Beginner's Essential Guide to Plant-based Keto

March 24, 2020 0 Comments

plant-based keto diet 2019

Table of Contents

  • Why vegan or plant-based keto?
  • Keto vs plant-based
  • Vegan Keto: How a plant-based keto diet works
  • How do you eat plant based keto? 
  • Benefits of a plant-based keto diet
  • Possible side effects of a plant-based keto diet
  • What can you NOT eat on plant-based keto
  • What foods CAN you eat on a plant based keto diet
  • Meal plan: plant-based keto recipes
  • Frequently asked questions about plant based keto


Why vegan or plant-based keto?

Are you a ketotarian and interested in the benefits of vegan nutrition? Or the other way around: you live vegan and want to try high-fat and low-carb?

For whichever reason you’re interested in both diets, we can tell you that these nutritional concepts can be combined, even if the ketogenic diet mainly consists of meat, eggs and milk.

Although a few think that a vegan ketogenic diet is possible, keto life is possible without animal products.

From a health standpoint, people who eat less carbs and animal products have good health conditions and there are some who feel better from eating a high-carb plant-based diet.

However, a vegan diet may not be for everybody. For instance, people who are obese, have diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and epilepsy can benefit from keto and from a vegan diet.

If you think a high-carb plant-based diet won't work for you and a standard keto diet probably will, try both to get the optimal benefits of these diets.


Keto vs Plant-based

Ketogenic diet

The keto diet is high in fat, moderate in protein and low in carbohydrates.

It’s been around since the 1920s as a therapy treatment to epileptics. But went mainstream when people discovered its health and weight loss benefits in the last 10 years.

Since this diet consists mainly of healthy fats, 75-80% of food intake, keto dieters use high-fat animal products like meat and dairy products.

While carbohydrates are reduced to less than 20-30 grams a day to achieve and maintain the state of ketosis, a metabolic process in which the body burns fat instead of glucose for fuel.

But since the keto diet is animal fat-based which is known to be a major cause of cholesterol and inflammation, plant-based fats are a better alternative for the source of these nutrients. 

Plant-based diet

A vegan diet, similar to plant-based, excludes all animal products and processed foods; focusing mainly on whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains and seeds. 

When it comes to plant-based eating, health is paramount. Basically, this means that you largely do without processed and unhealthy foods. 

It is taking a healthy path with simple and delicious plant-based dishes. This allows everyone to make a small contribution to the environment. 



Vegan Keto: How a plant-based keto diet works

The vegan ketogenic diet may be restrictive, but it can be achieved. 

To abide by keto rules, the daily diet consists of at least 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbohydrates to achieve and maintain the state of ketosis. 

Even as a ketogan (keto + vegan), your goal is to still consume plenty of fat, moderate proteins and a small amount of carbohydrates but ONLY from plant sources. This goal can be implemented by vegans and vegetarians by:

  • Replacing all animal proteins with vegetable proteins like cruciferous vegetables, lupine-based meat substitutes, plant milk and products made from them.
  • Limiting your total carbohydrate intake to a maximum of 20-30 g per day. Eat plenty of low-carb fruits and vegetables.
  • Taking high-quality nutritional supplements, if necessary, to prevent possible deficiencies from vitamins B6, B12, D3, iron, zinc, taurine, DHA & EPA.  
  • Getting at least 70% of your daily calories from vegetable fats and 25% from vegetable proteins.


Free Recipe Book Download: Plant-based Keto Recipes, 1 Week Meal Plan Especially Made for Beginners


How do you eat plant based keto

1. Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables

Leafy vegetables like spinach, chard, broccoli and kale contain essential vitamins and minerals and tons of fiber. 

Eating 400 grams of vegetables is a must, whatever diet you follow. 

In addition to green leafy vegetables, fermented vegetables are also important. Think of sauerkraut and kimchi. 

These products keep the gut flora healthy and improve the absorption of vitamins and minerals.

2. Eat enough protein

Probably the trickiest part of a vegan ketogenic diet is protein supply, because the food that contains the most proteins for a vegan are eliminated--legumes.

