Everything You Need to Know About Vegan Ketogenic Diets

Is a Vegan Ketogenic Diet Possible?

It’s not often that you hear someone say, “I’m on a vegan ketogenic diet!” Low carb diets are often scorned in the high carb low fat vegan community – after all, low carbers only eat meat, and carbs make the world turn round. So, a low carb vegan diet would seem impossible.

However, this isn’t the case at all! I was first introduced to the low carb world while vegan, and actually found it really easy to adapt my current diet to be low carb. Hopefully the following info helps you to do the same.

Everything You Need to Know About Vegan Ketogenic Diets

Determine Your Daily Carbs on a Vegan Ketogenic Diet

While conventional keto rules say to start at 20g of net carbs a day, vegan ketoers may find that 30g of net carbs is a little closer to an achievable goal. It really boils down to this – plant foods tend to all have a little carbohydrate in them, whereas animal products do not.

Yes, you can just pour oil into your mouth all day, every day. But…that’s really, really boring. It’s also not sustainable for most people in the long term. So, increasing the target number of carbs just a little bit can be pretty beneficial to your tastebuds, and your sanity. I’ve worked with clients who can maintain ketosis while eating up to 50g of net carbs some days and a daily average of 30-40g. So, there’s certainly wiggle room.

Of course, it’s still possible to eat 20g of net carbohydrates per day (back to drinking oil), so if you really want to limit carbohydrates, you have an option there.

Don’t Count Too Much in the Beginning

This is counterintuitive, as carb counting seems integral to the whole process. But counting is really not necessary, especially when you’re first starting out and getting the hang of things. You’ll want to make sure you’re used to eating a good variety of foods, and that this is a sustainable and satisfying way of eating for you. So many people start a keto diet by jumping in head first, end up feeling terrible and craving all their favorite foods, and quitting before any real results can happen.

You might want to spend the first few days eating until you’re satisfied without counting carbs or calories too closely. Then, once you’ve settled into a meal rhythm, start counting (or not, if being fancy free is working!).

Oils and Fats

This is a vegan keto freebie. All oils are low in carbs and super fatty. You’ll definitely want to have a good quality bottle of olive oil on hand, and a jar of good quality coconut oil. Why the emphasis on quality? Lesser quality oils will have likely gone rancid on store shelves, and can be damaging to your body. Be sure to purchase olive oil in a dark glass bottle, or even a metal container. Coconut oil is more stable, but both should be extra virgin and cold pressed for the highest quality, and most nutrients.

And yes, oils contain vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals when they’re not processed to high heaven.

To go right to the source, and get more nutritional value, eating foods like coconut, avocado and olives is also great!

Get to Know Nuts & Seeds

If you’ve decided to embark on a vegan ketogenic diet, you’ll really want to familiarize yourself with nuts. Containing both fat and protein, nuts are filling and delicious. Plus, nuts are lower in carbs than many other plant based foods.

Net carbs in nuts & seeds (g/oz)

  • Flax seeds: .5g
  • Pecans: 1.1g
  • Brazil nuts: 1.3g
  • Macadamia nuts: 1.5g
  • Chia seeds: 1.7g
  • Walnuts: 1.9g
  • Coconut (dried): 2g
  • Pumpkin seeds: 2.2g
  • Hazelnuts: 2.3g
  • Sesame seeds: 2.6g
  • Almonds: 2.9g
  • Sunflower seeds: 3.7g
  • Peanuts: 3.8g
  • Pistachios: 5.8g 🙁
  • Cashews: 8.5g 🙁

And yes, I know peanuts are technically a legume, but they work here. Pistachios and cashews are pretty high in carbs for nuts, but I still included them because it’s good to know. Also, they’re both so tasty… Odds are, you’re going to want them sometime.

Low Carb Veggies – Get Your Greens!

While low carb dieters often go a bit lighter on the veggies, for fear of going over too much on carbs, there’s really no need! Greens are actually incredibly low in carbs, and their nutrients actually become more bioavailable when cooked, and consumed with fat. So, you basically have to sauté those collard greens in garlic and olive oil. For science.

Most greens will be between .2-.5g/cup when raw, so about 2-4g net carbs per cup when cooked. Not bad at all! Feel free to check out a more complete list of low carb veggies (and reasons to eat veggies), but here is a small sampling to get you started:

Carbs of Various Greens (grams of net carbs per cup):

  • Mustard greens: .2g
  • Raw Spinach: .2g
  • Bok Choi: .4g
  • Endive: .4g
  • Lettuce: .4g
  • Broccoli florets: 1.6g
  • Cauliflower: 1.8g
  • Cucumber: 2g
  • Green cabbage: 2.2g

Can You Eat Fruit on Keto?

