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Can You Eat Vegetables on Keto? Learn Which to Enjoy and Which to Avoid

Information, Nutrition
vegetables on keto

Eat your vegetables. It’s an order we’ve been told since we were kids. But when trying out a new diet, sometimes the rules change. If you’re thinking about giving keto a try, it’s normal to have quite a few questions about what is and what isn’t allowed. Common questions we get often focus on vegetables.

 

Can you eat vegetables on keto?

What type of vegetables should I eat?

How can I get more of the right kinds of vegetables in my diet?

 

In an effort to clear any confusion around keto vegetables, we’ve put together this guide that goes over the importance of vegetables in a keto diet, which to focus on, which to avoid, and how to enjoy them. Ready to start eating your vegetables? Let’s begin.

 

Should You Eat Vegetables on Keto?

The simple answer is yes, you should eat vegetables on a ketogenic diet. But it’s not a free for all. Some vegetables are high in sugar while others are high in carbs. Some are what we call “empty calories” because they don’t offer the body much else.

But when you choose the right vegetables, the produce is an essential part of a healthy low-carb diet. Studies show that people who make vegetables a part of their daily diet have reduced risks for many chronic diseases. Part of the reason is because of how many nutrients they provide, including:

 

  • Potassium
  • Fiber
  • Folic acid
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin C

 

When adding vegetables to your keto diet, make sure you’re consuming a wide variety to ensure you’re getting enough of your daily values for each nutrient. While many keto followers rely on supplements to make up for the foods they avoid, a diet with plenty of vegetables should come pretty close to meeting these daily needs without the need for supplements

How many vegetables should you eat? It depends on the types you choose, your gender, and your age. On a standard diet, one to four cups are recommended each day. When you’re on the keto diet, you’ll want to remain within this window but without going over your daily carb limit.

Depending on the vegetables you eat, you might only be able to get in one cup or you might not have a problem eating four cups of healthy vegetables per day. If you have no idea which vegetables to choose, you’re in luck. The next two sections will go over which vegetables you should pile on your plate and which you should skip entirely.

 

Vegetables to Enjoy on Keto

We understand because we’ve been there. You get to the produce section of your local grocery store and you have no idea where to begin. There are just too many options staring back at you. Luckily, there are more vegetables you can have than you can’t have on keto.

We’ve separated the following vegetables into two lists. The first you can eat freely. Because their carb counts are so low, it would be difficult to go over your daily carb limit. The second list you can still enjoy but you may have to watch your serving sizes. They’re higher in carbs but still permissible on a keto diet. Without further ado, here are the best vegetables to eat on a keto diet.

Less than 5 grams of net carbs per 100 gram serving

 

  • Asparagus

2 net grams of carbs

Steam a serving or two of asparagus and enjoy it with your favorite high fat sauce, like hollandaise or béarnaise.

 

  • Avocado

2 net grams of carbs

Avocado is great on its own but thin slices make a great salad topper. Mash a ripe avocado for a healthy dip or spread.

 

  • Broccoli

4 net grams of carbs

Eaten raw or steamed, broccoli is a favorite keto vegetable. Add some butter for the perfect side dish.

 

  • Cabbage

3 net grams of carbs

Cabbage can be sautéed with a little seasoning and butter for a quick snack or side dish.

 

  • Cauliflower

3 net grams of carbs

Where would keto be without cauliflower? This versatile vegetable can be used to make keto-approved pizza crust, rice, and a mashed potato substitute that’s both healthy and delicious.

 

  • Cucumber

3 net grams of carbs

Slice one up and enjoy with a high-fat dip for a quick snack or add slices to your favorite salad for a little crunch.

 

  • Eggplant

3 net grams of carbs

Grill thick slices of eggplant with your favorite cheese for a healthy lunch or dinner side.

 

  • Green beans

4 net grams of carbs

Sauté a serving of green beans with plenty of butter for a savory and filling side.

 

  • Green pepper

3 net grams of carbs

Slice and enjoy with your favorite keto dip or add to main dishes for a burst of flavor and color.

 

  • Kale

4 net grams of carbs

Add to a keto smoothie, salad, or simply sauté for an easy dinner side.

 

  • Lettuce

2 net grams of carbs

Use lettuce as a filling base for a salad. Just don’t forget to add a few more nutritious options like kale and spinach.

 

  • Mushrooms

2 net grams of carbs

Grill whole with some butter and seasonings or slice and sauté with a main dish for an additional layer of flavor.

 

  • Olives

3 net grams of carbs

Olives are a great keto snack that need no prep and are made for travel.

