Ketogenic Diet for Vegetarians

Is a ketogenic diet for vegetarians reasonably possible? Regardless of your motives for cutting out the animal meat, you are probably equally aware of all the buzz about the ketogenic diet and wondering if you can go keto for all the performance while staying away from all the meats.

The answer is yes, but it takes a little extra thought. While the traditional keto diet typically involves a lot of meat for protein, it’s also not necessary to eat meat while following the plan. In fact, the biggest component of the ketogenic diet is fat, which you can easily get from vegetarian foods.

For omnivores going keto, the most common mistake is eating too much protein. 

However, the biggest mistake vegetarians make is eating too many carbohydrates from vegetables. You do have to be a little more careful with your carb and protein choices since traditional vegetarian forms of protein include things like beans and grains, which aren’t a part of a keto diet. 

Let’s tackle this by discussing the three macronutrients one at a time.

Carbohydrates for a Vegetarian Ketogenic Diet

Since vegetarian diets are typically higher in carbs than meat-eating diets, it’s especially important to understand the right types of carbs when following a meat-free ketogenic diet.

Good Carbs Vs Bad Carbs

Besides getting plenty of healthy fats, watching your carbs is one of the most important factors here—and a lot of the go-to meals and especially snacks common for vegetarians and vegans are pretty carb-heavy. But excessive carbohydrates (even from veggies) aren’t part of a keto diet. Of course, refined carbs like sugar, flour, bread, cereal, chips, etc. are immediately off the table.

Bad Carbs (High Glycemic, Highly Processed)

Here are some carb sources to remove from your home and kitchen:

  • Pastas
  • Breads
  • Chips, crackers, and pretzels
  • Tortillas
  • Rice
  • Sodas
  • Cereals
  • Any other packaged foods with refined sugars or flours
  • Fruit juices and most fruits
  • White potatoes, sweet potatoes
  • Starchy vegetables

Good carbs on a vegetarian keto diet are basically the same as those on a normal keto diet, such as low-carb fruits, full-fat yogurts, and low-carb veggies (more on this below).

Good Carbs (Limited) for a Vegetarian on Keto

Low-carb Vegetables

If you’re one of those vegetarians who hates vegetables, this diet is going to be harder for you. While the most important aspect of keto is keeping your fat content high, you’ll need healthy low-carb veggies to provide enough bulk and fiber to fill in your meals and get enough to eat.

Don’t be afraid to explore and open yourself up to trying new vegetables in different ways. If raw turns you off, try cooking some in coconut oil or butter with lots of seasonings. Give yourself time to get used to the changes. Here are some low-carb vegetables to rely on:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Swiss chard
  • Lettuce
  • Asparagus
  • Green beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cucumber
  • Summer and winter squash
  • Red and white cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Bell peppers
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplants
  • Garlic

 Fruits

All types of fruits should be limited, but berries are lower in sugars and carbs, so they’re typically okay in small amounts and at the end of the day before you fast while sleeping:

  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries

Non-Carbs to Mention (Condiments and Spices)

Condiments

If you can make all your condiments at home, that’s the best choice, but these are okay to buy too. They are generally non-carbohydrate containing, or their carb count is microscopic.

  • Soy sauce or coconut aminos
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot sauces
  • Yellow mustard
  • Mayonnaise (look for brands made with cage-free eggs)
  • Sugar-free ketchup
  • Sauerkraut (free of sugars)
  • Sugar-free or low-sugar high-fat salad dressings

Spices

  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Cilantro
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Lemon or lime juices
  • Pepper and salt

Protein on a Vegetarian Ketogenic Diet

Here’s a comprehensive list of protein-containing foods that have the green light on a keto vegetarian diet:

Vegetarian Ketogenic Proteins

  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Tempeh
  • Natto
  • Miso
  • Nuts and seeds (see below)

If eating any soy products at all, try to stick to only those that are non-GMO and fermented (like organic tempeh).

If you find your protein needs still aren’t being met, you could consider using an organic rice or hemp protein powder, but only use it as a supplement—not a regular meal replacement. Also, just remember that getting too much protein is a common ketogenic diet mistake that prevents you from entering ketosis.

Be wary of packaged vegan and vegetarian meat substitutes: While these might be good substitutes for meat in terms of fat and protein, they might also contain a high amount of carbs. Be sure to check the carb content per serving, and consider the ingredients. Is it full or preservatives and fillers? Better meat substitutes would be any of the proteins mentioned above as well as portobello mushrooms or eggplant.

