Considering the fact that low carb, ketogenic eating has been linked to numerous benefits such as weight loss, blood sugar control, protection against brain disorders and cancer, improved mood and anxiety reduction, it’s easy to see why 1https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-benefits-of-low-carb-ketogenic-diets2https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/mental-health.
There’s just one small problem…
The typical keto diet that most people follow is FULL of animal products such as meat and eggs, which understandably leaves many vegan’s wondering if the benefit’s associated with ketogenic eating are out of reach for them.
If that’s you – breathe a sigh of relief.
While it may seem tricky at first, it is entirely possible to reap the fat burning benefits of the ketogenic diet as a vegan, especially with the resources on this website.
This post will provide you with a step by step example 1-week meal plan, and hopefully you’ll come away with a feeling that vegan keto is not only achievable but a simple, healthy and effective choice for weight loss and numerous other benefits.
Before you begin any vegan keto diet plan there are 5 rules you must follow to enter ketosis as a vegan.
Rule 1: Avoid all animal products
A vegan is defined as somebody who “does not eat or use animal products”. This can mean choosing vegan supplement capsules (if you take supplements) and avoiding any products where an animal was involved in the production line, however how far you take this is up to you.
For the purposes of the ketogenic diet, vegan means not consuming any animal products including meat, fish, poultry and dairy.
Rule 2: Restrict net carbs to between 25-50g per day
Most people find that they need to eat less than 50g of net carbohydrates per day to achieve a state of nutritional ketosis 3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3826507/.
Net carbs are total carbs minus fiber. When following a ketogenic diet net carbs (not total carbs) are what counts because fiber basically does not affect blood sugar4https://dtc.ucsf.edu/living-with-diabetes/diet-and-nutrition/understanding-carbohydrates/counting-carbohydrates/learning-to-read-labels/understanding-fiber/.
There are varying levels of ketosis and eating less 20g net carbs is a guarantee to put most people into deep nutritional ketosis, however on a vegan keto diet this extremely low level of carbs is not desirable as it greatly restricts the amount of valuable nutrients in your diet.
Generally a safe net carb range for a vegan ketogenic diet is in the lower range of 25g – 50g unless you are burning a lot of energy and consuming more calories, at which point you may be able to increase your net carb intake above 50g 5https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3826507/.
Rule 3: Consume at least 0.41g of plant based protein per pound of bodyweight per day (for sedentary people)
Protein is a vital nutrient provides many important functions in the body, so it’s important to get enough 6https://www.webmd.com/men/features/benefits-protein#1.
The recommended daily intake of protein for people either not exercising or exercising moderately is 0.36g per pound of body weight. Adjusted for the fact that plant-based proteins absorb are metabolized about 10% less efficiently than animal proteins because they are more similar to our own protein, the RDA of protein for vegans is 0.41g per pound of body weight per day 7https://www.vrg.org/nutrition/protein.php.
For example a 160 pound woman who is exercising moderately would require 65.6g of protein per day (160 x 0.41 = 65.6).
Note that vegan athletes on the other hand (who are training with rigorous physical activity) have higher protein requirements between 0.41g- 0.95g of plant protein per pound of body weight.
If you’d like to learn more about macros on vegan keto, see this article which is dedicated to the subject.
Rule 4: Get the rest of your macro-nutrients from plant based fats
For most people carbohydrates are their primary source of energy, whereas on a ketogenic diet the body enters a natural metabolic state called nutritional ketosis and switches its primary energy source to fat 8https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/.
When on a vegan ketogenic diet you will typically consume between 60-75% of your calories from fat. You do not need to measure fat intake – instead you measure the net carb intake to ensure it is sufficiently low and the protein intake to ensure it is sufficiently high. After that, you simply fill in the rest with healthy fats with foods like avocado, nuts, seeds and healthy oils like coconut and olive oil.