 

  • Snow peas

4 net grams of carbs

Snow peas are the perfect addition to your keto Chinese dishes. They can also be enjoyed raw with your favorite high-fat dip.

 

  • Spinach

1 net grams of carbs

If you want to get more vegetables into your diet without having to worry about carbs, spinach is always the answer. Eat it raw in a salad, sautéed with butter, or as an additional ingredient to keto-approved alfredo sauce or lemon chicken.

 

  • Swiss chard

2 net grams of carbs

Enjoy this thick leafy vegetable raw or sautéed with butter. The leaves shrink down quite a bit during cooking so don’t be afraid to start with several servings. The carb count is low enough to eat this vegetable freely.

 

  • Tomato

3 net grams of carbs

Though considered a fruit, we still wanted to include tomato on our list of keto-approved vegetables. Slice and enjoy as is, add to a salad, or boil down to make your own homemade keto tomato sauce.

 

  • Zucchini

3 net grams of carbs

Many keto followers love to use zucchini to make their own noodle replacement. You can also slice and bake with a bit of cheese for a keto-friendly appetizer.

 

5 or more net grams of carbs per 100 gram serving

 

  • Brussels sprouts

5 grams of net carbs

Your kids might not give them a try but roast Brussels sprouts with some butter and seasoning for a delicious keto dinner side dish.

 

  • Carrots

7 grams of net carbs

Like many other keto vegetables, you can enjoy carrots raw and with a high-fat dip or sliced and sautéed as a snack or side dish.

 

  • Celeriac

7 grams of net carbs

While it may not be the most popular vegetable, celeriac can be boiled and mashed as an alternative to traditional mashed potatoes.

 

  • Onion

7 grams of net carbs

Slice and sauté to add additional depth and flavor to your main dishes.

 

  • Pumpkin

6 grams of net carbs

Yes, you can get excited. It is possible to make a low-carb keto pumpkin pie. You can also enjoy a variety of keto-approved pumpkin desserts, like cheesecake and cookies.

 

  • Rutabaga

6 grams of net carbs

It’s not the prettiest vegetable but rutabaga is full of nutrients. Remove the peel and then choose your cooking method. You can mash rutabaga, slice it thin for a cheesy au gratin side dish, or slice and bake for a healthier version of a French fry.

 

As you can see, there are plenty of low-carb vegetable options to choose from when you’re following a keto diet. Get ready to fill that cart up on your next shopping trip!

 

Vegetables to Avoid on Keto

There are some vegetables that should be avoided on keto, at least on a daily basis. If you really have a craving, you might be able to fit in a small serving if you closely monitor your carb intake for the rest of the day. The next time you’re at the grocery store, walk right past the following options.

 

  • Corn

16 grams of net carbs

 

  • Leeks

12 grams of net carbs

 

  • Green peas

13 grams of net carbs

 

  • Parsnips

13 grams of net carbs

 

  • Sweet potatoes

17 grams of net carbs

 

  • White potatoes

16 grams of net carbs

 

  • Yams

23 grams of net carbs

 

Does the period of lethargy that comes after Thanksgiving make more sense now? Even if your table is full of traditional holiday vegetables, they’re all high in carbs. Bowls of buttered corn, mashed potatoes, and candied yams aren’t typically found on a keto follower’s dinner table, holiday or not.

 

Making the Most of Your Keto Vegetables

  • Add some flavor – You don’t have to munch on a head of broccoli by itself. Don’t be afraid to add some keto flavor. Use keto-approved oils and fats to cook vegetables in. You can also add your favorite seasoning to change the flavor. If you do like raw veggies, use a keto-approved dip to add a little more flavor. Keto vegetables don’t have to be bland. Don’t be afraid to experiment a bit.

 

  • Fresh or frozen – This is a common question whether you’re following a ketogenic diet or not. Should you focus on eating fresh vegetables or are frozen okay? Keto pushes a more natural diet, encouraging followers to stay away from those center aisles of grocery stores filled with bags and boxes of processed foods. But one central area of the store you can head to is the frozen aisle.

 

Some studies suggest frozen vegetables are actually more nutritious than fresh. Once a vegetable is harvested, it begins to break down. This causes a loss in texture, color, and nutrients. But when properly frozen, the break down process is stopped, locking in nutrients. If you can eat fresh vegetables all the time, we won’t stop you. But if you’re looking for convenience, frozen vegetables are allowed on keto.

 

  • Leaves are your friend – If you’re scanning the produce section at the grocery store and having trouble focusing on keto-friendly vegetables, look for leaves. Options like lettuce and spinach will always be low in carbs. Chop leafy greens into a salad or use them as a wrap substitute.

