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What is the Vegetarian Keto Diet? Benefits, Drawbacks, Food List, and Meal Plan


Although a traditional keto diet includes a wide variety of foods, provided that they’re low in carbohydrates, it’s totally possible to follow a vegetarian keto diet.

This approach emphasizes plant-based foods such as leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and berries. But while a keto vegetarian diet avoids meat and seafood, it allows for eggs and dairy products.

Here’s what you need to know about keto for vegetarians, its health benefits, what to eat and avoid, a sample meal plan, and some downsides to consider.

What is the Vegetarian Keto Diet?

The vegetarian keto diet is a plant-based diet where you eat mostly plants that are non-starchy. Additionally, you can meet your protein and fat requirements by eating eggs and full-fat dairy, which increase the quality of your diet since they provide important micronutrients like potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, and B vitamins (* , *).

Unlike a typical vegetarian diet, a keto vegetarian approach is very low in carbohydrates. You’re allowed to consume only 20-50 grams of net carbs per day, which then forces your body to enter a fat-burning state of ketosis.

That said, vegetarian keto foods exclude high-carb plants such as grains, potatoes, beets, corn, and high-sugar fruits (apples, mangoes, bananas, and grapes).

Vegetarian Keto Benefits

Both a vegetarian diet and a keto diet help you to achieve good health and reach certain goals. When combined, you get the best of both worlds. You’ll find some vegetarian keto diet benefits below with studies to back them up.

keto vegetarian benefits

1. Improves Your Weight Loss

Studies have demonstrated that the vegetarian diet and the ketogenic diet both aid weight loss. Fiber, which is found in plants, helps you feel full on fewer calories (*). Keto-friendly foods, including low-carb vegetables and meats, promote greater fat loss by lowering blood glucose and insulin levels (*).

Combining vegetarian and keto diets can enhance your weight loss results, especially if you focus on whole, unprocessed foods (*). In other words, follow a clean keto diet.

Optimizing your protein intake on vegetarian keto will also boost your metabolism while consuming healthy fats, such as medium-chain triglycerides, can regulate your appetite and help you stay satiated (* , *).

2. Helps Control Blood Sugar Levels

Research has found that a vegetarian diet doesn’t only promote a healthy weight, but also makes your body become more responsive to insulin (*).

This is probably because a vegetarian diet reduces energy intake, which leads to weight loss, which then improves glycemic control (*). Another explanation is that dietary fiber slows glucose absorption from the intestine, reducing blood sugar spikes (*).

On the other hand, achieving nutritional ketosis through a keto diet can improve HbA1c (your average blood sugar over the past 2-3 months) in as little as 3 weeks. In fact, a keto diet can reverse type 2 diabetes and eliminate diabetic medications (* , *).

3. Reduces Your Risk of Chronic Disease

Another potential benefit of a keto diet for vegetarians is that it lowers your risk of chronic health conditions. Examples of these conditions are obesity, heart disease, diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and Alzheimer’s disease.

Evidence shows that chronic inflammation can increase your risk of ailments — but unfortunately, it remains invisible until a person manifests physical symptoms (* , *).

Ketogenic diets work by reducing chronic inflammation. The ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), produced by your liver during ketosis, suppresses the NLRP3 inflammasome, which is involved in the development of diseases (* , *).

Being a keto vegetarian also means removing foods that trigger inflammation, such as refined carbohydrates, high-fructose corn syrup, processed animal products, and vegetable and seed oils with high amounts of omega-6.

4. Increases Your Gut Microbiome Diversity

Studies reveal that a diverse gut microbiome (the microorganisms in your digestive tract) benefits your health (*).

In contrast, disturbed gut microbiotas, or a loss of species diversity, have been associated with various health conditions like obesity and diabetes (* , *).

One of the ways to improve gut bacteria is to eat a variety of foods, which includes plants (*).

When on a keto vegetarian diet, make it your goal to consume as many types of low-carb vegetables and fruits as possible. In addition, eat fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, plain yogurt, and unflavored kombucha (*). As long as you stick to unflavored varieties and watch your serving size, these options should be fine on keto.

5. May Lower Your Cancer Risk

Vegetarian and keto diets have been associated with a reduced risk of cancer. Both diets reduce excess body weight — an important factor in many cancers (*).