Of course you can! I mean, technically, you can eat anything that isn’t an animal product on a vegan ketogenic diet, but I know that’s not what you’re asking! Basically, fruits are pretty sugary, so you’ll want to steer clear of most and eat mainly berries. This is great anyway, as berries tend to be more nutrient dense. So, win-win.

There is plenty more information about eating fruit on keto, but hopefully this short list provides a good start.

Carb Count of Selected Fruits and Berries (grams net carbs per 1/4 cup):

  • Raspberries: 1.5g
  • Strawberries: 1.8g
  • Blackberries: 2.1g
  • Watermelon: 2.6g
  • Pineapple: 3.8g
  • Blueberries: 4.1g
  • Cherries: 4.2g

Low Carb Protein Sources for a Vegan Ketogenic Diet

“But, where do you get your pro–” I’m going to stop you right there. If you’ve been vegetarian or vegan for any reasonable amount of time, you’ve probably realized that there’s protein in basically everything. So, getting enough protein on a vegan ketogenic diet isn’t really a big deal.

If you’re looking to consume a little bit more protein than the average vegan keto bear, there are plenty of low carb vegan protein powders on the market (I’m obsessed with Vega). You can also find a variety of low carb meat substitutes (article coming soon!).

For now, we’ll talk about whole food low carb plant sources of some extra protein. Aside from nuts and seeds (which tend to have between 2-7g per serving), your choices are a little more limited than with other food categories. Protein tends to come packaged with carbs in nature.

Low Carb Plant-Based Protein Sources (g protein | g net carbs | serving size):

  • Tofu: 10g | 1.9g | 1/2 cup cubes
  • Soybeans (mature, yellow): 14g | 3.5g | 1/2 cup
  • Soybeans (edamame, green): 11g | 6g | 1/2 cup
  • Peas: 5g | 9g | 2/3 cup
  • Soybeans (dry roasted): 17g | 10.5g | 1/2 cup
  • Spinach (frozen): 4g | 1g | 1 cup

Pretty much all greens and mushrooms contain large proportions of protein, and are relatively low in carbs. So, this is another great place to look for some extra protein on a vegan ketogenic diet.

Low Carb Vegan Desserts

This is the site for you! Basically, take a look at the low carb vegan recipe archives here, to find keto friendly recipes without eggs, dairy, honey or any other animal products. Win!

 

For more information on vegan keto diets, as well as meal plans and recipes, check out my ebook!

41 Comments

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    […] of us on a vegetarian or vegan ketogenic or low carb diet (yes, we exist – there’s dozens of us!) often find ourselves in the position […]

    Reply
  • Bridgette July 14, 2016 at 9:15 am

    Thank you, this is great information!!!

    Reply
    • Liz July 14, 2016 at 12:20 pm

      Thanks so much for the comment! I’m glad you enjoyed it. 😀

      Reply
  • Katrina July 30, 2016 at 10:43 am

    Thanks Liz!! Gonna print this up and put on my fridge!!!

    Reply
    • Liz July 30, 2016 at 10:48 am

      So glad this was helpful, Katrina! 😀

      Reply
  • Muddygurl August 7, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Glad to see your site, sent me by a friendMeat is so heavily promoted it puts off those who can’t have it or choose not to. I find I CAN stay at ~30 carbs as a vegetarian, so your advice is spot on!

    There are now thousands of people with kidney issues (pre dialysis) usually caused by diabetes,or BP, or simple failure of function and other issues. I wish I could reach them to show that LCHF is possible (most are told avoid all fats of course- reducing their diet to mostly carbs and some veggies.) I adapted a special vegetarian-based kidney diet to LC by ignoring their “low fat” mantra (from very old knowledge of course)

    With one kidney and CKD (chronic kidney disease) I must keep to very low protein, no meat, and take essential amino acids to replace the food protein. This works!…and while I choose LCHF for the dairy/butter/HWC/Cheese I can have.. I am always looking for more options. My diet is already very high quality fats, and tons of veggies, very little berries, and hemp seed protein. Looking for new ways to combine these helps me stay away from carbs.
    I forgot about Tahini, and will look for that at the HFS, the little havlah cups look great! Thanks.

