Tools and Tips for a Plant-Based Ketogenic Diet

For a keto-friendly morning smoothie, Dr. Will Cole layers in fresh SP2 Life spirulina, cucumber, avocado, raspberries, collard greens, matcha powder, and almond butter.

Tools and Tips for a Plant-Based Ketogenic Diet

Tools and Tips for a Plant-Based
Ketogenic Diet

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Approaching any new way of eating—whether it’s learning cheese is not your friend or trying to cut out gluten to see how you feel—is tough. Someone once described it to us this way: It can feel a little like you’re in a small boat, and every time you remove an ingredient it’s like someone dumping a gallon of water at your feet.

What makes it a whole lot easier is focusing on all the stuff you can eat, all the stuff you want to eat (the space and fresh air in the boat if you want to continue that metaphor). And maybe no one walks that path better than Pittsburgh-based functional medicine practitioner Will Cole, IFMCP, DC. His plant-based approach to the ketogenic diet focuses on everything good you can feed your gut.

What also helps: having tools and ideas at your disposal to make prepping and cooking as easy as possible.

The Ketotarian Tool Kit

I believe it’s time to dump dieting dogma in exchange for a plan that will help your body thrive sustainably. Food shame or using diets to punish your body is anathema to vibrant wellness. Instead focus on nutrient-rich, satiating foods that make you feel amazing.

Ketotarian is what I call my plant-based keto approach to healthy eating. Because conventional ketogenic diets are heavy in meat and dairy, they can put some people off. The Ketotarian approach is able to take advantage of the benefits of eating a high-fat diet without the problems that can come along with eating a lot of dairy and meat. On the other side of the coin, many people following a plant-based diet become more “carbatarians” and rely heavily on grains and different forms of sugar. Ketotarian removes these foods to get back to our goal: leveraging the power of plants.

While my book dives into all of the cool scientific research, the exact foods you can eat and which ones you should be avoiding, the key principles are simple:

1. Eat real food.
2. Keep carbs low.
3. Keep healthy fats high.
4. If you eat a nonstarchy vegetable, add some healthy fats.
5. If you eat a healthy fat, add some nonstarchy vegetables.
6. Eat when you are hungry.
7. Eat until you are satiated.

If you’re new to this, there are a host of simple things that will help you navigate it:

1. Stock your pantry.

Set yourself up for success by always having a stock of Ketotarian superfoods on hand to fuel your body and brain. As a general rule, I make sure I have something from each category to fulfill my nutrient requirements:

• Avocados/avocado oil
• Olives/extra virgin olive oil
• Coconut cream, milk, and oil
• Sea vegetables (i.e., nori sheets, dulse flakes)
• Dark leafy vegetables (i.e., spinach, kale)
• Sulfur-rich vegetables, like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and asparagus
• Nuts and seeds, like macadamias, almonds, and walnuts

Ketotarian also has vegetarian keto recipe options so you can add in pasture-raised organic eggs or grass-fed ghee (clarified butter), as well as pescatarian keto options. This is where you bring in clean, wild-caught fish, like Alaskan salmon, with their beneficial omega-3 fats. All of these make great snacks by themselves or can be added to delicious, quick salads.

2. Plan for being busy.

While these are all great options for meals, you aren’t always going to be in the position to cook. Traveling, busy schedules, and last-minute events can throw off even the most well-laid meal plans. For times like these, having both whole-food and nonperishable options helps with whatever life throws at you.

• Canned wild-caught seafood for my pescatarian (or what I call vegaquarian) friends
• Seaweed snacks
• Single-serving packets of almond butter, avocado, or coconut oil for eating alone, adding to smoothies or tea, or adding to restaurant meals
• Olives
• Tigernuts
• Pumpkin seeds
• Avocado halves sprinkled with oil, sea salt, and pepper
• Dried shredded coconut
• Homemade fat bombs
• Almonds or walnuts

Having quick and easy go-to meals is another way to avoid the daily question of “What should I eat?’’ Smoothies are a fantastic option for when you need a quick meal because you can pack a lot of nutrients into a single drink with minimal effort or cleanup. This smoothie combines some of my favorite healthy fats with powerful plant-based superfoods like matcha and spirulina.

Spirulina Super Smoothie

Most people don’t realize they can still be keto and enjoy real food smoothies! This smoothie is my go-to because it’s packed with plant-based keto superfoods—all while being high in healthy fats and low in sugar. I love adding spirulina to smoothies, so SP2 Life is a game changer—instead of a powder, the fresh spirulina comes in a portioned frozen container that you can quickly pop into the blender. (Plus, if you’ve ever smelled spirulina before, know that these have significantly less odor and are practically tasteless.)

Serves 2


· ½ cucumber, seeded and unpeeled
· ½ avocado, cubed
· ¼ cup raspberries
· 1½ cups coconut milk
· 1 ounce (about 1 cup) stemmed and torn collard greens
· 2 tablespoons almond butter
· 1 serving SP2 Life spirulina
· 1 teaspoon matcha tea powder
· ½ teaspoon lemon juice (optional)


1. In a blender first add cucumber, avocado, and berries followed by remaining ingredients.
2. Blend in stages using the pulse function until desired consistency is reached, scraping down the sides as necessary.
3. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate up to 2 days. Some separation may naturally occur if allowed to sit.

Recipe from Ketotarian

3. Don’t just give up your favorite foods.

It’s also important to have Ketotarian alternatives to some of your favorite foods for further success and enjoyment. Eating healthy doesn’t mean having to eat like a rabbit and eat the same boring foods every day. The ethos behind Ketotarian is loving yourself enough to nourish your body with good food. So allow me to introduce you to the art of food hacking. Here are some of my favorite alternatives to the world’s most beloved meals:

• Instead of bread: lettuce or coconut wraps
• Instead of pasta: zucchini, spaghetti squash, or shirataki noodles
• Instead of rice: cauliflower rice
• Instead of dairy yogurt: coconut milk yogurt
• Instead of mayonnaise: smashed avocado
• Instead of dairy cheese: nut cheese
• Instead of wheat flour: almond flour

4. Have a plan for going out.

Eating the Ketotarian way doesn’t mean you have to stop living your life and going out to restaurants. You don’t have to live in a bubble to be health-conscious. Going out can be stress-free when you are empowered with tips and tools for making healthy choices.

• Check the menu beforehand. This will ensure you have time to make an educated, healthy choice.
• Speak up. Let your server know about your restrictions so they can make suggestions and offer alternatives. Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions for certain sides with a salad or extra veggies as well.
• Bring your own sauces or dressings. This not only helps you avoid unnecessary added sugars and inflammatory oils; it gives you the chance to bulk up the fat content in your meal with olive or avocado oil based homemade dressings.
• Eat a snack beforehand. While this may seem counterintuitive, having a snack beforehand will curb the temptation to dive into the chip or bread basket when you sit down.

Do your best, then don’t stress. You can’t control everything. Stress is often just as harmful to your health as junk food. You can down kale all day long, but if you’re feeding yourself a giant slice of stress, it can sabotage your healthy intentions.

Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DC, is a leading functional-medicine expert who consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He specializes in clinically investigating underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing health programs for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal dysfunctions, digestive disorders, and brain problems. His first book, Ketotarian: The (Mostly) Plant-Based Plan to Burn Fat, Boost Your Energy, Crush Your Cravings, and Calm Inflammation, is available here.

The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies. They are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop. This article is for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.