by Rachael Link, MS, RD
The keto diet has spread like wildfire in recent years. It’s popular because, not only does it allow you to load up on many of the high-fat, flavorful foods that are restricted on other diets, but it’s also filling, easy to follow and doesn’t require you to start meticulously counting calories or tracking your intake.
Although it’s just recently entered the limelight in the past few years, the ketogenic diet actually has a pretty extensive history that stretches back for centuries. Since at least 500 B.C., fasting has been used as a natural method to treat epilepsy. In the 1920s, the ketogenic diet was developed as a way to mimic the effects of fasting and aid in the treatment of seizures in children. (1)
Since then, there has been a slew of new research showing that the ketogenic diet may be therapeutic for many conditions, including cancer, diabetes, acne, neurological conditions, heart disease and obesity. (2)
So how does it work? 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 to provide extra energy, which can result in a number of potential benefits to your health.
Not only that, but 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 with none of the added ingredients and chemicals that you don’t. Studies have also shown that a higher intake of fat and protein can suppress your appetite and lower levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, more effectively than carbohydrates. (3, 4)
But what about a vegan keto diet? Is that even possible?
As a diet that’s high in fat and low in carbs — a staple in many plant-based diets — it can be difficult to adapt the ketogenic diet to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. By making a few simple switches, however, you can reap the benefits of going keto while still enjoying a well-planned, plant-based diet.
Vegan Keto Diet vs. Vegetarian Keto Diet
Although swapping out the 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 your starchy veggies for low-carb vegetarian options and also be sure to get in a hearty dose of healthy fats and protein. By cutting down on your intake of carbohydrates, your body is forced to start burning up fats to use for fuel instead of sugar, putting you into a metabolic state known as ketosis and allowing the health benefits to start racking up.
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 as well.
So what’s the difference between a vegan and vegetarian keto diet? Unlike vegetarians, vegans are more restricted in their use of animal products. While both diets eliminate meat entirely from the diet, vegetarians can include non-meat animal foods like eggs, grass-fed butter and ghee to help meet their protein and fat needs while vegans rely solely on plant products such as nuts, seeds and veggies.
Vegan Keto Diet Plan
The health benefits of vegan and vegetarian diets are well-documented; in fact, cutting meat out of your diet has been linked to many health benefits, including a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease. (5) Plus, just like regular keto, vegan keto results in some pretty impressive benefits as well, ranging from increased weight loss to improved heart health. (6)
On a vegan keto diet, healthy plant-based fats, protein foods and non-starchy vegetables should make up the bulk of your diet while high-carb foods should be consumed in moderation.
Luckily, there are limitless plant-based options for you to include in your diet, which makes following a low-carb vegan diet simple. You can also easily incorporate some nutritious and keto-friendly vegan foods into your favorite recipes and dishes to help fit them into your diet.
Walnuts, for instance, can be a delicious high-protein and high-fat addition to raw walnut tacos while whipping up a keto smoothie can be a great way to squeeze some extra servings of fat into your vegan keto breakfast.
Vegan Diet Keto Rules
Wondering how to get started? Here are a few simple guidelines that can make it much easier to navigate your way through a healthy vegan keto diet:
- 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 fiber consumed from the amount of total carbohydrates.
- Reduce your intake of high-carb foods such as high-sugar fruits, starchy vegetables, legumes, sugar and grains.
- 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, coconut milk and coconut oil.
Vegan Ketogenic Diet Food List
Next time you stop by the grocery store, make sure you keep this list of high-fat low-carb foods on hand. As you can expect, it’s different than a standard ketogenic diet food list. Being properly prepared and aware of what foods you can eat will make it easier than ever to follow a vegan keto diet or even a raw vegan ketogenic diet.
- Leafy greens
- Brussels sprouts
- Coconut oil
- MCT oil
- Olive oil
- Palm oil
Vegetarian Keto Diet Plan
Much like the vegan keto diet, a vegetarian keto diet should focus on healthy, plant-based sources of fat and protein with a good amount of high-fiber, non-starchy vegetables as well. Refined carbs, sugars and grains should also be kept to a minimum on this diet.
There are a myriad of vegetarian keto recipes available online, as well as many sample vegetarian keto diet plans that can help get you started. Recipes such as spicy roasted pumpkin seeds, palak paneer and high-fat low-carb pancakes make it super easy (and delicious) to follow a vegetarian keto diet.
Vegetarian Keto Diet Rules
The vegetarian keto diet is very similar to the vegan keto diet, but there are some additional foods that can be consumed on a vegetarian keto diet and not a vegan diet, such as eggs and grass-fed butter. Here are some simple guidelines to help get you started:
- A vegetarian keto diet should be free of all meat, but other animal products such as eggs and dairy are permitted.
- On a standard keto diet, 75 percent of calories should come from fat, 20 percent from protein and 5 percent from carbohydrates.
- On a modified keto diet, 40 percent of calories should be from fat and 30 percent should come from protein and carbs, respectively.
- Aim to stick between 30–50 grams of net carbs each day to maintain ketosis. Be sure to subtract the grams of fiber from the total grams of carbohydrates to calculate the amount of net carbs.
- To optimize your plant-based keto diet, limit your intake of high-carb foods including starchy vegetables, beans and legumes, sugars, grains and high-sugar fruits.
- Foods like low-sugar fruits, non-starchy vegetables, leafy greens, healthy fats, fermented foods, nuts and seeds are all nutritious foods that you should be plentiful in your diet.
- Keto-friendly protein foods that can be included on a vegetarian keto diet include eggs, tempeh, natto, spirulina, nutritional yeast, nuts and seeds.
- You should also include plenty of healthy fats in your diet. A few examples include grass-fed butter, ghee, coconut oil, avocados and MCT oil.
Vegetarian Keto Shopping List
So what foods are allowed on a vegetarian keto diet? Keep this vegetarian keto food list handy on your next trip to the store to make grocery shopping a breeze!
- Leafy greens
- Brussels sprouts
Vegetarian Protein Sources:
- Nutritional yeast
- Coconut oil
- MCT oil
- Olive oil
- Palm oil
- Grass-fed butter
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, so make sure you’re opting for more healthy fats instead.
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 nutritional deficiencies.
To maximize the health of your diet, include a good variety of nutrient-dense foods as well as plenty of plant-based protein foods. If you have any concerns, consider consulting with a doctor or dietitian to find what may work best for you.
- The ketogenic diet has been associated with numerous health benefits, including a reduced risk of chronic disease and weight loss.
- It can be challenging to follow a plant-based keto diet, but there are plenty of options for nutritious foods that can be included to make it easier.
- Vegetarian and vegan keto diets share many similarities, although certain foods like eggs, butter and ghee are allowed on a vegetarian keto diet and not on a vegan diet.
- Low-sugar fruits, non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats, fermented foods, nuts and seeds are all healthy foods that should be staples on a plant-based keto diet.
- Be sure to include a good variety of nutrient-dense foods to maximize the health of your diet and minimize your risk of nutritional deficiencies.