What are the best veggies for keto?
We’ve all seen the cliche Instagram picture of the massive steak with 4 tablespoons of butter on top. #Keto?
However, completely avoiding vegetables is not the best way to follow a ketogenic diet. Veggies are rich in micronutrients and beneficial plant compounds that can reduce your risk of cancer, protect your heart, improve your gut health, and much more.
But, there are some factors to consider when choosing the best vegetables for a ketogenic diet.
How to Choose Low-Carb Vegetables
If you’re familiar with the keto diet, you know that it’s a very low-carb, high-fat eating pattern. On the ketogenic diet, carb restriction ranges from five to 10 percent of total calories. It’s different for each person, however, a standard 1,800 calorie ketogenic diet would include about 20-50 grams of net carbohydrates.
Oftentimes, our 131 participants start on the lower range of this scale to achieve ketosis for the first few months. As the body adjusts to the keto diet, many people can play with this number to increase carbohydrates while still staying in ketosis.
Calculate the Net Carbs Per Serving
To find the best veggies for keto, you must understand the concept of net carbs. This is simply the total number of carbohydrates (in grams) minus the total grams of fiber.
One medium avocado contains 12 grams of total carbs and 9 grams of fiber.
Total carbs (12) – total fiber (9) = 3 grams of net carbs in one avocado
Why do some net carbs instead of total carbs? Good question! Your body does not absorb fiber. Instead, its job is to optimize the health of your gut by feeding your gut bugs and much more! Depending on how insulin resistant a person is, they may need to use total carbs. Technically, net carbohydrates are the number of carbohydrates t absorbed in the blood and can affect the level of ketosis.
How Many Servings of Veggies Should You Eat?
What is considered a serving of vegetables? A serving of most vegetables is a 1/2 cup. Leafy greens, however, have a serving size of 1 cup. We recommend aiming for at least 5 servings (> 2.5 cups) per day of low-carb veggies to achieve optimal health.
The Top 10 Best Veggies for Keto
1. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous veggies are all a part of the same family. They are some of the best veggies for keto because they are packed with beneficial nutrients and are very low in net carbs.
Some cruciferous vegetables include:
- Broccoli – 2 grams net carb
- Cauliflower – 1 gram net carb
- Brussels sprouts – 4 grams net carb
- Cabbage – 2 grams net carb
Cruciferous vegetables are great for improving liver detox, which is particularly important when following a keto diet (1). Our fat cells store many different compounds, including toxins. When we lose weight, our fat cells shrink and release estrogen, fat-soluble vitamins, and organic pollutants (2). Therefore, we need to eat veggies that support our liver to help prevent a buildup of toxins or excess hormones.
How to add Cruciferous Veggies:
Broccoli and cauliflower are excellent when roasted in the oven, but we particularly love to use broccoli or cauliflower rice as a low-carb rice alternative. We also love amping up Brussels sprouts with other keto-friendly foods like our Bacon-Wrapped Brussels Sprouts recipe!
Net Carbs: all less than 4 grams of net carbs in a 1/2 cup
2. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are nutrient powerhouses, so they are a great veggie to add to your keto diet. This includes spinach, kale, arugula, and other lettuces. One cup of leafy greens has less than 1 gram of net carbs, so most people can eat these pretty freely on the keto diet.
Leafy greens are rich in nutrients like vitamin K and folate. Additionally, research shows a strong connection between eating leafy green vegetables with improved brain health, and a lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes (3, 4, 5).
How to add Leafy Greens:
Can you guess the most obvious answer? Salads, y’all! Get in your serving of leafy greens for the day by having 1-2 cups of greens with other keto-friendly veggies in a salad. But, you can also incorporate them into keto recipes like our arugula packed Prosciutto Wraps, or enjoy a higher-fat creamed spinach as a side dish.
Net Carbs: 1 gram in 1 cup of leafy greens
Ok, you got us. Avocados are technically a fruit, but given their high nutrient density and low-carb content, we decided to include it in the list anyways! One medium avocado contains 3 grams of net carbs. You have the best of both worlds with avocados because they are also high in monounsaturated fat! One avocado contains over 20 grams of fat. Plus, these bad boys are very good sources of potassium, which is usually lacking in a standard keto diet.
How to add Avocados:
Eat avocados with your morning eggs, make an avocado pesto sauce, or slice into a leafy green salad. Heck, you could even sprinkle two halves of an avocado with sea salt and eat it with a spoon!
Net Carbs: 3 grams in one avocado
Similar to avocados, olives are also a fruit by definition. However, olives often fall in many categories other than fruit, like healthy fats and vegetables. A 1/2 cup of green olives contains less than one gram of net carbs. However, olives are also high in fat, containing over 15 grams of healthy, monounsaturated fat per serving.
