What Vegetables Are Keto Friendly? 8 Best Low-Carb Vegetables
Did you know some vegetables have carbs? That’s right. Not every veggie is keto-friendly, which is why you need to do your research before munching down on just anything — even if it is technically healthy.
What Is the Ketogenic Diet?
Keto is the low-carb diet that people all around the world are trying. More and more people are making a commitment to keto for its health benefits, whether they’re looking for weight loss or for an overhaul of their health. In fact, many people try keto as a way to manage their blood sugar since the absence of carbs means the body doesn’t need glucose for energy.
This high-fat diet encourages dieters to get their total carbs from low-carb veggies such as bok choy, Swiss chard, and celery.
Why Does the Keto Diet Limit Carbs?
Your body typically uses glucose in your bloodstream as its energy source. When it doesn’t have access to it, your body has no choice but to take from fat storage and other sources instead. This process is called ketosis and is essential for the keto diet to work.
As a result, many people on the keto diet experience weight loss while also feeling more energetic and focused. It takes time to work (as in one to two weeks of consistent commitment), but once you begin to see results, you’ll feel motivated to push further and keep up the great progress.
You can limit carbs by completely avoiding foods with carbs or counting macronutrients (total carbs, protein, and fat) to ensure you are meeting your nutritional needs.
What Vegetables Are Not Keto-Friendly?
While it may seem counterintuitive, there are actually many starchy vegetables that are not keto-friendly. Here are just a few that can interfere with your carb intake:
- Beets: One cup of beets contains 13 grams of carbs, making it a mismatch for any keto diet, even in small amounts.
- Carrots: Though fairly healthy, there are still a lot of carbs (nine grams per cup) in carrots. If you’re following a keto diet, you’ll need another source of vitamin K.
- Corn: Whether it’s on the cob or in a bag of mixed veggies, corn is too high in carbs to include in a keto diet, especially since butter is a common topping for corn variations.
- Peas: This legume is incredibly starchy food that is also high in carbs (21 grams of net carbs). Even some peas sprinkled in a vegetable medley are enough to throw your keto diet off course.
- Potatoes: Fried, mashed, baked, or otherwise, potatoes are an extremely starchy and carb-filled vegetable. Just one potato is nearly 40 grams of carbohydrates!
- Sweet Potatoes: Though technically healthier than normal potatoes, it doesn’t change the fact that there are carbs a-plenty. This also includes sweet potato fries, pie, yams, and other variations of the vegetable.
What Vegetables Can You Eat on Keto?
Despite all the veggies you can’t eat on keto, there’s plenty that you can eat. Most of them are considered cruciferous vegetables. Best of all, these vegetables can be added to many tasty recipes or eaten on their own.
Cauliflower can transform into many things, including swaps for your carb-loaded favorites. Craving pizza? Cauliflower pizza crust is a delicious, low-carb swap.
Another popular example is cauliflower rice. When chopped into small bits and used as a rice replacement, you can easily cut down on TONS of carbs and calories just by making the switch. An entire head of cauliflower is just under 150 calories and 29 grams of carbs!
Plus, cauliflower is high in fiber and water, making it supportive of your digestive system. Its antioxidants can also help support your immune system. It also includes vitamins B6, C, and K. (See, we told you that you’d find another source of vitamin K that isn’t carrots)!
Just one cup of Brussels sprouts has six grams of carbs and is packed with vitamin K and C. They can be eaten on their own raw, sauteéd, and steamed. With four grams of fiber, Brussels sprouts are a great way to support digestive health.
Like cauliflower, brussels sprouts are also a great tool to support your immune system. Add spices and other flavors to liven the taste.
Celery may be the only food out there that can actually cause you to lose calories as you eat it. Plus, just one cup of chopped celery is just 1.4 grams of carbs. Besides vitamins A, C, and K, celery also has a treasure trove of potassium and folate, which can help maintain normal levels of fluid within your cells.
You can dip celery in keto-friendly sauces and dressings for flavor. Its crunchy nature also makes it a great replacement for chips and dip.
