When limiting carbs on a Keto diet, you might be wondering which vegetables you can (and can’t) eat. What makes a vegetable Keto-friendly?
The short answer is that most non-starchy vegetables are low carb enough to be Keto. If it’s not a root or a tuber, it’s likely okay.
This means that a significant quantity of vegetables are Keto-friendly. We’ll list some of them later, along with the net carbs in each.
Before that, however, let’s explore the benefits of eating Keto veggies.
3 Reasons to Eat Vegetables on Keto
The ideal Keto meal contains fat, protein, and vegetables. The vegetables won’t contribute significantly to your macros—and they won’t provide much energy in the form of calories—but they have other benefits worth mentioning, such as:
#1: Rich in micronutrients
Some people worry that going Keto increases the risk of micronutrient deficiency. Keto does restrict some nutrient-dense food groups like many varieties of fruit.
But due to the higher sugar content and calorie count, the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in fruit are, for the most part, better found in vegetables.
Kale, for instance, is an absolute powerhouse—rich in vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, copper, calcium, and manganese.
- Zeaxanthin and lutein: carotenoids that may be linked to eye and brain health.[*]
- Chlorogenic acid: an antioxidant polyphenol suggested to have anti-diabetic and DNA-protective effects.[*]
- Sulforaphane: a compound found in cruciferous vegetables with potential anti-cancer and neuroprotective activity.[*]
If you want to optimize your micronutrient status (and your body sure does!) you’ll want to make Keto vegetables a priority.
#2: Rich in fiber
All vegetables contain a form of carbohydrate that won’t kick you out of ketosis. It’s called fiber.
Fiber is best known for promoting gut health and for a good reason. Not only does dietary fiber help with bowel regularity, but it also feeds the vast colony of microbes residing in your intestines, influencing your gut microbiome and overall health.[*]
You can’t digest fiber (it’s non-caloric), but your gut bacteria can. And when they do, they produce anti-inflammatory compounds like butyrate that may protect against colon cancer.[*]
Higher fiber intakes have also been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and the potential to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.[*][*] But since this data is largely observational, it’s hard to make any strong claims.
Many people, however, will likely benefit from more fiber on Keto. And that means more veggies.
#3: Fat vehicle
On a Keto diet, 60 to 70 percent of your calories will come from fat. This means that healthy Keto fats like extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, butter, and ghee will become staples in your diet.
You’ll get a few hundred fat calories by greasing the pan, but what about the rest? Are you expected to host a daily olive oil tasting in your kitchen, complete with little paper cups?
That’s one way to do it, and your friends and family will find it amusing. But the easier way is to use vegetables as a fat vehicle.
Think buttered broccoli, spinach salad drenched in olive oil, or kale sauteed with a healthy helping of avocado oil. It’s no big secret that vegetables taste better with some fat anyway.
One more thing. Eating vegetables with fat helps you absorb crucial fat-soluble vitamins like A and K. Don’t miss out on this benefit.
Net Carbs in Keto Vegetables
The main rule of the Keto diet is to limit net carbohydrates and increase healthy fat consumption. Limiting net carbs (to about 10 percent of daily calories) helps keep blood sugar and insulin levels low, which in turn stimulates fat burning and ketone production.[*]
Limiting net carbs is how ketosis happens. It’s the center of the bullseye.
What are net carbs? They’re simply total carbs with indigestible carbohydrates like fiber and sugar alcohols deducted. When calculating your macros, it is this ‘net’ count that matters.
Here’s the equation:
Net carbs = total carbs - fiber - sugar alcohols
Important note: To see if a vegetable fits your Keto macros, use net carbs (not total carbs) in the calculation. Ideally, let a macro tracker like Carb Manager do the heavy lifting for you. That way, you can focus on food prep and enjoyment rather than arithmetic.
Top Keto Vegetables
On Keto, a good rule of thumb is to consume vegetables with fewer than 5 grams of net carbs per serving. Here’s a list of our top picks:
- Spinach, 2 cups (raw) - 0.8 grams
- Kale, 1/2 cup (cooked) - 1 gram
- Asparagus, 4 medium spears (cooked) - 2 grams
- Broccoli, 0.5 cup (cooked) - 3 grams
- Zucchini, 1 cup (cooked) - 2 grams
- Cauliflower, 1 cup (cooked) - 3 grams
- Artichoke, 0.5 cup (canned) - 2 grams
- Green cabbage, 1 cup (raw) - 3 grams
- Green bell pepper, 0.5 cup (raw) - 2 grams
- Celery, 1 cup (raw) - 1 gram
- Romaine lettuce, 2 cups (raw) - 1 gram
Vegetables To Minimize & Avoid
We’ve taken a look at the top Keto-friendly veggies, but it’s just as important to know what to avoid.
As a general rule, look to eliminate or minimize nightshades and any vegetables that grow below ground, with roots and tubers being the most carb-heavy offenders.
- Onion, 1 medium - 9 grams
- Butternut Squash, 1/2 cup - 9 grams
- Tomato, 1 large - 5 grams
- Eggplant, 1 cup - 6 grams
- Carrots, 1 cup - 8 grams
- Celeriac, 1 cup - 9 grams
- Rutabaga, 1 cup - 8 grams
- Parsnip, 0.5 cup - 10 grams
- Beets, 0.5 cup - 7 grams
- Sweet potato, 1 small - 14 grams
- Potato, 1 medium - 26 grams
- Cassava, 0.5 cup - 24 grams
Getting Your Vegetables On Keto
Want to amp up your Keto vegetable game? Try these tips:
- Blend your vegetables. A well-formulated green smoothie can be a tasty and nutritious treat.
- Make vegetable pizza. This is a fun way to get extra veggies into your diet and can be enjoyed by the whole family.
- Become a salad nut. Try this Low Carb Garden Salad for starters.
- Two vegetables are better than one. Don’t follow the herd and just have one veggie side. Our quick and easy Keto Cabbage Saute is loaded with low-carb veggies and pairs well with cauliflower rice.
- Make vegetable pasta. Zucchini noodles and cabbage noodles mean you can have pasta on Keto. Yay!
- Vegetable sandwiches. Get experimental and use vegetables as a vehicle for your favorite sandwich fillings. Try this Keto Vegetarian Griddled Zucchini Open Sandwich.
- Bake kale chips. Simple and delicious, enjoy them with your favorite soap opera.
Now that we have inspired you with some tantalizing veggie dishes, why not take action and whip something up today? Just like a vegetable, motivation is perishable, and the kitchen is calling.