How to Add Olives:
We love using olives as a keto-friendly snack! They are also great chopped up into a salad or used as a “Greek Salsa” to top salmon dishes.
Net Carbs: 0.5 grams in a 1/2 cup
Asparagus is one of the best veggies for keto because it is a great source of prebiotics. You’ve probably heard of probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that live in the gut. Prebiotics, however, are non-digestible fibers that are used as a food source for your healthy gut bugs. (6). Without enough prebiotics in the diet, your gut health may suffer, especially on a ketogenic diet.
A 1/2 cup of cooked asparagus contains only 2 grams of net carbs, so it is also a great low-carb option in addition to its gut health benefits.
How to add Asparagus:
Roasting asparagus is the best way to enhance the rich flavor of this veggie. But, many people also love to grill asparagus. Drizzle olive oil over the spears for an added fat source! FYI – your pee may smell funky when you eat asparagus, but this is normal!
Net Carbs: 2 grams in a 1/2 cup (~6 spears)
Eggplant is a less-common veggie that can be enjoyed on the keto diet. It is rich in antioxidants and low in overall calories. Plus, a 1/2 cup of cooked, chopped eggplant contains just 3 grams of net carbs.
How to add Eggplant
We love eggplant in a good ole’ eggplant parmesan recipe! If you don’t eat a lot of meat, this is a great low-carb vegetarian option that can be made keto with the addition of full-fat cheese and no-sugar-added tomato sauce.
Net Carbs: 3 grams in a 1/2 cup
Zucchini is extremely versatile and one of the best veggies for keto. It is a very good source of vitamin A, which is an essential nutrient for healthy eyes and glowing skin. A 1/2 cup of cooked zucchini slices contain just 1 gram of net carbs.
How to add Zucchini
There are so many ways to enjoy zucchini on the keto diet! We love using zucchini noodles i.e. “zoodles” as a low-carb option, or slicing zucchini vertically and using it in place of traditional noodles in a low-carb lasagna. Other 131 recipe ideas for this veggie include our Zucchini Fries and our Zucchini Pancakes.
Net Carbs: 1.5 grams in a 1/2 cup
8. Green Beans
Don’t be alarmed! These are not your typical beans. Green beans are actually pretty low in net carbs, which make them a great veggie option for the keto diet. A 1/2 cup of cooked green beans contains just under 2 grams of net carbs.
How to add Green Beans:
We love sauteeing green beans with high-quality bacon for an extremely satisfying flavor. But, you can also enjoy them steamed with herbs.
Net Carbs: 2 grams in a 1/2 cup
9. Green Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are one of the highest sources of vitamin C, which is great for the keto diet since most citrus fruit is eliminated on this eating plan. A 1/2 cup of chopped green bell peppers provides 2 grams of net carbs. Keep in mind that red and yellow bell peppers are a bit higher in net carbs at 3 grams per 1/2 cup serving.
How to add Bell Peppers:
Bell peppers are a great addition to various soups, omelets, and salads. You can even enjoy stuffed pepper recipes too, as one whole green pepper still provides less than 5 grams of net carbs!
Net Carbs: 2 grams in a 1/2 cup
Cucumbers are composed of about 96% water, so they are one of the best veggies for keto (7)! We talk A LOT about the importance of adequate hydration, especially when in ketosis! This is because your body tends to lose more water when following a ketogenic diet, making it easier to become dehydrated. Fortunately, cucumbers are very keto-friendly with a 1/2 cup containing only 1 gram of net carbs.
How to add Cucumbers:
Cucumbers make great low-carb sandwich bites. Simply slice the cucumber into 1/2 inch rounds, and top with organic turkey, prosciutto, or smoked salmon. You can also easily add cucumbers to any salad, or sprinkle with sea salt for a crunchy snack.
Net Carbs: 1 gram in a 1/2 cup
Know the Importance of Veggies
A lot of keto programs out there ignore the huge benefit of low-carb, non-starchy vegetables. Sure, you may still lose weight on a pork-rind and butter keto diet, but you won’t achieve optimal health. In the 131 Method, we believe that internal health is as important as a svelte body. This is where low-carb, nutrient dense veggies help improve gut health, nourish your skin, and balance hormones while following a ketogenic diet.
Our 131 Registered Dietitians can help you incorporate low-carb vegetables to optimize your health while still maintaining and enjoying the various benefits of ketosis. Let’s get started!
All nutrition information for net carbs can be found at the USDA website here.