Want more leafy greens in your diet? Arugula (also called rocket or Italian cress) is the perfect answer. Like the other veggies on the list, it's filled with vitamins and minerals essential for a healthy body that can fight off harmful elements.
It’s also high in fiber, with 0.5 grams per cup. Arugula can also be mixed in with other salad greens for a peppery taste.
You can turn arugula into pesto and pair it with certain fruits for a unique taste or a complementary addition to many chicken recipes.
Just one cup of chopped cabbage contains 2.3 grams of carbs, meaning you can have plenty of cabbage without worrying about your macros. Like other cruciferous vegetables, it’s high in fiber and contains vitamin B6, which can support brain and nervous system health.
Cabbage can always be eaten solo, but it is also a popular addition to skillets, stir fry, stew, and casseroles. When fermented, cabbage can also be turned into kimchi or sauerkraut, both of which can be supportive of gut health.
Refreshing and extremely hydrating, cucumber is a classic salad ingredient and a great snack on its own. It can also be blended into smoothies or turned into delicious sandwiches.
While many people remove the peel from cucumbers, it has plenty of health benefits. For instance, cucumber peel is a rich source of potassium, magnesium, and silica. Just one cucumber with the peel on gives you 41 percent of your daily vitamin K requirements.
Bell peppers are a versatile vegetable that can be included in many different recipes. With 2.9 grams of fiber and just 4.6 grams of carbs, stuffed bell peppers make a mighty and tasty snack that is easy to make and easily customizable to your likes and needs. They’re also rich in vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene, which can support cognitive function.
The sweetest bell peppers are red bell peppers because they’ve stayed on the vine the longest. That means they also tend to have more nutrients. But no matter what, eating any bell pepper can have nutritious benefits.
Zucchini is another extremely versatile vegetable, able to adapt to many recipes or hide in keto-friendly sweet treats. Zucchini chips of fritters make a great swap for traditionally fried and salty snacks.
Zucchini can also be baked into keto-friendly muffin recipes. It’s like eating dessert while getting a whole serving of vegetables!
Like cauliflower, it’s also incredibly versatile and can be used to swap out carb-filled favorites so you don’t miss out on the foods you love. “Zoodles” (zucchini noodles) are a fantastic keto dish that replaces typical pasta without sacrificing the extra carbs.
Zucchini has a wide range of health benefits, including its ability to support the immune system. The potassium found in zucchini can also help support balanced blood pressure levels. If you cook zucchini, there is an additional boost of vitamin A, which is essential for great vision.
How Can You Eat More Keto-Friendly Vegetables?
We get it. Sometimes eating more veggies isn’t easy. If you’re not someone who naturally enjoys veggies by themselves, it’s important to incorporate them in your diet through unique methods, even if it means hiding them in mixed chocolate smoothies.
Getting creative is encouraged when it comes to the keto diet since it can sometimes feel restrictive. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to stay that way!
Combine vegetables with bone broth to make a delicious stew anyone can enjoy. Or create a fruit smoothie with plenty of veggies hidden inside.
You can even use flavored protein powder to mask the taste. You can also eat kale chips alongside other veggies like radishes, rutabaga, and green beans.
You can also create a keto meal plan that involves cooking your low-carbohydrateveggies in healthy fats like coconut oil or olive oil until crispy. Many of these keto veggies taste delicious sauteed in a pan or crisped in an air fryer — you can even sprinkle them with parmesan as a delicious bonus.
The Bottom Line
Overall, vegetables are an essential part of any diet, keto or not. But when you’re on keto, you need to be careful of which veggies are included in your diet to avoid eating too many carbs.
Starchy or root vegetables like potatoes and corn should be avoided due to their high carb count. Meanwhile, cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are great alternatives to rice and even pizza crust. Other vegetables, like bell peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini, can also be included in many recipes for a diet that barely feels like one.
On the keto diet or ready to get started? Read the Dr. Kellyann blog for more keto recipes and advice to keep your momentum.