    Reply
    • Liz August 9, 2016 at 9:03 am

      Hi! Thank you so much for leaving such a thoughtful comment!

      I completely agree – the LCHF community is very focused on meat, which can be off-putting for those of us who don’t eat it (or eat much).

      It sounds like you’ve done quite a bit of investigating about your health to create a diet that is perfect for you. That’s excellent! It’s crazy how much medical information is centered around fat-phobic thinking, but I’m glad you’ve researched things on your own to find something that’s more effective.

      Do you have a blog, or anyplace where you document your health journey? It seems like this information could be so helpful to so many people!

      And yes, tahini is one of my favorite things! 😀

      Reply
    • Nicole J Kriebel November 29, 2016 at 7:17 pm

      From what I’ve read too much protein turns in to sugar anyway…:)

      Reply
      • Liz December 1, 2016 at 6:42 am

        Exactly. This is a process called gluconeogenesis! Your body will convert protein into sugar in rare occasions when you eat too much. It’s not at a 1:1 rate though, and is actually quite inefficient.

        Reply
  • Martine October 10, 2016 at 9:48 am

    This is such a helpful post! I’ve linked to it in my article on low carb vegan diets: https://lowcarb-vegan.net/vegan-low-carb-diets-what-the-experts-say/

    Reply
    • Liz October 11, 2016 at 7:28 am

      Thank you so much, Martine! I love your site!! 😀

      Reply
  • Lucy October 22, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Hi Liz,
    Thank you so much for posting this information. I’very been meat-bases keto a little less than a year for weight-loss. My loss wasn’t significant due to my apprehension about do much meat consumption. I’m great full for an option that fits me perfectly. Keto Vegan in training!

    Reply
    • Liz October 22, 2016 at 2:54 pm

      I’m so glad you are finding this helpful, Lucy! Good luck, and feel free to let me know if you have any questions! 😀

      Reply
  • Pauline December 14, 2016 at 5:59 am

    Thank you so much for the great page- I have been trying to go keto for the last month- lasting only about a week at a time. I just need to try harder I suppose and my biggest concern is eating soy daily. I don’t have a problem with tempeh or tofu once a week but am not sure how to get enough protein and variety in my diet without eating it daily as well as mock meats.

    I am using a hemp shake every day and that is 20 grams of protein. I would love to see what a typical day for you looks like and how much protein you are aiming for! I also lift weights so I believe my requirements would be a bit higher than the standard.

    Anyway, thanks again- it’s so hard to find vegan keto information out there- I started eating eggs again just so I could do this diet and I just can’t stand the thought of it (or the act of it) anymore and want to go back to being animal product free!

    Reply
  • Amanda December 20, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    This is amazing. I am vegan, my husband is Keto. I am happy to be able to combine the two. It will make meal prep so much easier 🙂

    Reply
    • Liz December 23, 2016 at 8:51 pm

      Hi Amanda! Thanks for the comment 😀

      I’mglad this makes things easier for you two – having a husband that eats differently can be such a challenge!

      Feel free to ask any questions as they pop up. 🙂

      Reply
  • Nicholle January 25, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    Hi! I followed a vegan diet for a while on a wimb. My blood sugars came way down and I became super insulin sensitive. I had to eat carbs to keep my blood sugars from plummeting. I’ve never been able to eat carbs and lose weight. I’m not really sure why I fell off the wagon. I don’t think I lost much weight on the scales but my clothes were fitting better and I was receiving compliments. I was in nursing school. I have a young family and I think I just started grabbing vegan convenience foods. I’m trying a low carb diet (again) right now for weight loss and bc I’m pretty sure candida has taken over my life! ( I was given diflucan by the Obgyn and I feel like a new person, I’m trying hard not to have sugar and get back to that place!) I’m Leary of all the meat on the low carb diet. I just don’t love it but it’s the only way I’ve ever lost weight I’ve had to be virtually carb free. And my blood sugars are at the top end of okay with all the meat, nothing like when I was vegan. So I’ve been searching for low carb vegan info…. I didn’t think to use the words keto/ketogenic. I’m on day three of really sticking to it and starting to feel better so hopefully I can transition to vegan-keto I just have to figure out the low sugars.

    Reply
    • Liz January 28, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      Hi Nicholle! Firstly, candida is awful, so I’m glad you’re feeling a little better in that regard. It can definitely be a challenge sticking to a vegan diet, but it’s totally possible! Even just cutting out some of the meat can make a difference (regular keto/low carb diets can be so high in meat and cheese!). Best of luck in your health journey, and please feel free to contact me with any questions! 🙂

      Reply
  • Sandra Rodriguez February 8, 2017 at 11:23 am

    Thank you.. I like the lists of food choices.. It sure helps to keep in mind what are great choices for anyone… Please post more often.

