How Do You Eat Plant based Keto [Beginner's Essential Guide]

March 24, 2020 0 Comments

plant based keto diet guide

Table of Contents

  • Why vegan or plant-based keto?
  • Is vegetarian keto suitable for everyone?
  • 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
  • What happens to the body when on a plant based keto diet
  • Do these things first before switching to plant based keto
  • Frequently asked questions about plant based keto


Why vegan or plant-based keto--is that even possible?

This is a question many people ask who prefer a vegan lifestyle, but still want to lose a few pounds through the keto diet. 

Since one of the keto diet rules is to maintain 70% fat, which mainly comes from animal products, combining it with vegan may be difficult or seem impossible. 

But the ketogenic diet can still be practiced in a vegan way by using plant-based sources of fats, protein and carbohydrates. 

Additionally, you should consider a few things before you start the keto diet and get enough information if this diet is for you. 

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 two diets.

zucchini noodles with tomatoes pumpkin seeds


Is vegetarian keto suitable for everyone? 

Generally, this diet is suitable for any healthy person who wants to get rid of excess weight and prefer a vegan lifestyle. 

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, the nutritional restrictions and the choice of food in vegan keto doesn’t allow spontaneous cravings and meal times. 

Because of this, you should be aware of the extent to which this type of nutrition can be integrated into your everyday life. 

Another important aspect is the nutrient requirement. By eliminating both carbohydrates and meat, iron and calcium are only absorbed in small amounts. 

For people who already have low levels of these nutrients, the vegetarian keto diet is not recommended.

Similarly, pregnant and lactating women should under no circumstances practice this kind of diet, since the unborn child and young children need these nutrients for a healthy, physical and mental development. 

Having said that, this diet should not be practiced with children.

The plant based keto diet is also not recommended for people who do intense physical work. Athletes, those with type 1 diabetes, and people with eating disorders are advised against the vegan keto diet. 

On the other hand, a keto diet would be beneficial to some patients who are obese, diabetic, has Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and epilepsy. 


Keto vs Vegan or Plant-based

Ketogenic diet

The keto diet is high in fat (75-80%), 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--the goal of the keto diet.

Ketosis is a metabolic process in which the body burns fat instead of glucose for fuel. Normally, the body burns carbohydrates first to generate energy. But if these are not present in the body, the body converts fats into ketone bodies and provides energy for the cells, the brain, the muscles and other organs. 

The problem with a very heavy meat diet, the body becomes acidic, causing bad breath, kidney and digestive problems. 

It is also worth noting that when the body is going into ketosis, various side effects like muscle spasms, sleep disorders, fatigue, mood swings or nausea are experienced.

For this reason, using 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.

With this kind of diet, iron levels should always be monitored, otherwise it can lead to a deficiency. 

It is important to consult a doctor and have your iron levels checked before and during the diet to see if additional supplements are necessary.

A vegan keto diet is possible, but make sure you don’t have any vitamin or mineral deficiency before starting.


Free eBook Download: How to Do Plant-based on a Keto Diet + 1 Week Meal Plan [28 Recipes]


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 vegan keto 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. Take keto and plant based vitamins and supplements 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 eBook Download: How to Do Plant-based on a Keto Diet + 1 Week Meal Plan [28 Recipes]


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.

These are the keto foods to avoid: 

  • All animal products - meat, poultry, dairy, seafood and any animal-based ingredients like honey, egg whites, whey protein.
  • Foods rich in carbohydrates such as potatoes, legumes (beans, lentils), corn, rice, pasta, bread, buckwheat, quinoa, semolina, oatmeal  
  • High fructose fruits like pineapple, apples, bananas, peaches, apricots, mango, cherries, oranges 
  • Heavily processed products with high fat and carb content like fast food
  • Drinks with high sugar content like soda, fruit juices, flavored tea 
  • Sweeteners like white and brown sugar, honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, sugar beet syrup 
  • Alcoholic beverages like wine, beer, sweet cocktails
  • Processed products with high sugar content like ketchup, barbecue sauce 

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

    Since carbohydrates only take a low percentage in the keto diet, vegetables that are low in starch content should be preferred. 

    The same applies to fruits. Fruits that contain a small amount of fructose may only be consumed here. 

    Fat, being the main nutrient component should be unsaturated, only healthy fatty acids. 

    Vegan Keto Diet Food List

    Best low-carb fruits and vegetables 


    All berries, lemon, lime, avocados, peaches 


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

    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 or other plant-based 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 eBook Download: How to Do Plant-based on a Keto Diet + 1 Week Meal Plan [28 Recipes]


    What Happens to the Body on the Plant based Keto Diet?

    A vegan ketogenic diet is no different in this aspect from the normal keto diet. The only difference is the absence of animal products.

    This is what happens in the body when you choose to do a vegan ketogenic diet:

    1. On the third or fourth day, with a very low carb intake or less than 20 g per day, the stored carbs are no longer sufficient to meet the need thus, the body will take from an alternate energy source.
    2. If carbohydrates are not enough, the body will use the fatty acids as an energy source, but not the brain. This will require the liver to produce ketones.
    3. When the brain begins to use these ketones as the primary source of energy, you have reached ketosis.
    4. Even when the body uses fat as its primary source of energy, blood glucose remains stable. During the first days of a ketogenic diet, the body primarily breaks down amino acids from protein to provide glucose.
    5. Subsequently, the supply of glucose from fat increases, combined with a decrease in the supply from amino acids (depending on body fat tissue)
    6. In a calorie deficit, the ketogenic diet consumes more fat than a regular diet.


    Ready to Switch to Plant based Keto Diet? 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? 

    The desired state of a ketogenic diet is ketosis. But how do you know if you have reached ketosis?

    • You are energized - you have more energy, are focused and can sleep better.
    • Urine test - to do a urine test, use a Ketostix to detect ketone bodies in your urine. Through this, you’ll know if your body is starting to produce ketones. However, the accuracy of this method is not 100%.
    • Breath test - you can do a breath test by yourself by breathing and smelling in your cupped hands. The two most important ketones in the body are acetoacetate (20%) and ß-hydroxy-butyrate (75%). It can always happen that acetone (5%) is formed, which is partly exhaled through the air when we breathe. If you don’t like doing this, you can also use a breath meter.
    • Blood test - the most accurate method. This is done similar to a blood sugar test, except ketone bodies are detected in the blood.

    For your reference, these are the ketosis reference ranges:

    • <0.2 mmol / l no ketosis (normal value)
    • 0.2-0.5 mmol / l mild ketosis (first benefits)
    • 0.5-3.0 mmol / l ketosis (optimal range)
    • 3 , 0-6.0 mmol / l ketosis (no further advantages)

      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 or 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.

      Key Takeaway

      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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