3 Easy Tips for a Vegan Keto Diet (and 4 Delicious Recipes to Get You Started!)

Vegan and keto are not mutually exclusive.
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3 Easy Tips for a Vegan Keto Diet

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It might seem that the vegan and keto are at opposite ends of the diet spectrum. After all, do a quick Google search for keto recipes, and you’ll find buttery, cheesy, bacony fat bombs; a vegan diet, rife with carb-rich fruits and veggies, emerges as the very antithesis.

But a fat-rich, low-carb keto diet – which some have touted as the ultimate in anti-inflammatory protocols – can actually pair quite well with a vegan diet, according to our experts. Here are three things to bear in mind if you want to do both.

1. Most of your carbs will be coming from vegetables – and that’s a good thing.

As opposed to junky keto diets, where processed fat-rich but nutrient-poor foods take center stage, any whole food-based keto diet will see a majority of its carbs coming from veggies. This is especially true, however, if you’re eating a plant-based keto diet.

“Ideal keto for one person may look completely different than for someone else,” explains Fit2Fat2Fit founder and Complete Keto author Drew Manning. “But my ideal keto is to eat about 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein, 5 percent carbs. Good quality fat source, a quality protein source, and mainly vegetables for the carb source.”

In fact, a plant-based approach may actually make your keto experience easier, at least in this regard.

“I do think it's easier to eat a healthful, whole-foods-based keto diet when you are also plant-based for a couple of reasons,” explains Liz MacDowell, founder of Meat Free Keto & author of Vegan Keto. “For starters, there are far fewer junky vegan keto recipes out there than junky omni keto recipes. Secondly, the vegan community (keto or otherwise) really encourages eating a lot of whole foods like greens and vegetables.”

“Since there are many non-animal fats available, like nuts and olive oil, a vegan keto lifestyle wouldn't be much of a stretch from a standard vegan diet and would take processed vegan foods off the table, so to speak," says Aubrey Ibele, Biomedical Engineer, Biologist, Keto + Biohacking Coach. "Contrary to popular belief, doing keto correctly requires considerable vegetable intake. This also aligns with the vegan lifestyle, making keto and veganism a natural combination.”

2. Variety might be a struggle.

A plant-based diet, while filled with variety, does preclude a person from eating whole categories of foods: meat, milk, cheese, eggs. Remove grains and carb-rich fruits and veggies from the mix, and it seems you’re not left with much.

“A fully vegan/keto diet is certainly possible but definitely harder due to limited foods,” explains Manning. “The biggest hurdle to doing a vegan keto diet would be a lack of variety and being a bit more restrictive than a typical keto diet.”

Ibele notes that many staple vegan foods are too carb-rich to be regularly included in a keto diet.

“Many vegetables, such as carrots, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes have a higher carbohydrate content," she says. "These foods are often staples in a vegan's diet so shifting to lower carbohydrate, cruciferous veggies may limit their options.”

This lack of variety can lead to folks following this diet feeling socially excluded or even maligned.

“Eating vegan keto isn't very convenient,” says MacDowell. “For instance, going to a restaurant as a vegan, in general, is challenging enough in many places, but then adding the keto layer can make it almost impossible to order at times.”

“Social pressure can come from family members or friends and is also inherent in higher carb vegan diets as well as omni keto diets," she continues. "Combining the two just seems to be a perfect storm. Social pressure can be your family not supporting your way of eating and challenging every bite you take at Thanksgiving, or even just small things, like having to repeatedly turn down cake at office parties. Either way, the little things can add up and present a bit of a challenge.”

3. Your keto diet may look different.

While with a traditional keto diet, people eat somewhere between 20 and 30 grams of carb daily, Manning notes that a vegan keto dieter may need to consume a bit more – around 50 grams of carbs a day. 

(Find your personal carb tolerance with our guide!)

Increasing carbs can help vegan keto dieters avoid nutrient deficiencies. Carina Morgan, DFW Culinary Manager of Territory Foods, explains that many plant-based proteins like grains and legumes also contain a moderate amount of carbohydrates, making it tough for vegans to get enough of this essential macronutrient while also cutting carbs.

"Notably, grains and legumes are important sources of amino acids, the building blocks of protein, on a vegan diet so it isn't the best idea to cut them out," adds Ysabel Montemayor, the lead RD at the meal delivery service Fresh n' Lean.

Developing intolerances or food sensitivities is also a concern.

“Eating a ketogenic + vegan diet requires consuming a lot of avocado, coconut, olives, olive oil, and tree nuts—as these are the main plant-based fat sources,” says Morgan. “Nuts are a common allergen, and they are very heavy. If you are eating a high quantity of nuts each day, you may develop a sensitivity to them.”

But for some, especially people already following a plant-based diet, transitioning to a low-carb, keto diet could be the secret to feeling their best, as it was for MacDowell.

“While there are some people that thrive eating a high carb vegan diet, many others struggle with weight gain and generally just not feeling well (I was one of them!)," she explains.

“For me, making small adjustments, like replacing grains and sugar in my diet really did make a world of difference with my digestion and overall well-being, and I encourage anyone who feels like their diet isn't working for them to explore different options that may work better for their bodies.”

Resources like MacDowell’s Vegan Keto or Manning’s Complete Keto (with a full seven-day vegan keto plan and food list) can help make this transition even easier. For a preview of what awaits, check out these recipes from Manning’s book.

VG Zucchini Pesto 2

Zucchini Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 4 tablespoons hemp hearts
  • 2 cups zoodles (zucchini spiralized)
  • 2 tablespoons hemp hearts

Instructions:

For the pesto, place all the ingredients into a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. Set aside.

Put zoodles and pesto in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes and top with remaining hemp hearts. Enjoy!

Makes 1 serving

Nutrition information: 644 calories, 55g fat, 17g carbs, 27g protein (8g net carbs)

VG Broccoli Slaw salad

Broccoli Slaw Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups broccoli slaw
  • 3 tablespoons hemp hearts
  • 1/2 medium avocado, diced
  • 10 kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

Layer the broccoli slaw, hemp hearts, avocado, and olives in a large bowl. 

Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. Drizzle over the salad and toss until well coated. Enjoy!

Makes 1 serving

Nutrition information: 723 calories, 62g fat, 30g carbs, 21g protein (15g net carbs)

VG Berry Protein Smoothie 2

Berry Protein Shake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk (from a can)
  • 1 1/2 scoops vegan vanilla protein powder
  • 1 scoop of an MCT oil powder
  • 1/2 medium avocado
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup raspberries
  • 1/4 cup strawberries
  • Stevia, to taste
  • Ice, as desired

Instructions:

Place all the ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth.

Nutrition information: 750 calories, 59g fat, 28g carbs, 28g protein (18g net carbs)

VG Berry Parfait

Berry Breakfast Bowl

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (from a can)
  • 3 tablespoons hemp hearts
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons flax seed meal
  • Stevia, to taste
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup raspberries
  • 1/4 cup blueberries

Instructions:

Combine the coconut milk, hemp hearts, vanilla extract, chia seeds, flax seed, and stevia in a mason jar, and put it in the refrigerator overnight. This will make it thicken.

The next morning, when you’re ready to consume it, spoon the mixture into a bowl and top with the walnuts and berries. Mix and enjoy!

Makes 1 serving

Nutrition information: 622 calories, 50g fat, 28g carbs, 24g protein (14g net carbs)

Images care of Drew Manning

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