Rule 5: Supplement to fill any potential nutrient gaps (vitamin b12, iron, zinc etc)
With vegan keto in particular you omit most beans, grains and legumes which are vital sources of certain nutrients such as calcium, iron and zinc 9https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-supplements-for-vegans.
Supplementing with a comprehensive vegan vitamin tablet can be can be a good way to fill any potential nutrient gaps 10https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12778049.
One example of a quality vegan multivatim for keto is the ‘Deva Vegan Multivitamin’. It has a large range of vital nutrients in each tablet including a full daily allowance of vitamin b12 and can be purchased at a reasonable price. If you would like to check it out you can find it here.
Meat, poultry and fish are on the front row in the standard ketogenic diet because they are composed entirely of protein and fat. This makes meat an easy “go to” food source because it doesn’t add anything to your daily net carb count.
A vegan ketogenic diet clearly does not include meat, but there plenty of other food choices that allow vegan’s to stay within their net carb limits.
Foods to eat
- Dark Leafy Greens – Spinach, Collard Greens, Swiss Chard, Kale, Spring Mixes etc
- Low Carb Vegetables – Broccoli, Cauliflower, Mushrooms, Zucchini, Asparagus etc
- Nuts – Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Macadamia Nuts, Hazelnuts, Pecans etc
- Seeds – Chia Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Flaxseed, Hemp Seeds etc
- Meat Substitutes – Tofu, Tempeh, Seitan, Quorn etc
- Avocados – A delicious high fat fruit that deserves its own spot on the list
- Low Carb Berries – Raspberries, Blackberries, Strawberries etc
- Vegan Dairy – Coconut Yoghurt, Almond Milk, Coconut Milk, Coconut Cream, Vegan Cheese etc
- Nut Butters – Almond Butter, Coconut Butter, Sunflower Seed Butter etc
- Low Carb Sweeteners – Stevia, Erythritol etc
- Vegetable Oils – Coconut Oil, Avocado Oil, Olive Oil, Sesame Oil etc
Foods to avoid:
- Grains – Rice, Oats, Barley, Corn, Quinoa, Rye etc
- Legumes – Kidney Beans, Black Beans, Lentils, Peas etc
- Starchy Vegetables – Potato, Sweet Potato, Yam, Parsnip, Pumpkin etc
- High Carb Fruits – Bananas, Oranges, Apples, Peaches, Plums etc
- Sugar – Golden Syrup, Honey, Agave, White Sugar, Brown Sugar etc
If you’d like to learn more about what foods you can eat on vegan keto see this list of over 100 low cab vegan foods.
Now, because many standard vegan staples such as rice, quinoa, lentils and beans are not allowed when doing vegan keto – it can bit of a balancing act. Trying to meet your calorie and protein requirements while restricting your net carbs poses a unique challenge.
You need to avoid virtually all the foods in the ‘avoid’ list, and restrict your food intake to items on the ‘eat’ list, and make sure you monitor your carbohydrate intake (at least in the beginning).
In addition, just because an item is listed on the ‘eat’ list does not mean you can consume unlimited amounts of it.
For example the difference between ½ cup and 1 cup of strawberry halves is 4g net carbs. With a daily net carb limit of 30g net carbs, you can see how we need to be careful with your portions.
That said, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. With a little planning (and the 1-week meal plan below) you’ll see vegan keto can be very simple.
If you look up “low carb vegan recipes” on the internet and add up up the net carbs, you may find that many of them simply have too many carbs for a vegan ketogenic diet.
The plan below will provide you a simple framework to succeed with this diet.
The diet plan is in pdf format and it contains:
- A 7 day plan for eating under 30g net carbs per day on a vegan diet
- 11 vegan keto recipes
- A shopping list
- Macro nutrient information for every recipe and total macros for each day
You can download the 1-week vegan keto diet plan by clicking the button below
A quick note on calories
This meal plan is designed around a 1400 daily calorie intake but if required you can increase this by adding high fat, high calorie, low carb foods to your meals.
