Vegan vs Keto [The Dietitian Weighs In]

Vegan vs keto: two different eating styles claiming to be the solution for weight loss and health.

Can science determine which one is better? 

What is a Vegan Diet?

vegan vs keto: Vegan bowl
Vegan bowl

The vegan diet focuses on eating plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

The diet excludes all animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and honey.

Foods made with animal products are also excluded.  For example, vegans will only eat cupcakes made without eggs and milk.  

Because of the popularity of vegan diets, supermarkets and restaurants have adopted the concept too! So, it’s really easy to find delicious vegan food in many places. 

What Foods Can You Eat in a Vegan Diet?

Protein AlternativesTofu, tempeh, and seitan
LegumesBeans, chickpeas, lentils, and peas
Nuts and Nut ButterAlmonds, almond butter, peanuts, peanut butter, cashews, Brazilian nuts, and other types of nuts
SeedsHemp, chia, flaxseed, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, and poppy seedsHemp, chia, flaxseeds, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, and poppy seeds.
Plant-milks and yogurts Calcium-fortified soy, cashew, oat, almond, coconut, and other milk alternatives
Nutritional yeastA cheese-flavored vegan protein product
Grains and CerealsWhole grains are preferred, but there are no 
Fruits and VegetablesAny type
FatsHealthy fats are preferred, including olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil.

The only restriction on a vegan diet is to avoid animal products. Eating nutritious foods is recommended to ensure a healthy diet, but it’s not required.

Vegan is not the equivalent of healthy. In fact, the healthiness of any diet depends on its quality. For example, a vegan person can have french fries and rice for dinner, which is not a healthy meal.
Therefore, if you’re following this diet for weight loss or overall health, it’s essential to think about the quality of the food you’re eating. 

What Foods do You Need to Avoid?

In short, all animal proteins and by-products:

MeatBeef, veal, buffalo meat, pork, lamb, goat, etc
Cured MeatsBacon, sausage, ham, etc
Fish and SeafoodSalmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, shrimp, scallops, octopus, calamari, etc
PoultryChicken, turkey, duck, goose, etc
All eggs and products containing eggs
CheeseAll types of cheese
Animal FatsButter, cream, ghee, lard, etc
Other Animal-Based IngredientsWhey protein, casein, egg white protein, etc
AlcoholAlcoholic drinks made with animal products or manufactured using animal products

Sample meal plan




Want more delicious vegan meal ideas? Buy my Vegan Mexican Recipes cookbook.


Most alcohol is vegan-friendly, but certainly not all. Animal products can be part of the manufacturing process or an ingredient.
Read this article to help you choose vegan-friendly alcoholic drinks. 

What Is the Keto Diet?

Keto diet foods

The ketogenic diet (or keto diet, for short) was created by Russel Wilder in 1921 when he used it to treat children with epilepsy. Later, the diet became famous for weight loss.

This diet is different from other low-carb eating plans because it’s very high in fat. A typical keto diet comprises 70-80% fat, 10-20% protein, and 5-10% carbohydrates. 

Because this diet is so low in carbohydrates, typically dieters following this program can eat only 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day. To make it easier to visualize, a cup of rice has 45 grams of carbs. 

As a result, the body enters a metabolic state called ketosis, a condition in which your body burns fat instead of carbohydrates for energy.
Symptoms of ketosis include thirst, dry mouth, frequent urination, and decreased hunger and appetite. 

What Foods Can You Eat on the Keto Diet?

MeatBeef, chicken, turkey, veal, buffalo meat, etc
Cured meatsBacon, sausage, ham, etc
Fish and SeafoodSalmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, shrimp, scallops, octopus, calamari, etc.
EggsEggs, egg products and foods made with eggs.
CheeseUnprocessed cheese like cheddar and mozzarella, cream cheese
FatsButter, cream, ghee, lard, etc
OilsCoconut oil, olive oil, grape-seed oil, avocado oil
AvocadosAll types
NutsAlmonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, peanuts, etc
SeedsChia, sesame, flax, pumpkin, etc
VegetablesAll low carb: green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc
CondimentsSalt, pepper, herbs, and spices

What Foods do You Need to Limit in the Ketogenic Diet?

This eating plan’s most important aspect is meeting the macronutrient goals. In order to reach ketosis, you will need to limit sugar and carbohydrates.