    Reply
    • Liz February 10, 2017 at 6:15 pm

      Thank you so much! I’ll do that – I’ve definitely been slacking.

      Reply
  • SnowOne February 26, 2017 at 9:28 am

    This is a great post! Thank u! I am adopting a low carb lifestyle and have been really struggling with all the animal protein. Though I am not vegan, (vegans are magical people with incredible commitment and I’m not there yet), I definitely prefer more vegetables than meat. Thanks for the info. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Reply
    • Liz February 26, 2017 at 11:52 am

      That is the literal sweetest thing I’ve ever heard said about vegans! <3

      And eating more veggies is always the way to go! You can still eat meat and be healthy - it's all about balance. 🙂

      Good luck with low carb. I hope you enjoy it! If you have any questions, feel free to ask any time!

      Reply
  • pierre mercier March 11, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    I am confused about the g/oz measures. Both of these are weight measures, one being metric and the other imperial. One ounce is equivalent of 28.3 grams approximately. I do not quite understand why carbonhydrate content of nuts and seeds are reported the way they are. Other foods carbonhydrate content is measured by unit of comparable volume which provides a useful way to compare them.

    Reply
    • Liz March 13, 2017 at 11:50 am

      Hi Pierre! I can definitely understand the confusion. The reason for the g/oz units for nuts and seeds is that this is how these numbers are reported on nutrition labels where I am (or at least on the ones I buy).

      It is a good point, though, that it’s confusing as compared to the others (which I grabbed from a USDA database, instead of a food package), so I can convert the nuts and seeds to similar units of measurement.

      Thanks so much for pointing that out! 🙂

      Reply
      • Pierre Mercier March 14, 2017 at 2:21 pm

        Hi Liz, I think I got it figured out. I am almost sure the oz measure that is very common in the kitchen but not in a lab is meant to be a volume measure in the context of nuts and seeds. More precisely, the producers most likely mean an amount of nuts or seeds that occupy the same volume that an ounce of water would. In that context, oz would be interpreted as a volume measure.

        Reply
        • Liz March 14, 2017 at 4:11 pm

          Oh, this makes sense! Thanks so much for the eplanation, Pierre!

          Reply
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  • Clare Wolstencroft May 1, 2017 at 9:49 am

    Hi. Love your site. Just had a look around and loads of information here. Wish I’d found it 5 weeks ago when I started a LC vegan diet – would have saved me so much work ! We have been vegan for 5 1/2 years and would never change back but while my husband lost weight I did not. I tried the no fat plan, then the loads of starch plan (put weight on with that) but no weight loss and occasionally some went on. At last, it’s finally started to come off following a low carb vegan diet. It’s been hard but I hadn’t really got my head round the fats until now. That makes it so much easier. Thank you for all the great info and encouragement – love it.

    Reply
    • Liz May 1, 2017 at 5:00 pm

      Thank you so much for the kind words, and for sharing your story! I had a similar experience eating high carb vegan – I actually gained weight instead of losing it like everyone else seems to. I’m so glad LC vegan is working for you, and that you are finding everything on this site helpful!

      Feel free to ask any questions that come up, and best of luck with low carb! 🙂

      Reply
  • Sarah May 17, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    I was so thrilled to find your website! I have been trying and trying to lessen my intake of animal products, but also watch my carbs. Quite often a google of “vegan low carb recipes” was unimpressive. Half the time you get recipes that aren’t vegan or aren’t really that low carb. Your tips and real world insight are great. So, thank you!!

    Reply
    • Liz May 17, 2017 at 6:22 pm

      Thank you so much for this thoughtful comment! I’m so glad you’re finding everything to be helpful – it really makes my day!

      Reply
  • Anna Mermaid June 11, 2017 at 12:49 am

    Thanks for this starter guide. I did notice that you do not list tempeh in your protein list. Is tempeh ok, or is it just tofu? And if tempeh is not ok, why not?

    Reply
    • Liz June 15, 2017 at 2:07 pm

      Hi Anna, thanks for the comment! This is definitely an oversight – tempeh is for sure okay! It’s high in protein and low in carbs – a pretty great combination.

      Be sure to check the package, though, as some brands of tempeh have other ingredients (like rice or quinoa) added in, which can add in some unnecessary carbs!