Fats for Vegetarians in Ketosis

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are sources of both protein and fat. Just be sure to choose mostly low-carb and high-fat choices, as some nuts and seeds are higher in carbs than others and can add up quickly. Check out our full guide to nuts on the ketogenic diet and recipes like our insanely easy Macadamia Nut Fat Bomb.

Best nut options (lower carb):

  • Pecans
  • Brazil nuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Walnuts
  • Coconut (unsweetened)
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Almonds
  • Nut butters made from any of the above

Ketogenic Diet for Vegetarians

Nut options to eat sparingly or not at all(higher carb):

  • Peanuts
  • Pistachios
  • Cashews
  • Chestnuts

Best seed options:

  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds

Healthy Oils

The right types of oils are great for a ketogenic diet because they’re entirely made of fat. MCT’s in particular are a type of fat that is metabolized quicker than most and broken down into useable energy. It also can easily cross the blood-brain barrier, which is why they are so beneficial to our mental clarity and performance. Perfect Keto made a convenient MCT Oil Powder just for this reason, and more can be found in our article Are MCT Supplements Worth Taking? Here are some more great options:

  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • MCT oil
  • Macadamia oil
  • Flaxseed oil

Other Non-Dair Fat Sources

  • Olives
  • Avocados
  • Cocoa butter
  • Coconut cream

Dairy and Eggs

  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Cream cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Mayonnaise
  • Hard cheeses like parmesan, swiss, feta, and cheddar (full-fat)
  • Soft cheese like brie, Monterrey jack, mozzarella, and bleu cheese (full-fat)
  • Butter (grass-fed)
  • Eggs (make sure they’re pastured or free-range and preferably omega-3-enriched)
  • Full-fat unsweetened Greek yogurt or coconut yogurt

Okay, that’s about everything for the foods you’ll need for a high-quality vegetarian keto diet, but what’s the best way to put it into action? Perfect Keto has you covered, and navigate over to our recipe page as well. 🙂

Vegetarian Keto Meal Ideas

Breakfasts Ideas

  • Vegetables and eggs with avocado fried in coconut or olive oil
  • Eggs frittata with asparagus and avocado
  • Vegetable and feta omelet fried in coconut or olive oil
  • Smoothie made from coconut cream, some berries, ice, full-fat yogurt, almond butter, and stevia extract

Lunch Ideas

  • Egg and avocado salad
  • Mixed greens salad with avocado, mozzarella, pesto, olives, bell pepper, onions, a few nuts, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil dressing
  • Vegetarian low-carb Greek salad with feta, tomatoes, onions, olives, fresh Greek spices, and extra virgin olive oil
  • Stir-fried cauliflower “rice” with veggies and eggs

Dinner Ideas

  • Cheese pizza with cauliflower crust and broccoli
  • Pasta made with zucchini noodles and keto alfredo sauce
  • Portobello “steak” with kale salad and cauliflower mashed potatoes
  • Eggplant parmesan fried in coconut oil

Okay, we are almost to the end of the post and I can hear you thinking…

What About Keto as a Vegan?

Great question. Since a vegan diet is even more restricted in terms of low-carb foods, keto as a vegan is highly impractical and takes a lot more thought. However, you can still consume plenty of fats if you stick to healthy oils, nuts/nut butters, avocados, seeds/seed butters, and coconut as your sources while making sure you get enough protein too.

Overall, a ketogenic diet for vegetarians can take a little more thought if you’re new to it, but it’s definitely possible for those wanting to avoid animal by-products entirely.

Best advice is to go for it and test your ketone levels and adjust from there.

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Responses (32)

    1. Thanks very much, Brian, for the contact information. Excellent news for reducing weight and maintaining good health. This is a great website and reference.

      Good health to you!

  1. Hi, thank you for this post, I’ve been wanting to do the Keto Diet but held back because of the meat protein involved…now I can use this as a guide so happy I found your blog.

  2. Great help- will it mess me up if i do vegan keto and intermitten fasting three or four fays a week? I already fast every Thursday. I am a clinical nutritionist and an athlete

  3. Hell9 .. just diagnosed with a meningioma which my neurologist says has exacerbated epilepsy/partial brain seizures. He wants to put me on seizure meds but I am seriously against medication with short and long term side effects. I’ve been off and on ovo-vegetarian/vegan throughout my life and right now I can barely eat chicken so nearly ovo-vegetarian again,

    My question: A keto diet, I have been reading, is supposed to be the super star for brain seizures and epilepsy. Is this true? I wish I had a doctor or someone to help guide me with this but there is so much details but not as many direct assistance.

    Thanks so much in advance!