Research also suggests that a keto diet helps to prevent or treat cancer by starving cancer cells since cancer cells need lots of glucose for energy (*). While treating diabetic patients with cancer in 1921, A. Braunstein noted the disappearance of glucose from the patients’ urine (*)

That said, cancer patients may benefit from a vegetarian keto diet, in addition to receiving treatment from their healthcare provider.

Vegetarian Keto Food List

Fill your weekly shopping list with these low-carb foods for vegetarian keto. All these foods are healthy sources of fat and protein, and will help with your goals:

  • Non-starchy vegetables: cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, brussels sprouts, kale), green beans, salad greens (lettuce, spinach), tomatoes, mushrooms
  • Low-carb fruits: avocado, lemons, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and cantaloupe
  • Plant-based fats: olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, MCT oil
  • Protein: eggs, tofu, nutritional yeast, spinach, keto-friendly vegetarian protein powder
  • Dairy products: cheese, heavy cream, butter, sour cream, yogurt
  • Nuts: almonds, pecans, macadamias, walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts
  • Seeds: chia seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseeds
  • Beverages: plain coffee, plain tea, almond milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, sparkling water
  • Sweeteners: stevia, monk fruit

Vegetarian Keto Foods You Should Avoid

Keto vegetarians should stay away from high-carb foods and drinks, including plant-based meats since these are highly processed. See the list below:

  • Starchy vegetables: corn, white and sweet potatoes, butternut squash, beets
  • High-sugar fruits: mangoes, grapes, cherries, bananas, oranges, apples
  • Grains: barley, corn, oats, rice, durum, quinoa
  • All unprocessed and processed meat: beef, pork, veal, chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish
  • Plant-based meat: Beyond Meat burgers, sausages, meatballs
  • Sugary beverages: fruit juice, soda, sweetened tea, and sweetened coffee
  • High-carb alcoholic drinks: regular beer, margarita, bloody mary

Sample Vegetarian Keto Meal Plan

Try these meals whenever you’re ready to go vegetarian keto. Instead of meat, we’re using cruciferous veggies and cheese to make them taste wonderful.

Day 1

  • Breakfast: mini peppers stuffed with cheese and plain coffee
  • Lunch: broccoli and parmesan cheese vegetarian meatballs
  • Dinner: vegetarian casserole made with cauliflower rice, heavy cream, marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, and oregano

Day 2

  • Breakfast: low-carb pancakes made with almond flour, cream cheese, and eggs
  • Lunch: veggie salad bowl with purple cabbage, zucchini, lettuce leaves, walnuts, and apple cider vinegar
  • Dinner: creamy mushroom pasta using shirataki noodles

Day 3

  • Breakfast: egg muffins made with eggs, cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese
  • Lunch: berry bowl with frozen mixed berries, coconut cream, avocado, nuts, almond milk, and coconut flakes
  • Dinner: cauliflower mac and cheese

Day 4

  • Breakfast: scrambled eggs and cheese slices
  • Lunch: greek yogurt topped with crushed walnuts and almond nuts
  • Dinner: zucchini noodles with pesto

Day 5

  • Breakfast: keto oatmeal made with almond flour, chia seeds, coconut flakes, monk fruit, and milk
  • Lunch: broccoli, cauliflower, and cheese frittata
  • Dinner: roasted asparagus with garlic and parmesan cheese

Vegetarian Keto Drawbacks

While vegetarian keto offers many benefits, it may present certain risks if you follow it incorrectly.

keto vegetarian drawbacks

1. You May Experience the Keto Flu

Decreasing carbohydrates to 50 grams or less may cause keto flu, a collection of flu-like symptoms that happens as your body switches from sugar to fat for fuel (*).

To combat symptoms such as headache, low energy, brain fog, and digestive issues, be sure to get plenty of electrolytes and eat enough fat. Healthy plant-based fats include avocados, almonds, and flaxseeds.

2. Possible Nutritional Deficiencies

Keto and vegetarian diets require careful planning to prevent nutritional deficiencies that result from removing food groups. A keto plant-based diet eliminates whole grains, starchy vegetables, meat, poultry, and seafood — which are sources of important vitamins and minerals.

