonuses, but so too have ketogenic eating plans. You will find scientific literature that supports each diet. Talk to your doctor to find out which is best for your unique situation if you cannot decide between the two.
Will You Go Vegan Keto?
That marks the end of our exploration into a vegan keto diet and the delicious foods you can eat, plus a few that you can't. Hopefully, our guide has been helpful and you're equipped with the knowledge you need to start a high-fat, protein-packed vegan keto plan.
1. Bolla, Caretto, Laurenzi, Scavini, & Piemonti. (2019). Low-Carb and Ketogenic Diets in Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. Nutrients, 11(5), 962. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11050962
2. Wheless, J. (2008). History of the ketogenic diet. Epilepsia, 49, 3-5. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1528-1167.2008.01821.x
3. Ketogenic Diet Prevents Seizures By Enhancing Brain Energy Production, Increasing Neuron Stability. ScienceDaily. (2020). Retrieved 10 August 2020, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051114220938.htm