Examples are pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, almonds and walnuts, coconut milk, coconut cream and various oils. For example, adding 1 tbsp of coconut oil to a smoothie or drizzling 1 tbsp of avocado oil over a meal adds 117 – 124 calories, 14g of fat and 0 carbs.
Also, don’t worry too much about exceeding your caloric intake by a small amount. When it comes to succeeding with the ketogenic dieting it’s much more important you are staying in your net carb range, getting a variety of nutrients and getting enough protein than to worry about exceeding your caloric intake by 100-200 calories.
In fact, consuming too few calories can be counter-productive as it can signal your body to go into “starvation mode”, causing yor metabolism to slow down. That’s why it’s important calculate your calories using a specially designed calculator and use that as a guide 11https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/calorie-restriction-risks.
How long can you use the diet plan for?
There really isn’t a limit to how long you can use this for, although most people like to switch it up after 2 – 4 weeks.
The real question is how long should you stay on a plant based ketogenic diet? This is a question I get asked often and the answer is – it depends.
If your goal is to lose weight or increase your energy throughout the day you don’t necessarily need to stay on keto forever, although you can if you choose. If you have epilepsy or are a type 1 or 2 diabetic the ketogenic diet you might want to do vegan keto long term and many people have great success with this, but consult a medical professional for advice if you are doing this for medical reasons.
Think of it like this.
You could look at the ketogenic diet as a form of ‘fasting with food’, as made evident by the fact that fasting will actually put you into ketosis. Fasting depletes your body of carbs just like when following a ketogenic diet, and in both cases your body will enter nutritional ketosis.
This means many of the benefits of fasting may apply to keto. Just as with fasting, you can experience the benefits of ketosis by simply entering the state for a period of time (3 months for example) before gradually introducing a wider variety of foods and carbs into your diet, and then returning to the diet when you feel you’d like to.
Or you can choose to stay stay in nutritional ketosis indefinitely, trying not to go over your personal upper carb limit.
Long term keto studies
When considering doing keto for a very long time consecutively (upwards of 1 year) it’s important to note that there are not a great deal of long term ketogenic studies, although there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that people thrive on the diet long term 12https://paleoleap.com/keto-brain-mental-health-energy/.
One study evaluated low carb and low fat diets across a period of 12 months, where the average carb intake of the low carb group at the 6 month period was actually 97g 13https://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/1900694/effects-low-carbohydrate-low-fat-diets-randomized-trial.
At 6 months the results of the low carb vs low fat study were:
- The low-fat group had higher total cholesterol, the low-carb group had lower total cholesterol.
- The low-fat group had higher LDL, the low-carb group had lower LDL.
- The low-fat group had lower HDL at 3 months and no change at 6 months, the low-carb group had higher HDL at both checkpoints.
- The low-fat group had higher triglycerides at 3 months and virtually no change at 6 months, the low-carb group had lower triglycerides at both checkpoints.
Overall the conclusion of the study was:
“The low-carbohydrate diet was more effective for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor reduction than the low-fat diet. Restricting carbohydrate may be an option for persons seeking to lose weight and reduce cardiovascular risk factors.”
The key takeaway from this study?
Eating a very low amount of carbs and staying strictly in ketosis is not a prerequisite to losing weight, although getting into keto can be a quick way to do so.
Now that you’ve read this you should have a good indication of what a vegan ketogenic diet looks like, and if you’re new to the diet the 1-week diet plan is a great place to start.
As you can see, a vegan version of the ketogenic diet is 100% achievable and can be very simple and easy.
Whether you decide to do vegan keto for a week, a month, 3 months, a year or even longer the diet plan will provide you with some simple and easy recipes and provide you an idea of the types of meals you can create.
If you’d like to speak to like minded people on a similar journey I recommend checking out the vegan keto reddit group which is full of people ready and willing to help.
Kane is the founder of Veganatheart.org. The vegan ketogenic diet has helped him to personally lose weight as well as improve his mood and overall health.
He is passionate about helping others achieve the same benefits by showing that keto does not have to involve animal products.