Sugary FoodsCookies, ice cream, cake, candy, jam, jelly, and other preserves with added sugar, canned fruit packed in sugar, pastries, donuts, milkshakes, and some ready-to-eat cereals
Sugary beveragesSoda, energy drinks, fruit juice, etc
GrainsBread, rice, pasta, cereal, and all types of grains
FruitsAll, except small portions of berries
Beans and LegumesBlack beans, kidney beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, and all other beans and legumes
Root vegetablesPotatoes, malanga, sweet potatoes, carrots, and others.Potatoes, malanga, sweet potatoes, carrots, etcga, sweet potatoes, carrots, and others.
Condiments with Added SugarBarbecue sauce, ketchup, honey mustard, teriyaki sauce, etc
AlcoholBeer, wine, mixed drinks

Sample Meal Plan




Alcohol Consumption

You can drink alcohol in the keto diet, but it’s limited to beverages low in carbohydrates. This includes gin, tequila, rum, whiskey, and vodka. 

Vegan vs keto: Allowed alcoholic beverages in keto
No-sugar blackberry mojito

You can drink alcohol in the keto diet, but it’s limited to beverages low in carbohydrates. This includes gin, tequila, rum, whiskey, and vodka.

It’s equally important to use low-carb mixers. Examples of acceptable mixers include seltzer, sugar-free tonic water, diet soda, and Crystal Light. 

Another option is to drink the alcohol neat or on the rocks, meaning alone or on ice. 

Cocktails to avoid include margaritas, bloody Marys, sangria, piña colada, other mixed drinks with added sugar, and beers.

The Keto Flu

When people talk about the keto flu, they are describing the unpleasant side effects experienced when you first start the diet. These side effects include nausea, vomiting, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, insomnia, difficulty in exercise tolerance, and constipation.

Usually, these symptoms resolve in a few days and can be minimized by drinking plenty of fluids and consuming enough electrolytes.

Vegan vs Keto

Which One is Easier to Follow?

On one hand, both diets can be flavorful, easy to prepare, and easy to follow when eating out.  

On the other hand, there are significant restrictions for both diets, which can make them difficult to follow. The vegan diet restricts all food animal products, while keto restricts most carbohydrates. 

A point in favor of keto is that it can naturally suppress appetite.  But there are no restrictions on the amount of food in the vegan diet, and high-fiber content of plant-based foods can keep you full. 

There is no clear winner here. 

Weight Loss

Vegan Diets and Weight Loss

A vegan diet is not a weight loss diet. However, vegans tend to have a lower BMI than people with other eating styles. 

A study among 40,000 healthy people compared the body mass index (BMI) of vegans with meat-eaters. Results showed that vegans had the lowest BMI. The results are similar to many other studies.

Keep in mind, though, that a poorly planned vegan diet can be high in calories and low in nutrients. After all, many high-calorie, high-fat foods are vegan. 

Keto and Weight Loss

Studies show that the ketogenic diet can produce rapid weight loss. Also, muscle mass and strength are preserved, which is important for everyone, but even more critical for people over 40.

Potentially, the weight loss is due to a reduction in food cravings and early satiety. Foods high in fat can result in feeling satisfied faster. High-fat foods can also leave you full for longer periods of time.  

At the same time, the small number of carbohydrates can potentially impact the hormones related to appetite.

Although both diets can help you lose weight, the keto diet is likely to help you lose more weight in the short term.

In the long term, the vegan diet can be more sustainable. Thus, it might be possible to maintain weight loss.

Thus, both diets are effective for weight loss. It just depends on your goals and food preferences. 

Heart Health

Overall, a well-planned vegan diet can be beneficial for heart health. This is because a plant-based diet can improve two critical factors in heart health: oxidative stress and micro-inflammation. 

The vegan diet can also reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, the buildup of cholesterol plaque in the walls of the arteries, which can cause heart attack, stroke, and even death.

In contrast, experts express concern about the high fat content of the ketogenic diet. Let’s not forget that until recently, the standard treatment for heart disease was a low-fat diet. 

However, recent research by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that the keto diet can also protect against heart disease. Surprisingly, it works by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.

The vegan diet is the winner when it comes to heart health. But let’s keep an eye on future research. 

Blood Sugar Levels

According to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a vegan diet can be beneficial in managing blood glucose.

There are many studies that support this statement. For example, a study published in Academy’s journal revealed that meat-eaters were twice as likely to develop diabetes compared to vegans.