Boosting your nutrient intake can be done by making sure you rotate low-carb plants, eggs, and dairy in your diet. Consider taking a vitamin B12 supplement as well, on top of getting it from cheese and eggs, since vitamin B12 is scarce in plant foods (*).

3. Some May Find the Diet Restrictive

People who enjoy eating a wide variety of foods may not like the idea of removing meat from their meals. This includes those who have already adapted to a traditional keto diet.

It takes a lot of time to change your eating habits. If a vegetarian keto diet seems too extreme, then it’s probably best for you to stay on a standard keto diet or a vegetarian diet.

4. You Must Work Hard to Get Extra Protein

Animal proteins are considered “complete proteins” since they contain all essential amino acids — whereas most plant proteins lack at least one essential amino acid (*). These essential amino acids have vital functions, such as making brain neurotransmitters and growth hormones, digestion, and absorbing minerals (*)

One thing you can do to get all essential amino acids is to combine different plant protein sources. Fortunately, there are lots of keto-friendly vegetarian protein foods to enjoy. Go for eggs, full-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, and organic tempeh.

5. Plants Contain Antinutrients

Antinutrients are compounds in plants that interfere with the absorption of nutrients in your body. In other words, antinutrients reduce nutrient intake. Examples of antinutrients are lectins, phytates, oxalates, and tannins (*).

While it’s possible to reduce antinutrients in plants and improve their nutritional value through soaking, boiling, and fermentation, some people would rather avoid plants or eat more meat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to common questions on the vegetarian keto diet:

Is vegetarian keto better than regular keto?

While a vegetarian keto diet is healthy, it’s not necessarily better than regular keto. In fact, a vegetarian keto diet can be more restrictive in that it eliminates animal foods (except for eggs and dairy) on top of cutting carbohydrates. With proper planning, a keto vegetarian can avoid nutrient deficiencies and maximize this diet’s benefits.

Can vegetarians get into ketosis?

Yes, they can. To enter nutritional ketosis, they need to watch their carb intake and make sure that they only eat 20-50 grams of net carbs per day. This is possible by focusing on non-starchy plants like broccoli, cauliflower, and salad greens. These are lower in carbohydrates.

How many carbs can you have on a vegetarian keto diet?

Like a standard keto diet, a vegetarian keto diet allows for up to 50 grams of net carbs in a day. The best sources of carbs include non-starchy fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and full-fat dairy.


If you’re planning to start a keto vegetarian diet, know that it can require a lot of thought and preparation.

But with the tips discussed above, such as rotating keto vegetarian diet foods, eating healthy fats, taking electrolytes, and paying attention to your protein intake — you can relieve keto flu symptoms, prevent nutrient deficiencies, and avoid problems related to amino acid deficiency.

In summary, this diet may help your body in many ways. Keto vegetarian diet benefits include weight loss, reduced risk of chronic disease, improved blood sugar levels, and increased gut microbiome diversity. It may also help people with cancer by improving outcomes or reducing the risk of cancer.

Find yourself in need of vegetarian keto recipes? Perfect Keto has plenty of options for you. Check out these delicious meatless recipes.

29 References

Kuang H et al. The Impact of Egg Nutrient Composition and Its Consumption on Cholesterol Homeostasis. 2018 August 23

Warsewicz H et al. Milk and Dairy Products and Their Nutritional Contribution to the Average Polish Diet. 2019 August 1

Miketinas D et al. Fiber Intake Predicts Weight Loss and Dietary Adherence in Adults Consuming Calorie-Restricted Diets: The POUNDS Lost (Preventing Overweight Using Novel Dietary Strategies) Study. 2019 June 7

Goss A et al. Effects of weight loss during a very low carbohydrate diet on specific adipose tissue depots and insulin sensitivity in older adults with obesity: a randomized clinical trial. 2020 August 12

Poti J et al. Ultra-processed Food Intake and Obesity: What Really Matters for Health – Processing or Nutrient Content?. 2018 December 1

Johnston C et al. Postprandial thermogenesis is increased 100% on a high-protein, low-fat diet versus a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet in healthy, young women. 2002 February

Samra R. Fats and Satiety.

