The Vegan Ketogenic Diet

vegan ketogenic diet

How to eat high-fat and low-carb while on a vegan or vegetarian diet.

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet which forces the body to burn fat (ketones) for fuel instead of glucose or glycogen.

The ketogenic diet puts the body into a state of ketosis, which can also occur by limiting carbs in the diet or through fasting. Ketones are produced in the liver where fatty acids are broken down, either from body fat or the fat that we eat.

The ketogenic diet was originally used in the 1920s as a way to mimic the effects of fasting to help treat severe cases of epilepsy in children, though now many people use variations of it to achieve other outcomes (like weight loss).

Extensive research has been conducted on the keto diet, with results showing how it may help treat conditions like cancer, diabetes, acne, neurological conditions (like epilepsy), heart disease and obesity.

What sparked my interested in keto was learning about the high risk of developing insulin resistance when consuming a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet (which is essentially a vegan diet).

I began looking at ways to (safely) reduce my carbohydrate intake to allow my body to switch over to burning fat as fuel instead of glucose. Luke Hines in his book, Smart Carbs, referred to five different zones; the keto zone, the low-carb zone, the sustain zone, the carb excess zone, and the warning zone. For the keto zone, it was recommended to consume between 0-50 grams of carbohydrates per day. To achieve this, you would need to ensure your fat intake was sufficient enough to support this very low-carbohydrate lifestyle, to enable your body produces enough ketones for energy.

To ensure I stayed below 50 grams of carbohydrates a day, I downloaded a meal tracking app to calculate my macronutrient levels, and I focused on eating more low-carbohydrate plant foods (rather than the tuberous, starchy, high-carbohydrate vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds I was eating before).

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how to heal candida overgrowth naturally
how to heal candida overgrowth naturally
how to heal candida overgrowth naturally

This proved to be very difficult.

A vegan diet is already limiting, let alone a high-fat, low-carbohydrate vegan diet. The list of permitted foods that meet both low-carbohydrate and plant-food criteria are vanishingly small.

It is possible, but very difficult. The keto vegan diet is one of the most restrictive and least sustainable in terms of adherence.

A lot of the protein-rich, high-fat plant foods available usually come with their fair share of carbs, and quality protein – meaning complete protein sources containing all nine essential amino acids the body cannot make itself – are in extremely short supply.

The protein in tofu, for example, is much less complete and digestible than animal protein, and the consumption of large amounts of nuts and seeds can drive up omega-6 levels to unsafe amounts.

There are few sustaining foods on the list, meaning that if you’re vegan and following a ketogenic diet, you’ll likely be ravenous most of the time.

There are Facebook groups and other online communities that share foods and recipes for those following a keto vegan diet, as well as challenges members might face in combining keto with veganism, and whether the keto vegan diet is sustainable for them or not.

In my personal experience, I was not able to follow a keto vegan diet long-term (more than three months), and ended up resorting back to eating meat and animal foods again to reduce my carbohydrate intake.

Before sharing some high-fat, low-carb, vegan-approved foods to include on a keto vegan diet, I wanted to quickly share what a healthy ketogenic diet looks like for those interested in transitioning to this diet.

vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet

A Healthy Ketogenic Diet

There are hundreds of opinions about what best describes a healthy keto diet, but the rule of thumb is generally this:

  • 65 – 80 percent of calories come from fat
  • 10 – 15 percent of calories come from protein (0.5 gram per pound of lean body mass)
  • The remaining 5 – 10 percent of calories should come from carbohydrates

A typical low-carb diet will generally focus on limiting carb intake without giving much thought to increasing fats. It can be possible to be eating mostly animal foods and other low-carb vegetables on a low-carbohydrate diet, and still not move into ketosis.

The ketogenic diet goes a step further by limiting protein as well as carbohydrates for the body to transition into ketosis.

Scott Gooding in his book, The Keto Diet, recommends having ‘1 gram of protein for every kilo of lean body tissue. This can be measured by your total body weight (kilograms) x body fat (%) = amount of fat mass (in kilograms). Subtract this number from your total body weight = total lean tissue.’

For water consumption, he recommends ‘as a rule of thumb; multiply your body weight by 0.04 to get your daily consumption in litres.’ For me, that would be 62 kilograms times 0.04, which equals 2.48 litres.

