The keto diet has built up a reputation for being able to help with losing weight and keeping it off. But it is known for how much meat people eat to try to achieve their high-fat, low-carb goal. So is there a vegan keto diet that allows plant-based folks to also follow this way of eating? Surprisingly, yes.
Just as you can still go out to eat on keto by making a few tweaks, you can adapt the diet to fit whatever eating restrictions you have – you just need to get creative about it. So, it possible to be vegan and keto at the same time. But even dietitians acknowledge that it may not be the easiest to do.
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Eating a vegan keto diet is “difficult, since you’re not eating any animal protein,” says registered dietitian Vanessa Rissetto, a co-founder of Culina Health. Jessica Cording, a registered dietitian and the author of , agrees. “Technically, this is possible, but it takes a lot more planning and careful consideration than if someone was incorporating animal proteins,” Cording says.
Still, there are a lot of potential hurdles to overcome and it all revolves around how to find the right foods to eat. Rissetto points out that most foods that could help you stay vegan and go on keto would be overly processed, which would work against you if your goal is to be healthier as a whole.
So, what’s the best way to go about the vegan keto diet and what kind of foods can (and can’t) you eat on it? Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know, plus how to pull it off.
What are the perks of being vegan and keto?
A big one is that you don’t need to think about cholesterol as much as you would if you were on regular keto. “One of the downsides of traditional keto is that if someone is eating too much red meat, it can reflect poorly in their cholesterol,” Cording says. “With a plant-based approach, there is less risk of that.”
Another benefit is weight loss. If you can follow a vegan keto diet appropriately, Cording says you should be able to lose weight.
What’s on a vegan keto diet food list?
A vegan diet focuses on plant-based foods. And, in order to hit ketosis, where your body starts to burn fat instead of carbs, you need to hit all the right macros: 60 to 70 percent of your calories from fats, 15 to 30 percent from protein, and five to 10 percent from carbs.
You need to have a good sense of what provides enough calories, fat, protein, and fibre without contributing more carbohydrates, Cording says. “A lot of mainstays of plant-based proteins like beans are much trickier to incorporate if someone is doing a vegan keto diet because beans do have carbs,” she explains.
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It can be pretty easy to cover your bases with fat and still get adequate fibre – protein is the bigger struggle. Cording recommends leaning heavily into nuts and seeds, which are great sources of healthy fats and have some fibre and protein. You should also scale back a little on traditional vegan protein sources like tempeh, which is higher in carbs.
To do the vegan keto diet, Cording says you’ll want to go big on these foods:
- Nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds)
- Nut butters (peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter)
- Coconut milk
- Olive oil
- Non-starchy veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, peppers)
- Vegan “dairy” products (coconut yogurt, cashew cheese)
You can have the following in moderation:
- Grains (rice, pasta)
- Starchy veggies (potatoes, peas)
- Beans (chickpeas, blank beans, pinto beans)
- Fruits (although berries are your best bet)
You’ll also want to avoid these foods:
- Animal products (meat, honey, whey protein)
- Dairy (milk, eggs)
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What does eating a vegan keto diet look like?
A lot depends on your personal preferences and tastes, but Cording suggests trying these meal plans out, complete with dishes and snacks.
- Breakfast: A smoothie with coconut milk, greens, a handful of berries, nut butter, and hemp
- Lunch: Vegan soup with MCT oil and hemp hearts
- Dinner: A salad with avocado, broccoli, cauliflower, olive oil dressing, and sunflower seeds
- Snack: A handful of almonds
- Breakfast: Sautéed greens and tofu scramble with vegan cheese
- Lunch: Coconut cream of broccoli soup with a side of nuts
- Dinner: A seitan burger with a side of greens
- Snack: Celery sticks with peanut butter
- Breakfast: Coconut yogurt with nut and seed topping
- Lunch: A green salad with avocado, peppers, and broccoli, with a side of nuts
- Dinner: A cauliflower pizza with vegan cheese and greens on top
- Snack: Coconut fat bombs
Who should *not* follow a vegan keto diet?
Dietitians are hesitant to actually recommend this diet, given how restrictive it is. If you have a history of an eating disorder, Cording says it’s definitely best to take a pass.
But, if you feel confident in your ability to pull off the vegan keto diet and know you will be okay with the parameters, nutritionists still recommend bringing in a professional to help figure out how to make this work in the healthiest way possible. “Definitely consult an RD,” Rissetto says.
Just know this, per Cording: You’re probably going to need to add a supplement to the mix. “Even when you’re covering all your bases, you likely will need some kind of supplementation because this diet is so restrictive,” she says.
The bottom line: You can go keto if you’re vegan, but you should definitely work with a nutritionist to make sure you’re doing it right and getting all your essential nutrients.