Keto vegetables – the best and the worst
What vegetables can you have on a keto keto diet? There’s a simple rule:
Above-ground vegetables are generally lower in carbs and are usually the best keto options.
Below-ground vegetables — also known as root vegetables — contain more carbs and aren’t a great choice, especially potatoes and sweet potatoes.
Vegetables on keto
All foods are made up of macronutrients – carbs, protein, and fat. While meat and most dairy mainly provide protein or fat, vegetables contain mostly carbs.
On a strict ketogenic diet, with fewer than 5% of calories from carbs, it’s important to know which veggies are the lowest in carbs, particularly if your goal is to consume fewer than 20 grams of carbs per day.
Vegetables with less than 5 grams of net carbs may be eaten relatively freely. It’s hard to overeat spinach, zucchini, lettuce, cucumbers, cabbage, asparagus and kale on a keto diet. These are considered keto vegetables.
Be more careful with slightly higher-carb vegetables like bell peppers (especially red and yellow ones), brussels sprouts and green beans to stay under 20 grams of carbs a day. The carbs can add up. For instance, a medium-size pepper has 4-7 grams of carbs.
While tomatoes are technically a fruit, they can work on a keto diet. But again, their carbs are a bit higher. When combined with other foods, you may exceed 20 grams of net carbs a day if you consume too many tomatoes.
If you are doing a more moderate or liberal low-carb diet that allows more than 20 grams of carbs a day, you can eat as many above-ground vegetables as you desire.
Other helpful guidelines
Here are two more general rules that can help you choose lower-carb and keto vegetables:
- In general, keto-friendly veggies are those with leaves — all types of lettuce, spinach and other greens are good ketogenic options.
- Green vegetables tend to be lower in carbs than veggies with a lot of color. For example, green cabbage is lower in carbs than purple cabbage. Green bell peppers are also somewhat lower in carbs than red or yellow peppers.
Vegetables and fat
You can use keto vegetables as a vehicle for fat by seasoning cooked vegetables with butter. Better yet, sauté or roast them in lard, coconut oil, avocado oil, or ghee.
If you eat dairy, you can make a cream sauce with heavy cream, cheese, and/or cream cheese.Another excellent way to add fat to vegetables is by dipping them in salad dressings or other dipping sauces, or simply adding olive oil to your salad.
If you want to lose weight, try not to go overboard with fat. For best results, you may want to let your body burn excess body fat instead of extra added dietary fat. In this case, just eat enough fat to prevent hunger.
Top 10 keto vegetables
Here are ten fantastic keto vegetables that are tasty and provide plenty of nutrients but only a few carbs.
Here’s our ranking in order of popularity and usefulness in keto cooking.
Carb counts are provided as net carbs per 100-gram (3½-ounce) serving.
- Cauliflower – 3 g. Mild flavor and so versatile. Use it as base of staples like cauliflower rice and cauliflower mash.
- Cabbage – 3 g. Delicious when sautéed in butter or used in our popular Asian cabbage stir fry.
- Avocado – 2 g. Technically a fruit, but loaded with nutrients and healthy fat.
Great sliced, mashed as guacamole, or even baked. Here are some great avocado recipes
- Broccoli – 4 g. Swap it for pasta, rice or potatoes. It can be steamed, fried in butter, drizzled in cheese sauce, roasted with bacon, baked au gratin and more.
- Zucchini – 3 g. Miss potatoes? Try our zucchini fries or zucchini chips.
- Spinach – 1 g. Extremely low in carbs, it can be used raw in salads, baked into chips, sautéed, or creamed.
- Asparagus – 2 g. Filling, highly nutritious, and very low carb, asparagus was made for a high-fat sauce such as hollandaise or béarnaise.
- Kale – 3 g. Although slightly higher carb than spinach, kale is a flavorful veggie. Enjoy it raw in salads, bake into chips, sauté in lard, or use as a base instead of pasta.
- Green beans – 4 g. Green beans can be roasted, steamed, or stewed, but may taste even better cooked in bacon fat or butter.
- Brussels sprouts – 5 g. Baby cabbages are excellent roasted until crispy or served in a creamy sauce
Keto cruditésNumbers are digestible carbs per 100 grams (3½ ounces).
Veggie sticks, or crudités, with a high-fat dipping sauce are good keto choices for snacks and pre-dinner appetizers. Be careful with carrots, though — their carbs do add up.
Legumes, corn and quinoa
Although they all grow above ground, legumes like peas, beans and lentils are all fairly high in carbs, as are grains like corn and quinoa. So they aren’t good keto options.
If you are keeping below the recommended 20 grams of carbs a day on keto, avoid eating them.
Grains and sugar
Yes, wheat grows above ground. But it’s a grain, not a vegetable. Anything made from grains or grain flour – like breads, cereals, pastas, baked goods – contains carbs that are rapidly digested into glucose and will raise blood sugar.
Most sugar comes from plants, too — either sugar cane, beets, or corn. These are not healthy and should not be eaten on keto. High-fructose corn syrup, which is added to sodas and many processed foods, might be even worse than regular sugar.
Like white table sugar, fructose is very high carb and not keto-friendly at all. The same goes for “natural” sugars like honey or maple syrup.
Low Carb Keto Vegetables
Eating keto friendly vegetables is considered a foundation of Atkins. In addition to protein and healthy natural fats, it is essential to consume certain veggies when living a low carb lifestyle; but eating too many veggies, especially starchy ones such as peas and potatoes, can undermine weight-loss and low carb efforts.
During the Atkins® induction phase, you’ll want to consume 12g to 15g net carbs from vegetables each day. Primarily, we recommend that you focus on eating leafy salad greens and other non-starchy vegetables. These vegetables provide the body with the most antioxidant protection and fiber in combination with the fewest grams of carbs.
Keto Vegetables List
The keto rule of thumb is to bypass any vegetables that grow beneath the ground. Although the ultimate goal is to avoid veggies with a high starch content, it is permissible to consume vegetables that have a slightly higher-carb count. Here are some of our favorite keto approved vegetables:
Peppers (red and green)
Vegetables to avoid on keto
Rarely do you ever hear someone tell you to avoid vegetables, but when it comes to a low carb keto lifestyle, some veggies can be more harmful than helpful to achieving your goals. As mentioned above, root vegetables typically carry more carbs, which is why they are considered one of the least keto friendly vegetables. Here are a couple others:
- Squash (butternut, acorn)
- Sweet potatoes
- Baked potatoes
- Cassava (Yuca)