Low-carb vegetables are a crucial component of a healthful keto diet plan. However, sometimes they can sneak in high amounts of sugar if you’re not selecting the right varieties. This article will help you suss out the best low-carb vegetables for the keto diet.
Remember, on the ketogenic diet, you should aim to limit your carbohydrate intake to 30 grams daily. If you’re eating the wrong types of vegetables, you will blow past that limit awfully quick. A pertinent example is sweet potatoes, which contain over 30 grams of carbohydrates in just one cup.
Note: It’s important to understand how to calculate your net carbs to know many carbs you’re really consuming.
The Best (And Worst) Vegetables for the Keto Diet
Vegetables come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors. Ultimately, the best low-carb vegetables for the keto diet are those that are high in fiber, low in sugar, and rich with micronutrients. Unless you are completely out of the loop, you’re probably aware that green, leafy veggies tend to be the better low-carb options.
If you’re searching for keto-friendly veggies that aren’t leafy greens, consider selections that mature above ground. This includes cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower and broccoli, as well as zucchini, cucumbers, and mushrooms.
If you’re a salad lover, then surely the keto diet will be a great lifestyle for you. There’s no easier way to consume raw, healthy greens than making a simple salad from things like spinach, lettuce, kale, arugula, etc.
Even better, salads are a dish that you can get creative with by adding in fat sources, like cheese crumbles, and protein sources, like chopped chicken. We recommend dressing your low-carb salads with unsweetened vinegar and olive oil.
Moreover, salads are a fun way to turn leftovers into something useful. Have a bunch of half-eaten steaks left in the fridge from last night’s dinner? Perfect. Toss it in your lunch salad the next day and voila! No more food waste.
What’s particularly intriguing and convenient about the keto diet is that low-carb vegetables are basically always the perfect complement to main dishes. Many low-carb vegetable recipes contain fat, like creamed spinach and creamed mushrooms, for example.
Normally, people would feel a little guilty by adding fat to their “healthy” vegetables. Thankfully, the keto diet lets you do just that without ruining their nutritional value. Alternatively, you might just saute your veggies in macadamia nut oil (or another oil) and some seasoning/herbs/spices.
Contrary to the darker nature of low-carb vegetables, higher-carb vegetables tend to be bright and vibrant. It’s important to note that certain colorful veggies are still quite keto-friendly, though, like peppers and turnips.
At the very least, we recommend you greatly limit your intake of starchy vegetables. These range from veggies like sweet potatoes, beans, legumes, quinoa, yams, corn, and more. When in doubt, read nutrition labels to be sure you’re not eating too many carbs from vegetables.
As a basic guideline when you’re shopping for produce, sweeter veggies have higher sugar content. For example, carrots tend to have quite a bit more sugar than any green veggies.
This isn’t to mean that carrots and other sweet vegetables are “unhealthy,” because frankly, they aren’t. However, if you eat sweet/higher-carb veggies too much, you will ruin your keto efforts. Nevertheless, you can eat things like carrots and onions in moderation, just be sure you monitor your intake.
Most people select to mix a small amount of higher-carb vegetables with low-carbohydrate ingredients. Colorful veggies can be great taste enhancers, but just be sure you’re not going overboard on the sugar from them.
Likewise, there are many dessert dishes with high-carb vegetables due to their naturally sweet taste. Sweet potatoes and pumpkin are some relevant examples (often in pie recipes). If you’re craving a tasty sweet treat on a cool, winter night, we recommend getting creative in the kitchen with veggies. Some example dessert recipes to try include:
- Keto Pumpkin Pudding
- Pumpkin Pecan Pie Ice Cream
- Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies
It goes without saying that you should be diligent about limiting the sweets you eat on the keto diet.
Are Organic Vegetables Necessary?
The “organic” food craze is not quite as straightforward as food companies will have you believe. In terms of nutrition, they don’t inherently beat vegetables that aren’t certified organic. This is to say that vitamins and minerals found in organic broccoli are no different than vitamins/minerals in any other fresh broccoli.
One slight benefit of buying organic low-carb vegetables is that they contain less environmental contaminants (e.g. pesticides). If your main goal is to eat more low-carb vegetables for their micronutrient profile, you don’t need to worry about buying only organic veggies.
Fresh vs. Frozen Vegetables: Which Is Best?
In short, both fresh and frozen vegetables are fantastic options (certainly better than none at all). If you come across a sale on either, we recommend stocking up to save some cash!
Moreover, frozen veggies usually are more affordable than fresh veggies. If you purchase fresh low-carb veggies in bulk only to see them rot before you get around to eating them, then think about purchasing frozen instead.
In fact, certain frozen veggies may be more nutrient-rich in comparison to their fresh counterparts. Produce farmers usually freeze their vegetables when they are optimally ripe to ensure high nutrient density.
You might need to cook the excess water out occasionally, but it usually isn’t really an issue in the final dish.
Are Canned Vegetables Healthy Alternatives?
Canned vegetables should be your absolute last resort. They are often processed with added sodium and lack the micronutrient content of their fresh or frozen counterparts.
The Best Low-Carb Vegetables
The table of low-carb vegetables below is in ascending order, going from least amount of net carbs per serving to the highest amount. Every vegetable in this table contains less than 10 grams of net carbs per 100-gram serving (which is roughly 1/2 cup).
