No matter who you ask, most likely they'll tell you the words ”keto diet” evoke images of bacon, eggs, fat dairy—and that’s right! In most cases, the keto diet is really about eating a lot of products rich in fat, and usually, those are animal-derived products.
But what if you’re a vegan? Can you still go keto without fearing for your health OR compromising your worldview?
In a nutshell: that’s absolutely possible. :)
Keep reading to learn how!
To successfully reach ketosis, your daily calorie intake should consist of:
- 70-75% fat
- 20-25% protein
- 5% carbohydrate (and preferably less than 21 grams per day)
Simple math, right? The problem is that most plant-based products are the exact opposite of something you’d call keto-friendly: they contain a lot of carbs and have little to no fat.
Sounds tough but don’t worry just yet: here’s your winning strategy.
Rule 1: Oils are your best friends
Since most plants aren’t rich in fat, you’ll have to get your daily fat goal from elsewhere, and oils are the most accessible option. Not only they’re pure fat, but also 100% vegan-friendly no matter what option you pick.
Coconut oil, for example, is rich (60-80%) in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are one of the best sources of ketones on the keto diet. It also comes with at least 19 confirmed health benefits as a pleasant bonus.
If you want to have even more MCTs in your diet (which is especially useful if you’re having a hard time reaching ketosis), MCT oil is another great option. We’ve covered its benefits in detail in one of our recent articles.
Avocado oil and olive oil. Olive oil and avocado oil are your best sources for healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). Contrary to MCTs, which are turned into ketones incredibly fast, MUFAs are metabolized slow and steady—providing you with ketones gradually throughout the day.
Always count your macros and keep an eye on your fat intake: when you see you’re not meeting your daily goal, increasing your intake of oils is one of the easiest and fastest ways to fix that.
Rule 2: Know your vegs—not all are keto-friendly!
In terms of going keto, some vegetables are SO much better than others.
The rule of thumb is this: vegetables that grow ABOVE the ground have fewer carbs than those that grow BELOW the ground.
In a nutshell, salads are good, tubers & roots are bad. Opt for kale over potatoes, Brussel sprouts over carrots, spinach over onions, and so on. For more details check out our detailed guide on the best vegetables to eat on keto.
This doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t eat underground veg at all: just stay mindful, count your carbs, and focus on pairing them with enough fat.
Rule 3: Don’t forget the vegan-keto cheat products
Why ”cheat” products? Because they make reaching ketosis so much easier! Just think about it:
- Avocados. 100 g of this delicious ingredient contains about 65 g of healthy fats—at the expense of as much as 2-5 g of net carbs. This is the king of all plants when it comes to keto.
- Tofu. Although this isn’t the richest source of fat out there, it’s a great way to get some extra protein in a vegan-friendly way: 100 g of tofu contain as much as 2 net grams of carb, 8 g of protein, and almost 5 grams of fat. It’s also incredibly versatile in terms of what you can cook with it.
- Chia seeds have one of the highest levels of fiber among all seeds and nuts, meaning that you’re left with less bioavailable carbs. One 12 g tablespoon of chia seeds contains up to 1 g of net carbs, 2 g of protein, and 3.5 g of fat.
- Flaxseed is another great pick if you want to include seeds into your diet: one tablespoon contains just 0.7 g of net carbs along with 4 g of fat and 2 g of protein!
Rule 4: There’s a vegan alternative for any product
Going from ”keto” to ”vegan keto” is quite simple: just go for the vegan version of everything keto!
For example, look around for some vegan egg substitutes which are usually made of soy protein isolate, a good source of protein with no carbs whatsoever. Milk can be replaced with coconut milk. Vegan cheese, vegan meat, vegan bacon, vegan cream: yep, there’s a vegan version of literally everything out there—just make sure to check the nutritional facts and count your carbs just in case.
Depending on where you live, getting your hands on some of these products may be a challenge, so make sure to plan beforehand and buy in bulk whenever possible (most likely you’ll even save some money by doing so).
If you’re a vegan, going keto will be hard because it’s an extra level of restrictions you’ll have to keep in mind. The good news is that hard doesn’t mean impossible, and your best strategy is described in this article. :)
Be mindful of your carb intake at all times and remember that not all vegan-friendly products are keto-friendly: these two crucial recommendations make more than half of your vegan-keto success!