This time last year I uploaded a blog post on Veganuary and how to do it properly, with no reliance on processed vegan meat substitutes, the importance of combining vegan protein sources and so on. This year I’m taking it one step further and tackling the topic of Vegan Keto - quite a challenge!
I’m going to recap quickly the importance of protein - since it’s completely inconceivable to attempt Veganuary and assume that you can eat vegetables for a month and maintain optimum health.
What is protein?
Protein is a macronutrient that is essential for tissue growth and therefore muscle growth in the body. It also supports the immune system, energy transportation, metabolism, detoxification and helps you stay full. In the human body, proteins are a part of every cell and tissue, including our muscle. Our bodies are constantly regenerating tissue on a daily basis. The proteins that we eat in our diet can be used to replace broken down proteins in order to maintain balance.
Food sources of protein mostly contain a mixture of essential and non-essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks for all our proteins in the body. Essential amino acids (EAAs) are those that our body cannot make on its own and we therefore have to consume via food sources. There are nine EAAs: lysine, leucine, isoleucine, histidine, methionine, histidine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, valine and threonine. A complete protein will contain all of the essential amino acids our body needs to repair and grow. These protein sources are nearly always animal-based and include meat, poultry, fish, eggs and cheese. Many plant foods like legumes, beans, nuts and grains also contain protein, but may not have all the essential amino acids our bodies need, so they are considered to be incomplete protein sources. However, when protein-rich plant foods are combined together they can provide adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids.
This is why a standard vegan diet that’s delivering an adequate amount of nutrients and protein will always combine things like grains and legumes (e.g. in a lentil dhal with brown rice) to make up a complete source of protein. For reference, here are some common combinations:
Brown rice and peas
Brown rice and beans
Lentils and barley
Hummus and pitta
Nut butter and wholegrain bread
Now, as you can see, if we wanted to shift our focus to eating more plants for January, whilst still keeping to our keto principles, we’d have a problem as legumes and grains are both very starchy and high in carbohydrates. Even quinoa, a really good vegan complete protein source can be considered too carby on a keto diet, or if eaten in excess can push carb intake up for the day.
So bearing in mind that it’s still absolutely crucial to be getting 0.8g protein per kg of body weight, which if you’re a 60kg human (about 9 and a half stone) would be 48 grams of protein daily, we need to find other sources.
As a side note, 48 grams of protein per day is still actually very conservative, and the 0.8g per kg of body weight calculation is only the bare minimum that we need to support the body’s natural protein turnover. If you exercise regularly, or are aiming for optimum health generally, you’ll easily need far, far more.
So, what might a day on a Vegan Keto diet look like?
Your best option for breakfast to get a decent serving of protein in first thing, which is essential to get a breakfast to regulate blood sugar levels and provide adequate nutrition and energy (no one wants a mid-morning slump) for the day ahead is a good quality protein powder blended into a smoothie. It needs to be predominantly vegetable based and the protein powder should be ‘clean’ in the sense of not having any added sweeteners.
Nuzest pea protein is a good option, as is Naturya Hemp Protein.
2 scoops protein powder
Handful of greens
Handful of frozen low GI berries, eg blueberries
Unsweetened Almond milk
1 tbsp chia seeds
½ tsp cinnamon powder
1 tbsp nut butter
Lunch could be a big salad with a base of lettuce and rocket, with any of the following low-carb veggies thrown in, either roasted or raw:
I’d recommend always having some edamame beans in there (edamame may not be considered strictly keto by keto diehards but at 3.5g net carbs per 100g, it has allowable macros). Add a good quality fat source like avocado, a zingy dressing made with tahini (extra protein), lemon juice, mustard and olive oil and some flax crackers on the side - actually quite a few flax crackers in order to up the nutrient density and protein content.
Flax Crackers Ingredients
1 cup flax seeds
3 tbsp chia seeds
3 tbsp sesame seeds
½ cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds (or combined)
Pinch of salt
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl with 1.5 cups of water.
Leave it to sit for 45 mins.
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees and line 2 baking trays with silicone mats (work better than parchment paper which can stick)
Spread the mixture out evenly across the trays as thinly as possible.
Place in the oven for an hour and 10 mins, then take out of the oven and flip the entire cracker over so that the top is face down. Bake again for another 45-60 mins.
Turn the oven off and leave the crackers in there to cool down. They should be completely dry. Break apart and store in an airtight container.
Recipe credit: Liv Kaplan
Supper could be a tempeh cauliflower curry bowl with a side of roasted cabbage. Tempeh is a complete source of protein, as it’s made from soy beans, and would need to be a staple on a Vegan Keto diet.
I also really like to make tempeh ‘bacon’ by slicing the tempeh into strips and marinating in soy sauce, olive oil and smoked paprika and then frying in a pan with a little coconut oil. It can be added to salads, used in sandwiches with the 8foods Keto Breads and Bagels and it’s also a fermented food so comes with the added benefit of some lovely gut-supportive bacteria.
So what do you think, would you give it a go?