For the total net carbs per day, Scott recommends ’30-40 grams net carbs per day. 75 percent fat, 15-20 percent protein, and 5-10 percent carbs.’

vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet

Following a Keto Diet

Ideally, a ketogenic diet should be made up of a wide range of nutritious wholefoods that do not cause inflammation. This means that 5-10 percent of the carbohydrates consumed should come from vegetables, seeds, and nuts rather than starchy foods.

Fats can come from sources like nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado, bacon, pastured lard, grass-fed butter, MCT oil, and similar sources.

Once the body becomes keto-adapted, appetite often regulates itself. This means that rather than feeling deprived, you feel less hungry overall, and might even find yourself naturally going without food for 12 hours overnight.

vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet

Keto Vegan-Friendly Foods

I’ve shared a small list below of some of the keto-friendly plant-based foods available for those who are looking to follow the ketogenic diet, but aren’t sure what to eat. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Avocado
  • Asparagus
  • Artichoke
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli/broccolini
  • Bok choy
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Capsicum
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chard
  • Chicory greens
  • Citrus
  • Chillies
  • Cucumber
  • Daikon
  • Eggplant
  • Endive
  • Fennel
  • Kale
  • Fresh/dry herbs and spices
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Mixed lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Olives
  • Onions
  • Okra
  • Palm hearts
  • Radicchio
  • Raspberries
  • Radishes
  • Rocket
  • Spring onion
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips
  • Zucchini
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Sauerkraut
  • shredded coconut
  • Almond milk
  • Coconut milk/cream
  • Coconut oil
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Green leaf stevia
  • Apple cider vinegar
vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet

Why Follow a Keto Diet?

Mark Sisson, founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, shares how ‘doing a keto reset helps to restore our flexibility to alternate between different types of fuels and stored fats for energy, depending on what’s available. This flexibility has allowed humans to thrive for millions of years, when back in our hunter-gatherer days, we didn’t always have access to the variety and abundance of foods that we have available to us today.’

Research shows that the ketogenic diet provides health benefits such as:

  • Stabilising blood sugar and lowering insulin
  • Reducing oxidative stress
  • Improving the number of mitochondria (the “powerhouse” of cells) and cell function
  • Activating autophagy (the “clean-up” process in the body), where the cells break down old and broken parts of body tissue into nutrients the body can reuse
  • Providing cells with ketones, a much cleaner source of fuel than glucose
  • Activating anti-inflammatory and anti-aging biochemical pathways
vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet

Ketogenic Diet Health Benefits

The keto diet, when carried out correctly, may help:

  1. Improve metabolic function due to lowered blood sugar. When switching from burning glucose (sugar) to burning ketones (fat) for energy, our blood sugar and insulin levels fluctuate much less and remain more stabilised. When blood is stabilised, this brings about many health benefits of its own, including; reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, improving conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome, reducing stress on the body (as there’s no need for stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to step in to help maintain blood sugar levels), which also, in turn, can help clear up acne (due to the body’s ability to balance hormones much more effectively).
  1. Reduce appetite and cravings. When blood sugar levels are more stable, hunger and food cravings are reduced. Ketones can also help in suppressing hunger by acting on the hypothalamus (the control centre for hunger/satiety) in the brain. Furthermore, high-fat meals encourage the production of a hormone in the body that helps increase feelings of fullness in the gut.
  2. Protect against cancer. Each and every one of us have emerging cancer cells, but the cells only develop into cancerous ones if the immune system fails to identify and kill them before they mutate and spread like wild fire. The ketogenic diet reduces oxidative stress and inflammation, encourages cellular clean-up, reduces blood sugar spikes, and stimulates cancer-killing immune responses. Furthermore, most cancers feed on sugar in the body, so by eliminating/greatly reducing that food source from the body and replacing it with fat, you can essentially starve the cancer cells.
  3. Protect neurons and improve brain function. Reports have found that the ketogenic diet may help improve cognitive function, slow down the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, and may even help protect against these diseases.
  4. Slow down aging. Ketosis reduces oxidative damage. Oxidation is a natural process in the body that helps our immune cells kill off germs and causes us to feel tired at the end of the day. However, it also causes damage to our DNA and promotes aging. By reducing blood sugar, ketosis significantly helps reduce oxidative stress in the body, as glucose is an oxidising sugar. What’s more, ketosis promotes autophagy, an anti-aging cellular cleanup process. Autophagy involves a cell eating its own old, defective parts and recycling the nutrients collected, keeping itself functioning like new. Autophagy can also protect against cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, and viral and bacteria infections.
vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet

Keto is Not about Deprivation

You should not be depriving yourself on a ketogenic diet. Most people do better when they include some natural source of carbohydrates (e.g. vegetables) and occasionally add starchy foods to their diet.

It’s not necessary to stay on a ketogenic diet each and every moment of every day to reap all the benefits of keto. Our ancestors went through times of fasting and times of feasts. You may only need to be in a state of ketosis or fast a few days a week. Everyone is individual. So listen to your body and decide for yourself what’s best for you.

vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet

Keto Diet Cautions

The ketogenic diet is not for everyone. There are some people who should be very careful with it and only carry it out with medical supervision. This may include:

  • Those with Type 1 Diabetes
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers
  • People with the genes ApoE4/E4 or ApoE3/E4
  • Women who struggle with irregular cycles and infertility
  • Strength and high-intensity athletes.
vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet

What I Eat in a Day on the Ketogenic Diet

Below is a short meal plan sharing what I ate as a vegan following the ketogenic diet. Keep in mind this is only one day of meals so it should not be misconstrued as a complete meal plan.


Protein Shake

  • Amazonia Raw Protein Isolate plant protein powder
  • Spirulina
  • Cacao powder
  • Flax seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Natural peanut butter (just peanuts, no added sugar, oil, salts, etc.)
  • Filtered water


Spinach, Olive and Almond Salad

  • Spinach
  • Chilli flakes
  • Olives
  • Avocado
  • Hemp seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Almond butter (just almonds, no added sugar, oil, salts, etc.)
  • Olive oil
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Himalayan salt and black pepper, for seasoning


Golden Cauliflower

  • Oven-baked cauliflower
  • Turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Chilli powder
  • Lime


Stuffed Mushrooms

  • Portobello mushrooms
  • Garlic
  • Crushed almonds
  • Lemon juice and zest
  • Olive oil
  • Himalayan salt and black pepper, for seasoning


Indian-Spiced Brussels Sprouts

  • Coconut oil, for sautéing
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Curry leaves
  • Chilli powder
  • Smoked paprika
  • Himalayan salt and black pepper, for seasoning

I purposefully left out the quantities of each item as everyone is individual, so different amounts of each food will be required by different people to ensure they reach their daily target of fats, protein and carbohydrates.

vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet
vegan ketogenic diet

As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. I am not a doctor. All opinions expressed are my own personal thoughts and feelings of the products mentioned. Check with your doctor or health practitioner if you are uncertain about trying out any of the products, recipes or tips mentioned in this post.

Have you tried a vegan ketogenic diet before? What was your experience? Share in the comments below.

Lots of love,

🖤 Vanessa


Wells, Katie. (October 26, 2018). How to Do a Ketogenic Diet (& Is It Safe for Women?). Wellness Mama. Retrieved from

Link, Rachael, MS, RD. (May 17, 2018). Vegan Keto Diet & Vegetarian Keto Diet: Can They Be Done?. Dr. Axe. Retrieved from

Hines, Luke. Smart Carbs. Sydney: Pan Macmillan, 2018. Print.

Lionel Carneiro, Sarah Geller, Audrey Hébert, Cendrine Repond, Xavier Fioramonti, Corinne Leloup & Luc Pellerin. (October 6, 2016). Hypothalamic sensing of ketone bodies after prolonged cerebral exposure leads to metabolic control dysregulation. Scientific Reports. Retrieved from

Antonio Paoli, Gerardo Bosco, Enrico M. Camporesi, and Devanand Mangar. (February 2, 2015). Ketosis, ketogenic diet and food intake control: a complex relationship. NCBI. Retrieved from

Gooding, Scott. The Keto Diet. Australia and New Zealand: Hachette Australia, 2018. Print.

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