      Reply
  • Pat McLean June 16, 2017 at 3:50 am

    I am so thankful to find you! I have been gluten free-paleo for years, but still struggling with health issues and weight gain. So I would alternate with LCHF diet on which I woul lose a little weight but then stall after 15lbs. Recently I found out I am intolerant to cashews, pistachios, dairy, and eggs – which explains a lot! So thank you so much for putting this info online. So very grateful!

    Reply
    • Liz June 16, 2017 at 2:21 pm

      Hi Pat! Thanks so much for commenting! I’m sorry that you’ve had to deal with all of those intolerances (I have a lot too, so I feel your pain), but I’m glad you’re finding this site helpful. 🙂

      Please feel free to reach out with any comments or questions you may have!

      Reply
  • Vivian July 6, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Hi, Love your website! Very helpful. I am vegetarian but eat eggs and honey-no dairy. I am tip-toeing into this keto thing and find that I am moody and blue in the morning after a successful day of low carb living and if I eat a few berries I feel better. Is this my blood sugar affecting my moods? I figure it is. 1) Do you get used to that and it normalizes? 2) Should I cycle in & out of this & if so, how long should a cycle be? I have read that “it’s a lifestyle” and I have read that no, you have to get to where you cycle in and out of ketogenesis (?) and alternated with complex carb based “normal” eating. What do you think? I am 50 and blessed with great health (yay!) but want to keep it that way! I would like to lose 5-10 pounds but not stressed about it. I’m a fan of “Eat Right for Your Type” blood type book (it resonates) and implement that into my days. Thanks for any insight you have and for doing all this research!

    Reply
    • Liz July 7, 2017 at 11:22 am

      Hi there! It sounds like you have done a lot of research on this matter, which is awesome! So much of keto is dependent upon the individual, as we all process carbohydrates in different ways (stemming from genetics, and hormone balance, among other factors). It seems like you’ve discovered that you feel a bit better adding in some berries to low carb days – this is totally fine!

      Your blood sugar could be impacting your moods for sure, but it’s hard to say without a full breakdown of your lifestyle and diet.

      I would say since you’ve only got 5-10 pounds to lose and are otherwise healthy, that you have a bit more freedom in terms of number of carbohydrates. So, if you feel better adding in some berries, definitely do so! It’s all about how you feel.

      In terms of cycling, this is another case-by-case issue. You may feel great eating super low carb for 6 days, and then having one “carb up day.” You also might feel better eating low carb for two weeks before a carb day (or anything in between!). It’s going to end up being something that you figure out as you go along. 🙂

      Thanks so much for the comment, and for reading. Please feel free to reach out with any more questions you may have!

      Reply
  • P. September 3, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Hi there! Just wondering how you balance your Omega 3 to 6 ratio while eating a lot of nuts and seeds? Do you measure/track them? And if so what balance have you found that works for you?

    Reply
    • Liz September 3, 2017 at 10:43 am

      Hey! This is a great question! I do track them in Cronometer, but I try not to worry about it too much.

      I do eat a ton of seeds – mostly hemp, chia and flax (though I occasionally go through phases where I eat a serving of sesame, pumpkin or sunflower seeds every day or so). I’ll also eat sacha inchi seeds when I can find them. The seeds I eat regularly all have a super favorable omega 3-6 ratio. I used to try and track it to a science, but it got really tedious and a little crazy-making, so now I approximate it and just try to avoid eating too many seeds that are high in omega-6s.

      As for nuts, I’ll sometimes have around a serving or two of peanut butter. It’s my weakness! Occasionally, I’ll have macadamia nuts or walnuts as well.

      So, to the point, the seeds I eat are (mostly) high in omega-3s and low in omega-6s, and I try to limit my intake of nuts that are high in 6s. If you’re first starting out, I wouldn’t worry about it too much – once you get into the routine of eating low carb vegan, you can start tweaking the omegas! 🙂

      Reply
  • Lisa October 11, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    What some people don’t realize is you are suppose to subtract fiber from the carb content to get your true net carb number and some Keto people subtract the protein and fiber and get the number which is suppose to stay below 10….so say I ate something that has 18 gram of carb per serving and 8 grams of fiber that brings you to 10 grams of absorbable carb

    Reply
    • Liz October 11, 2017 at 1:06 pm

      Hi Lisa, this is a great point! Subtracting the fiber is a key aspect of finding out the actual number of carbs in foods. Thank you for sharing!

      Reply

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