Increasing protein intake can be challenging if you don't eat meat or fish. But vegetarians can get this macronutrient from plant-protein sources like seeds--chia, pumpkin, hemp. 



3. Be careful with meat substitutes

When buying packaged plant-based meats, look at the ingredients list. These are often made with wheat that may contain unnecessary additives like dextrose. 

So don't only look at the nutritional facts, but look at the ingredients thoroughly as well.

Unfermented soy products are high in phytic acid which can affect the absorption of minerals like magnesium, iron and zinc. 

Opt for tempeh instead because it’s made from fermented tofu and contains more protein than tofu.

4. Combine healthy fats with proteins

You can do this by adding more nuts and seeds to your diet. 

Seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, chia, flax and hemp are high in protein and fiber. 

While almonds, pistachios and cashews are the best sources of protein in nuts. 

When consuming these as snacks, always weigh the amounts carefully, because your daily carb intake can quickly increase when eating these products.



5. Supplement if necessary

Do you feel sluggish, suffer from hair loss and have less energy? Then taking supplements could be the logical step. 

Here are some of the most common supplements vegans can take: 

  • Vegetable protein powder (lupine protein, hemp protein, almond protein, pea protein etc.)
  • Vegan omega-3 fatty acids (e.g. seaweed oil)
  • Vitamin B12 (for example from nori algae or nutritional yeast)
  • Vitamin B complex
  • Vegan vitamin D3
  • Iron (with vitamin C, for easier absorption)
  • Zinc
  • Calcium

Supplements of these can be useful too:


Additional salt and other minerals can be important at the start of your diet transition due to changes in the water and mineral balance.


Provides energy, helps in fat loss and concentration.

Exogenous Ketones

This supplement can help increase the body's ketone levels.


Has numerous health and performance benefits. This can help if you combine a ketogenic diet with exercise.

Psyllium husks

Helps boost and normalize digestion especially when starting a keto diet.


Free Recipe Book Download: Plant-based Keto Recipes, 1 Week Meal Plan Especially Made for Beginners


Benefits of a plant based keto diet

The vegan or plant based and keto diets have many health benefits but not enough studies have been exclusively done for both.

Vegans are less at risk for chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

In a study,“investigators found that vegans and lacto-ovo vegetarians had significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and significantly lower odds of hypertension.”

Research has shown that people on a plant-based diet have lower BMI than those who aren’t. It is also effective for sustainable weight loss. 

Furthermore,“based on the available evidence, however, PBDs should be considered a viable option for patients who are interested in losing weight and improving dietary quality consistent with chronic disease prevention and treatment.”

Similarly, the keto diet has a positive effect on the overall health for it’s known to be effective in burning fat, losing weight, controlling blood sugar and reducing risk factors for heart disease.

In a study of 83 obese patients composed of 39 men and 44 women, their weight and body mass index decreased significantly while on the keto diet for 24 weeks.

Since both plant-based and keto diets can be beneficial in a similar way, combining both will have a positive impact on health. 


Possible side effects of a plant-based keto diet

Transitioning to a vegan ketogenic diet can be challenging and different in the beginning. From cooking to shopping to eating out to experiencing side effects in the body to explaining to your loved ones why you made a switch. 

The transition from a high carb to low carb can cause uncomfortable symptoms. Including the following: 

  • Fatigue, Irritability
  • Nausea, Dizziness
  • Constipation, Diarrhea
  • Poor concentration
  • Sleep disorders
  • Headache, muscle cramps

It’s important to keep hydrated, get enough rest, eat lots of high-fiber foods, and engage in regular light activities to relieve symptoms of keto flu.

Equally important are taking supplements with sodium and potassium, electrolytes and magnesium to help improve sleep disorders, minimize headaches and muscle pains.

Since the vegan keto diet has many limitations, it may not be advantageous to pregnant or lactating women, athletes, or people with diabetes or eating disorders or someone who has a history of unhealthy eating habits.

If you're thinking of going plant based keto, consult your doctor or a nutritionist to make sure this diet is safe for you.