Yokoyama Y et al. Vegetarian diets and glycemic control in diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. 2014 October

Yokoyama Y et al. Vegetarian diets and glycemic control in diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. 2014 October

Yokoyama Y et al. Vegetarian diets and glycemic control in diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. 2014 October

Tinguely D et al. Efficacy of Ketogenic Diets on Type 2 Diabetes: a Systematic Review. 2021 August 27

Cox N et al. Ketogenic diets potentially reverse Type II diabetes and ameliorate clinical depression: A case study. 2019 February 6

Harvard Health Publishing. Understanding acute and chronic inflammation. 2020 April 1

Hunter P. The inflammation theory of disease. 2012 October 9

Youm Y et al. The ketone metabolite β-hydroxybutyrate blocks NLRP3 inflammasome-mediated inflammatory disease. 2015 February 16

Ozaki E et al. Targeting the NLRP3 inflammasome in chronic inflammatory diseases: current perspectives. 2015 January 16

Deng F et al. The gut microbiome of healthy long-living people. 2019 January 15

Deng F et al. The gut microbiome of healthy long-living people. 2019 January 15

Valdes A et al. Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health. 2018 June 13

Manor O et al. Health and disease markers correlate with gut microbiome composition across thousands of people. 2020 October 15

Weaver J et al. Fermented-food diet increases microbiome diversity, decreases inflammatory proteins, study finds. 2021 July 12

Luo J et al. Intentional weight loss and cancer risk. 2017 September 6

Allen B et al. Ketogenic diets as an adjuvant cancer therapy: History and potential mechanism. 2014

Klement R et al. Is there a role for carbohydrate restriction in the treatment and prevention of cancer?. 2011 October 26

Bostock E et al. Consumer Reports of “Keto Flu” Associated With the Ketogenic Diet. 2020 March 13

Rizzo G et al. Vitamin B12 among Vegetarians: Status, Assessment and Supplementation. 2016 November 29

Hoffman J et al. Protein – Which is Best?. 2004 September 1

Cleveland Clinic. Amino Acids.

Popova A et al. Antinutrients in Plant-based Foods: A Review. 2019 July 29


47 thoughts on “What is the Vegetarian Keto Diet? Benefits, Drawbacks, Food List, and Meal Plan

    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.

    1. I am happy to read about vegetarians on keto but you didn’t mention tofu as a protein option. I do like to eat organic tofu. Would that be a problem?

  2. This is a great tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere.

    Short but very accurate info… Many thanks for sharing this one.
    A must read article!

  3. 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

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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: 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.

  13. 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: 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!

  14. Hi, thanks for advice. I had to have a kidney out a couple of years ago. The other one functioning fine. Is it ok to go Keto? Am also worried about high protein affecting kidney.
    Thank you!1

    1. Hey Emma, I would definitely recommend consulting with your doctor and doing some more research on your own. However, keto isn’t high in protein, it’s high in fat and moderate in protein. So as long as you are keeping that protein intake moderate and fats higher, I don’t see why not. But again, talk with your doctor and definitely reach out to others who may have more experience in that area. Good luck!

  15. I’m ready to get started so thank you for this information. I am concerned about the amount of fat as I get pains in my gallbladder if I eat a fat laden meal. Could the fat be spread out as small meals several times a day?

    1. Jean, yes the fat can be spread out through out the day. You could also look into ox bile supplementation which seems to help many people struggling with fat digestion.

  16. I have been Keto few months as non-meat eater. Using blood keystones meter not reaching therapeutic Keto & not able to develop muscle. Daily intermittent fasting, so 2 meals/day. Trying to lose some wt. Exercise. Inputting macros. My mercury hi so don’t want to eat tons of fish. Eat dairy. I’m smallish female. Keeping carbs < 25, protein 55, fats 60-65. Kcal 1000ish. Worried about no muscle. What to do?

    1. Hi Cathy, first red flag would be that you’re not consuming enough calories. I would try upping your calorie intake a bit with good fat and proteins sources and see if that helps!

  17. This is very attention-grabbing, You are a very professional blogger. I’ve joined your feed and stay up for in search of more of your magnificent post. Also, I have shared your website in my social networks!

  18. Generic Worcestershire sauce is a fish based sauce made with Anchovies. Make sure you find one suitable for vegetarians.

  19. Hi, cheese is a migraine trigger for me. What can I substitute with as vegan cheese is made with potato starch? I eat mainly plant based..with fish and eggs, minimal dairy. Cheers

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