Note: If you can locate a certain vegetable on this list, it contains too many carbohydrates per serving for a proper ketogenic diet.
|Vegetable Name||Serving Size||Total Carbs (g)||Fiber (g)||Net Carbs (g)|
The following subsections comprise what feel are the “cream of the crop” (no pun intended) for low-carb vegetables. These select veggies contain minimal carbohydrates as well as abundant amounts of micronutrients. Ensure that you regularly consume these veggies as part of your ketogenic diet.
If you hate the taste of vegetables or simply want more creative ways to incorporate them into your ketogenic diet, be sure to keep an eye out for our compendium of keto/low-carb recipes!
Spinach is arguably the healthiest green for your heart function and longevity. It packs a whopping 1000% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin K, along with plenty of vitamin C and vitamin A.
As such, it’s not a surprise that this leafy veggie is a staple on many keto diet plans. Spinach has just 3 grams of net carbs per 200-gram serving, which is a heck of a lot if you eat it as a salad. We highly recommend spinach if you find yourself hungry throughout the day, as you can eat tons of it without much impact at all on your carbohydrate intake.
Better yet, a little creativity goes a long way with spinach; try making a healthy salad with keto-friendly mix-ins, like cheese and olive oil. Other good recipes include creamy spinach for a side dish.
Broccoli really needs no introduction, being one of the most relevant low-carb vegetables on Earth. If you’re on a keto diet, chances are you’ll be cooking plenty of broccoli. This cruciferous vegetable is full of vitamins K and C. Better yet, it only delivers 4 grams of net carbs per 100-gram serving.
Research demonstrates that broccoli helps reduce the risk of insulin resistance (type-2 diabetes) and might likewise have anti-cancer benefits. Naturally, we recommend it as an essential veggie to have in your low-carb lifestyle.
If you hate the taste or texture of plain broccoli, don’t be afraid to try different seasonings/sauces and cooking methods with it. Steam it, stir fry it, eat it raw, whatever works!
3. Mustard greens
Mustard greens have the best ratio of carbs to dietary fiber of any vegetables in this article. A minimal 1.5 grams of net carbs come from 100 grams of mustard greens, making this another superb “filling” veggie.
We recommend steaming it as it can be a bit tough to chew when raw; there are tons of different ways to make mustard greens tasty, too. Try garnishing them with black pepper and a little balsamic vinegar.
Cauliflower is one of the most versatile low-carb vegetables available. Some of its potential uses include serving as a pizza crust, rice substitute, casserole base, or even pseudo-mashed taters. It’s no wonder cauliflower finds itself being an integral part of so many keto recipes.
Aside from its myriad flexible recipe applications, cauliflower is extremely low in carbs and very similar to broccoli in micronutrient profile.
We realize that both avocados and tomatoes are technically fruits, but for the sake of simplicity, we included them in this article. Avocados contain loads of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which are supported by research for lowering blood lipids and LDL cholesterol. They also serve as a dense source of potassium and vitamin C, both of which are great for keeping your immune function healthy.
With less than 2 grams of net carbs per 1/2 cup (100 grams), you’ll be missing out on a great green if you overlook avocados.
Asparagus is a fantastic low-carb vegetable with an exceptional micronutrient profile (especially vitamins K, C, and A).
Asparagus is a natural diuretic and appears to decrease anxiety and enhance cognitive function, which goes well with the brain-boosting effects of the keto diet.
Although tricky to flavor, once you dial in a cooking method and seasoning combo, asparagus is quite the tasty side dish for ketogenic meals.
Zucchini is frequently utilized during the Summer season by veggie lovers; in recent years, its become quite the hit as a sort of pasta noodle replacement (or “zoodle”). It’s key that you are wary of which squash variety you eat since some types are much higher in carbohydrates. When in doubt, stick with green and yellow Summer squash; these have about 3 grams of net carbs per 100 grams.
8. Bell peppers
Bell peppers are dense sources of vitamin A, making them great for eye health and also fighting inflammation. They also make a great stir-fry veggie and are tasty when chopped up as a mix-in for omelets or casseroles.
9. Green beans
The green bean, also known as the snap pea, is a legume with quite a bit fewer carbohydrates than other legumes. Each 100-gram serving of green beans contains just 6 grams of net carbs, making them a fantastic addition to numerous side dishes.
What’s particularly intriguing about green beans is their natural crunchy texture and slightly sweet taste. You really don’t need to get too crazy with them for tastiness. Not to mention they pack a healthy punch of micronutrients that assist in cognitive function, like B vitamins.
- Green/Dark, leafy greens are typically the best options for low-carb vegetables on the keto diet.
- Limit or avoid your intake of vegetables that are brighter in color (sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkin, etc.).
- Vegetables can taste good, just be creative! Low-carb vegetables are a perfect base for tons of sweet and savory keto-friendly recipes.
- Low-carb vegetables are your first defense for fighting off hunger. Don’t be afraid to add a few extra sides of greens when you’re trying to lose weight.
- In general, you don’t need to worry about buying organic vegetables.
- Always opt for fresh or frozen vegetables; vegetables from a can are the last resort.