What can you NOT eat on plant-based keto?

When you start a vegan keto diet, intake of carbohydrates will require a significant decrease. At the same time replacing it with healthy fats and plant-based protein sources.


  • All animal products - meat, poultry, dairy, seafood and any animal-based ingredients like honey, egg whites, whey protein.
  • Foods that will get you out of ketosis - cereals, corn, beans, eggplants and tomatoes (if in moderation it’s fine), white potatoes, processed foods (90% dark chocolate is fine), high-sugar fruits except berries.

What foods CAN you eat on the plant-based keto diet?

If you stick to a vegan or plant-based keto diet, it’s important to focus on food high in fat and contain very little or no carbohydrates.

Vegetarian and Keto friendly foods

Best low-carb fruits and vegetables 


Strawberries, blackberries, avocados, peaches 


Cucumbers, celery, spinach, broccoli, kale, asparagus, cauliflower, zucchini

Use these sparingly:  

Green beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots, kohlrabi, red and yellow peppers



  • Stevia 
  • Erythritol
  • Xylitol 
  • Monk fruit sweetener
  • Yacon syrup

Dairy Alternatives




Coconut milk

Heavy cream

Coconut cream


Coconut oil or vegan butter

Dairy-based cheese

Vegan cheese

Cream cheese

Vegan soft cheese (Treeline)

Yogurt & sour cream

Nut-based yogurt (almond, cashew, or coconut milk yogurt)

Egg Replacements



Flax seeds

  • Make vegan meatballs, baked goods and breakfast pancakes
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds + 3 tbsps of water = 1 egg

Silken tofu

  • Bake and replace egg and other dairy products
  • ¼ cup pureed silken tofu = 1 egg

Baking soda & vinegar

  • Bake and substitute eggs
  • 1 tsp baking soda + 1 tbsp white vinegar = 1 egg

Plant-based fat sources

Nuts can be a great source of fat, but don't forget that they are so high in carbohydrates and omega-6 fatty acids, be aware of the amount you consume. 

Olive oil

  • Most common and healthier alternative for oil
  • Enhance flavor and fat content of your dishes
  • Use only at temperature below 207°C to maintain its nutrients

Coconut oil

  • Ideal for ketotarians and followers
  • Use to cook and bake at temperatures not more than 177°C

Avocado and avocado oil

  • Contains 5g monounsaturated fats & 4g of carbohydrates
  • Use to cook, bake and deep fry

Red palm oil

  • Contains 0g carbohydrates and 14g fats
  • Palm oil production has caused damaging conditions to the environment, wildlife and workers who helped in its production. Thus buy only certified products by RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) or Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) to make sure the companies are following sustainable practices.

MCT oil

  • Contains MCTs or medium chain triglycerides which go directly to the liver and get converted into ketones to fuel
  • Add to salads and sauces and yogurt and beverages for an increase in energy and ketone levels 


  • Important source of essential fatty acids
  • macadamia nuts and cashews contains high amounts of monounsaturated fats and the low amount of omega 6 fats


  • Seeds like pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, chia seed, sunflower seeds all have high fat content
  • But just like nuts, consume them in moderation because they contain high levels of omega 6


Herbs and spices

Seasonings and sauces are a tricky part of a ketogenic diet, because they contain carbohydrates but these are used regularly to add flavor to dishes. 

Here are some tips when choosing your herbs and spices: 

  • avoid processed products
  • avoid sweeteners with a high GI
  • anything that contains dextrose and added sugars

Below are some common herbs and spices used on a ketogenic diet. Adjust your use or carbohydrate intake accordingly when using herbs as these naturally contain carbohydrates.

  • basil  
  • cayenne pepper
  • chili powder
  • cinnamon
  • cumin
  • coriander
  • oregano
  • parsley
  • rosemary
  • thyme

Salt and pepper can be used freely. 


Sauces and seasonings

Always read the label as ingredients vary in every brand. And always choose those with little or no added sugar and are vegan.  

