Let’s start with two scenarios.
- You’ve been vegan or vegetarian for years, but you’ve heard great things about the keto diet and its effect on energy and metabolism and want to give it a shot—without giving up your plant-based lifestyle.
- You’ve been doing keto for a while, and love the results, but want to move toward a more plant-based lifestyle, with less reliance on animal products.
You probably picture vegan and ketogenic diets as a Venn diagram with only a small overlap. But not only is there a lot of overlap—think healthy oils, nuts and seeds, and lots of greens—vegan keto might be a way to harness the benefits of both diets, for a lifestyle that’s both sustainable and metabolism-boosting.
Let's take a look at the plant-based keto diet—who it’s for, what it looks like, which foods are key, and the pros and cons of this lifestyle. And, we’ll get festive with a vegan keto menu for your holiday feasts.
Vegan Keto—The Basics.
You’re probably wondering what exactly followers of a vegan keto diet can even eat.
Vegan keto diets are the plant-based version of the ketogenic diet: high-fat, moderate-protein, and very low-carb. Instead of relying on animal products for fat and protein, vegan keto followers rely on high-fat plant products, including coconut oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. Carbs are restricted to less than 50 grams per day to maintain ketosis.
There are health benefits associated with both vegan and ketogenic diets, so it makes sense to try to combine the two!
Numerous studies show the benefits of a plant-based diet:
- Vegans have lower blood pressure and a significantly decreased risk of heart disease.
- Vegan diets have positive effects on obesity, hypertension, and Type 2 diabetes.
- Vegan diets have been shown to positively impact successful weight loss.
The keto diet produces similarly beneficial effects:
- Ketogenic diets result in more weight loss than low-calorie diets.
- Keto diets increase blood sugar control, positively impact cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
However, because plant-based keto is such a new concept, there are no studies that focus specifically on the combination of the two diets. And because the vegan keto diet is so limited—not only are animal products off the table, but high-carb sources of vegan protein and calories are, too—we recommend consulting with your doctor and making the transition to vegan keto cautiously. It’s crucial that you supplement wisely, particularly with nutrients that vegan keto diets lack—including Vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin K2, zinc, omega-3 fats, iron and calcium.
So—what exactly can you eat on a vegan keto diet? Stick with these food types:
- Healthy oils, including sunflower, olive, avocado, and coconut
- Other coconut products, including coconut milk and meat
- Nuts and seeds—both whole and ground
- Non-starchy vegetables—any dark leafy green, plus all other veggies low in carbs like zucchini, peppers, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts
- Soy-based protein sources, including tofu and tempeh
- Vegan milk, cheese, and yogurt (often nut- or coconut- based)
- Low-carb fruits, particularly limited amounts of berries
If you are vegetarian or pescaterian, keto is easily achievable with the addition of eggs, cheese, butter, yogurt, and fish to your plant-based diet.
A very vegan keto menu.
At Lakanto, we’re big advocates for living a sustainable lifestyle, whether that means practicing cyclical keto, learning to eat intuitively, or giving yourself a day off from strict dieting on special occasions.
But that doesn’t mean a plant-based, keto-friendly holiday meal is impossible. In fact, the first Thanksgiving most likely included plenty of vegan keto staples, including onions, lettuce, cabbage, and spinach (all right, there was probably a lot of wild game and freshly caught fish, too).
The point is, we’d bet these savory, satiating dishes will be remembered long after the final bite is taken. And, bonus—all of them take 30 minutes or less to make, meaning your dinner will be on the table far before everyone else is pulling their turkeys out of the oven. On the menu:
- Stuffed olives, roasted nuts—it isn’t a get-together without snacks. Whip up an easy and satisfying appetizer plate by stuffing your favorite olives with vegan cheese and pimento peppers. Serve with savory-sweet roasted rosemary almonds.
- Green bean casserole—fresh green beans and a creamy, homemade vegan sauce make for a crunchy, comforting holiday classic that’s leaps and bounds above the can-of-soup, can-of-beans, can-of-onions version.
- Tofu & cauliflower garlic mash—get your mashed potatoes on, without the carbs. This garlicky, tofu- and cauliflower-based mash is easy to whip up, and just as satisfying as the original.
- Kale & cranberry salad—this warm, sweet and savory salad brings out the flavors of Thanksgiving without necessitating a sugary, can-shaped blob of cranberry sauce. Massage the kale with oil and salt until tender for a nutrient-boosting side.
- Balsamic-glazed red onions—these quick and easy onions are a sweet, tangy compliment to everything else on your plate.
- Sautéed wild mushrooms—delicate, earthy wild mushrooms are slowly sautéed with garlic and fresh thyme until tender and slightly browned. Use olive oil in this recipe for a divine vegan main dish.
- Key lime pie—packed with healthy fats, including coconut and avocado, and sporting a nut-and-coconut crust, this vegan, keto dessert really puts the cherry on top of your holiday meal. Use liquid monk fruit sweetener for a truly sugar-free dessert.
- Pecan-pie fat bombs—spiced, pecan-packed fat bombs are the perfect finish to your holiday meal—and a wonderful gift to send along with guests at the end of the evening.
We’ll be honest—we started out questioning whether you could make a tasty, satisfying vegan keto holiday meal. Those recipes above...just the tip of the vegetable stalk.
We circled back to some recipes that our ambassadors have created and found a vegan keto jackpot with some that Liz at Meat Free Keto had created. Get them all here!
Whether you’re vegan keto or not, this menu provides delicious options for all of your vegan, keto, and just health-conscious friends, leaving every guest at your dinner table satisfied.