 

  • Go green – When trying to decide between two or more similar vegetables, remember to go green. In most cases, the greener the vegetable, the less carbs it has. For example, green cabbage has fewer carbs than purple cabbage (though both are great keto options). The same goes for bell peppers. The green varieties will be lower in carbs than their vibrant yellow and red cousins.

 

  • Avoid dirty vegetables – If you’re having trouble picking out vegetables that are keto approved, knowing which should be avoided will help you narrow down the selection. As a general rule of thumb, avoid vegetables that grow below ground. These are often called root vegetables and include potatoes, sweet potatoes, and turnips. These are all starchy vegetables and contain high numbers of net carbs.

 

How to Enjoy Keto Vegetables

Now that you know which vegetables are safe for keto and which should be avoided, it’s time to start building your favorites into your diet. To keep your taste buds happy, it’s best to mix up your approach. Here are just a few of the top ways you can enjoy vegetables to your diet.

 

  • Raw – Let’s start simple. Wash, peel if necessary, and slice your keto vegetables and then enjoy as is or with your favorite keto-approved dip. There are plenty of recipes for low-carb ranch dips out there or you can make your own. Start with a high-fat base, like sour cream or mayonnaise, and then season to your liking.

 

  • Salad – Here’s another great way to eat a bunch of vegetables at once. Make your base out of a mixture of lettuce, kale, spinach, and other leafy greens. Then add some texture with tomato, cucumber, avocado, onion, or other vegetables according to your preferences. Add some cheese for additional fat and chicken, steak, or shrimp if you’re looking to fill up. Use a low-carb dressing and you have a great meal.

 

  • Sautéed – Prepare your vegetables as needed, add to a hot pan, and soften with plenty of butter. You’ll be adding both fat and flavor to your vegetables. Keep in mind that some vegetables lose a bit of their nutritional value when cooking them at high temperatures. However, this is still a great way to add more vegetables to your dinner plate. The combinations are virtually endless so have fun trying to mix and match.

 

  • Boiled – Boiled vegetables can lose up to 34% of their Vitamin C content. But there is a positive to choosing this method. With certain vegetables, you can mash them after boiling for a great mashed potato substitute. If this side dish was one of your favorites before going keto, try boiling and mashing different vegetables until you find one that satisfies your cravings.

 

  • Casserole – Baked veggies are delicious. There are several ways you can approach this cooking method. You can simply slice vegetables, like eggplant or zucchini, brush them with a bit of butter or oil, and top with cheese for a baked veggie boat.

 

You can also thinly slice veggies, arrange them in a baking dish, pour a keto sauce over them, and bake until softened. Finally, you can make more of a main dish with this method. Dice up your veggies, season them well, add chicken or another suitable protein, and bake until the vegetables are soft and the meat is thoroughly cooked.

 

  • Smoothie – It is possible to make a low-carb smoothie. You’ll want to add a variety of vegetables but it’s best to stay away from those with a high water content, like cucumbers or lettuce. Stick with spinach, kale, avocado, or anything else that adds bulk to the smoothie without bitterness. Add some fat, like coconut milk or Greek yogurt and flavor with low-carb fruit, like berries. You can also add protein powder to make your smoothie more of a meal rather than a treat.

 

  • Additional ingredients – Whenever you try a new recipe, take a moment to ask yourself if there’s a way you can add vegetables to it. If you’re making a keto alfredo or tomato sauce, add spinach, tomato, onion, or broccoli for added flavor and nutrients. If you’re making a keto pizza with a cauliflower crust and plenty of cheese, pile on those vegetables. For stir fry’s, double up on your favorite veggies if possible.

 

Eating vegetables when you’re on a ketogenic diet is important. There are certain nutrients you can only get from vegetables. They’re also filling, can add plenty of color and flavor to a dish, and are low enough in carbs that seconds are always a great idea.

If you’ve been avoiding all vegetables because you weren’t sure if they were keto-friendly, we hope you’re on your way to the produce section now to stock up on our favorite varieties.

SR Content Strategist.

Matt Weik, the owner of Weik Fitness, LLC, is a well-respected fitness expert/author/podcaster with a global following. His work has been featured in nearly 100 fitness magazines (Flex Magazine, Men’s Muscle & Health Magazine, Oxygen Magazine), 2,000+ websites, as well as having numerous books and audiobooks that are published.  Matt Weik graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Kinesiology. He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, personal trainer, and sports nutritionist. Matt is a member of the supplement expert panel at the Bodybuilding.com Awards 2018.

You can contact Matt via www.weikfitness.com or on social media links below.

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