  • hot sauce 
  • horseradish
  • ketchup 
  • mayonnaise
  • mustard
  • salad dressings 
  • sauerkraut 
  • relish 
  • Worcestershire sauce

As much as you can, avoid ready-made food. It is much better if you can make your own seasoning and sauces. 

This way, you know what ingredients are being used and how much. 

Free Recipe Book Download: Plant-based Keto Recipes, 1 Week Meal Plan Especially Made for Beginners


Ready to Switch to Plant based Keto? DO These First

Consult with your doctor. 

If you think you are ready to commit to the plant-based keto diet, it is strongly recommended to seek advice from your doctor first to know your baseline. 

They should help you evaluate if the diet is safe for you and whether the rules and limits of it would be beneficial for your body, and not detrimental. 

Know and be aware of critics. 

There will always be someone who will say and argue that keto is not sustainable. And it could lead to muscle loss, nutrients deprivation, etc. This could set you to fail from the beginning. Focus on your goals and know that you are backed up with your doctor and other keto followers out there. 

Think of the benefits. 

It’s undeniable that keto has a lot of benefits including sustained weight loss, diabetes reversal, lessened sweet cravings, improved digestive and mental health.


Frequently asked questions related to plant based keto

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about keto diet for vegetarians:

1. Is quinoa keto friendly?

Since quinoa has a relatively high proportion of carbohydrates, it is questionable whether it actually fits into a ketogenic diet. The whopping 59 g of carbs per 100g exceed the daily requirements of a ketotarian by a lot. 

You can replace quinoa by using broccoli rice, grated radishes or cauliflower rice.

2. How do I know if I’m doing keto right? 

You’ll know that you’ve entered ketosis when you experience one or more of the following:

  • Keto breath. Acetone is produced by the body when it starts to break down fat for fuel. This is detected in the breath which smells fruity or metallic.
  • Dry mouth & increased thirst.In a state of ketosis, the body uses excess glycogen, this results in frequent urination and thirstiness. 
  • Ketones in urine. To confirm if your body is in a state of ketosis, use a ketone strip like Ketostix. 

3. Is it true ketosis is dangerous? 

Many people often confuse ketosis with ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is dangerous and common in untreated diabetes, but ketosis is completely normal.

4. What can I do with keto breath?

Keto breath is a common side effect that can be remedied by chewing sugar-free gum or drinking naturally spiced water.

5.  I’m experiencing digestive problems, is that normal?

This side effect occurs after 3 to 4 weeks after starting the diet. By increasing your high-fiber vegetables intake, you can eliminate or improve this problem. These vegetables are high in dietary fiber: carrots, kale, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, flax seeds, and chia seeds. 

6. I am constantly tired and weak

You may not have achieved full ketosis yet. To prevent this, lower your carbohydrate intake and revisit the points above. A supplement like MCT oil or ketones may also help.


All things considered, the ketogenic diet certainly goes well with the plant-based diet. 

Focusing on whole, unprocessed, plant-based foods and meeting the high-fat, moderate protein and low-carb macronutrient requirements are what vegan keto diet is all about. 

Consuming the right amounts of carbohydrates, fats and proteins is important because all the effort you put into following a vegan ketogenic diet will be almost worth nothing if you become deficient in any of these macronutrients.  

Consequently, certain supplements will be necessary if your nutritional needs are not met. 

Today, it's now easier to follow a plant-based keto lifestyle because many plant-based products are now available. 

Getting enough fat and protein from plant-based sources shouldn't be a problem, too.

We’ve included a one week vegan keto meal plan for you in this article that includes three meals and desserts for 7 days. 

This meal plan can be prepared ahead of time which is ideal for working people or a busy household. And you can switch these recipes up and use alternative ingredients as you like.

We hope this will give you inspiration as you begin your plant-based keto journey. 


Are you currently on keto? Plant-based? Do you think you can do both? 

How do you find a plant-based keto diet? Are you willing to try this out? 

Are you on this diet already? What do you think of it? Has it helped you in any way? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below! 


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Going Gluten Free Guide: 5 Things You Should Do To Simplify Transition