  4. Hi

    I have been banting (LCHF) for a few months now (no comments on that please, very similar to keto) and would like to stop eating meat. I’ll still eat fish. Anyway, the protein isn’t the question. I don’t want to eat too many carbs. How big should a salad be? A breakfast bowl, or a soup bowl or 3 cups? How much steamed brocolli, for example; a cup? How many cups of steamed veg a day? I obviously won’t live on steamed veg, I’m just trying to get my portions sorted in my head.

    Thanks so much!
    G

  5. How can I print off a copy of this to take to grocery store so I don’t have to hand write every item? Seeking healthier form of Keto that the Cardio Dr will allow with stents in place…does NOT WANT many saturated fats so thinking that vegetarian or even vegan may be the way to achieve compliance and wt loss. I have lost 30 since stent placement 2 years ago but have stalled out and asked about KETO – met a lot of resistance but agreement if I can get sat.fats down in my choice of foods.

  6. Excellent info., I read that some starches if they become ‘resistant’ are not so bad like cold pasta salad, cold potatoes salad etc.- does this allow for some wiggle room vis-a-vis total carb calories?

    1. Hi Joaquin, great questions. It depends if those starches raise your blood sugar – most starchy vegetables tend to raise blood sugar levels which you want to avoid as much as possible.

  7. Looking for ideas for protein following a Keto vegetarian diet! I already eat lots of eggs and the other options tempeh and natto are soy derived which I avoid due to thyroid problems. Any other ideas pls??☺️

    1. Lentils are a bit higher in carbs. They have 2.5 g total carb (1.5 net) per 1 tbsp boiled which is about 20g total carb per 1/2 cup. They do have a good amount of fiber though so may not be bad in moderation and smaller amounts.

  8. Great article. I think it will help a lot. I want to do the keto diet for my type 2 DM but I’m a vegetarian, not vegan, so I don’t think it will be too difficult to figure out. I’d love to see some more examples of meals to refer to at the beginning.
    Thanks

  9. I plan to lose around 20kgs and want to give keto diet a try. What is the maximum time period for which a keto diet can be followed in one go?

    1. Hi Saakshi, I would recommend adopting keto as a lifestyle rather than a “diet”…there is no max. – it all depends on your goals and what you’d like to get out of it!

  10. Hi! I’ve got severe PCOS and I’ve got Epilepsy too and I am planning on going on this diet as I’ve heard it’s amazing for those who have it 🙂
    I’m a vegetarian but I don’t eat eggs as I’m allergic to them.
    Also, I’m in Zimbabwe where a lot of the protein options are super hard to find.
    Which lentils do you think have the least amount of carbs that I can incorporate into my meals? Also, do you think I could have half a protein shake with every meal to get that protein in my diet?
    I’ve been searching and searching the internet but I can’t seem to find any help. So, any help would be incredibly appreciated!

    Thank you ❤️

    1. Hey Jamie, great to hear that you’re going keto!! As far as lentils go, what are the different types you’re referring too? In terms of the protein shake, yes you can definitely have a protein shake as long as it’s low in carbs and you are adding enough fat to it – having a bunch of protein at once could hinder your ability to get and stay in ketosis so you always want to pair protein with fat to minimize the blood sugar response.

  11. Hi, I have a partial complex seizure disorder and a form of muscular dystrophy. I want to lose about 20 or 30 lbs. I am mainly vegitarian, but I occasionally eat meat. Can the two be mixed? If so how? How do you get fiber and calcium? I will eat cheese and drink milk. I am very interested in this to see if will help my seizures.

    1. Hey Madison, you’ll want to check with your doctor on this first. I can say that eating lots of fibrous vegetables will aid in your fiber consumption and when you do eat meat, choosing the highest quality, fattier cuts will be key to getting all the beneficial nutrients you need. You could also try out our Greens Powder which will help with consuming a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. You can check that out here: https://shop.perfectketo.com/products/perfect-keto-micros-greens-powder. Additionally, the scientific literature behind keto and seizure control is very extensive and many many people have found success with it. But like I said – it’s best to check with your doctor first.

  12. I am just learning about keto. Help a girl out, do I have a calorie limit and how do I know I am eating too much protein aka what is too much? Is there any way this can backfire and I gain weight from eating all this fat?

    1. Hi Sarah, depending on your goals it may be useful to utilize our macro calculator which you can find here: https://perfectketo.wpengine.com/keto-macro-calculator/. You’ll enter all of your info, set a goal, and it will give you a good starting point of how much protein, fat, and carbs you should be aiming for in a day. I would definitely start off with this and than adjust as you go. Hope this helps!

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