In contrast, the keto diet has very few studies supporting its role in treating high blood sugar levels. But these studies suggest that keto could be a potential game-changer in managing type 2 diabetes.


Before starting a keto diet, people taking medications to lower blood sugar must talk to their doctors. The diet is very low in carbohydrates, and medication can lower blood sugar to an extreme. This can cause a medical emergency and can result in death.


Is a Vegan Diet Safe?

Experts believe that a well-planned vegan diet is safe. However, to avoid nutrition deficiencies, it must include high-quality protein, iron, calcium, and zinc. These nutrients are found in large amounts in animal products but are not present in all plant-based foods. 

In addition, vegans must ensure adequate vitamin B-12. Most likely, vegans will need to take supplements, as there are barely any B-12 in any plant sources. 

A deficiency of vitamin B-12 can cause pernicious anemia. In mild cases, this type of anemia can lead to fatigue, weakness, headaches, chest pain, and weight loss.

Prolonged deficiency of B-12 can result in more serious neurological symptoms, including numbness of arms and legs, muscle weakness, depression, memory loss, and dementia.

Is the Keto Diet Safe?

The keto diet is a very restrictive eating plan that cuts back on foods high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. For that reason, some of the most common nutrient deficiencies among people following this plan include selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamins B and C.

In the long term, the keto diet can lead to kidney stones, liver disease, and diseases related to deficiencies of vitamins and minerals. In addition, the risks to heart health of consuming a very high-fat diet have not been well studied.  

Lastly, following a keto plan is not recommended for those with the following chronic diseases:

  • Liver conditions
  • Pancreatic disease
  • Thyroid problems
  • Eating disorders
  • Those without gallbladder

Diabetics taking medication that lowers blood sugar must consult with their physician before starting the diet. Because the diet is very low in carbohydrates, the keto diet can result in a severe medical emergency.

The Vegan Keto Diet

Another possibility is to eat a combination of both eating styles, known as the vegan-keto diet. This is a high-fat, moderate protein, very low carbohydrate plan that excludes animal products. 

What Foods Can You Eat on the Vegan-Keto Diet?

Plant-based ProteinsTofu, plant-based burgers, ground meat, and other low-carbohydrate plant-based proteins
Cured MeatsVegan bacon and chorizo
OilsCoconut oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, MCT oil
AvocadosAll types
NutsAlmonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, peanuts, etc
SeedsChia, sesame, flax, pumpkin, hemp, etc
VegetablesAll low-carb vegetables: leafy greens, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc
CondimentsSalt, pepper, herbs, and spices
AlcoholBeer, wine, mixed drinks

What Foods do You Need to Limit or Avoid in the Plant-Based Keto Diet?

The most important aspect to follow this plan is to meet the macronutrient goals and avoid all animal protein and animal by-products. To reach ketosis, sugar and carbohydrate consumption must be limited; this includes all types of carbohydrates.

Animal proteinBeef, chicken, turkey, veal, buffalo meat, etc
Fish and SeafoodSalmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, shrimp, scallops, octopus, calamari, etc
EggsEggs, egg products and items made with eggs, such as pancakes
CheeseAll types
Animal fatsButter, cream, ghee
Sugary foodsCookies, ice cream, cake, candy, etc
Sugary beveragesSoda, energy drinks, fruit juice, etc.
GrainsBread, rice, pasta, cereal, oats and all types of grains
FruitsAll, except small berries.
Beans and LegumesBlack beans, kidney beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, and all beans and legumes
Root vegetablesPotatoes, malanga, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc
Condiments with Added SugarBarbecue sauce, ketchup, honey mustard, teriyaki sauce, etc
AlcoholBeer, wine, mixed drinks
Other Animal-Based IngredientsWhey protein, egg white protein

Health Benefits of the Vegan-Keto diet

There are no studies that focus on the effectiveness of the health of this diet, but you can expect to benefit from the same advantages provided by each plan individually.


The truth is that the best eating plan is the one that works for you! Even if you could get all the top nutrition experts in a room, you would find advocates for many different eating styles. 

Thus, my professional opinion is that yo. u review the different eating programs and choose one that works well for you. 

In addition, your needs can change over the years. Many ways of eating can be healthy as long as you eat all nutrients in the right amounts. The most important consideration is that you feel good about the way you eat. 

Interested in learning more about how keto compares with other diets? Check out our blog.

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