You know vegetables are crucial for a healthy lifestyle. Since starting the ketogenic diet, you may be wondering, “What are the best low carb vegetables I can eat?”
Below, you’ll learn which vegetables you should consume in abundance, which you should consume in moderation and a few keto-friendly recipes to get more veggies in your diet.
Choosing Low Carb Vegetables: A Few Guidelines to Follow
When following keto or another extremely low carb diet, your goal should be to keep your total carb intake at or below 5% of total calories. For the average person, this comes out to roughly 20 grams of net carbs per day.
Calculate the Net Carbs Per Serving
To determine which low carb vegetables are best, do a little reverse math. A healthy meal plan should include three to five servings of vegetables per day, at minimum[*].
If your goal is 20 grams of net carbs, and you want to consume five servings, then you should aim to consume vegetables with 4 grams of net carbs (or less) per serving size.
Be Cautious of Vegetables That Grow Below Ground
Another rule of thumb to follow: If a vegetable grows above ground (lettuce, spinach and bell peppers are good examples) it probably contains a low enough carb count to be keto-friendly. If a vegetable grows below ground (carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes and turnips) you might need to double-check the carb count. Veggies that grow below ground are known as “tubers,” and are known for being high-starch, high-carb vegetables.
Understand Serving Sizes
The foods listed below state the net carb count per 100 grams. How much 100 grams really is will vary depending upon the low carb food. For example, 100 grams equals roughly[*]:
- One medium tomato
- One cup raw, leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach or lettuce)
- One-half cup cooked orange or green vegetables (broccoli, carrots or pumpkin)
- Half of a starchy vegetable (sweet potato, potato or cassava)
For example, 100 grams of sweet potato contains 17 grams of net carbs. Therefore, you might be tempted to eat a sweet potato with grass-fed butter as a treat — but you can only eat half! Eating the entire sweet potato would double the net carb count to 34 grams, well over your daily allotment.
The Best Keto Vegetables to Consume in Abundance
The follow vegetables can be consumed in abundance on keto. All net carb counts below (listed in parenthesis after the food) refer to a 100-gram serving.
Dark, leafy green vegetables are best when it comes to being low carb and nutrient dense. These are all great options:
Greens are rich in iron and vitamins A, C and K. They help fight inflammation and support bone, brain and heart health, as well as eyesight, skin elasticity and proper blood clotting[*][*][*][*]. Green leafy vegetables have also been shown to fight the aging process and cognitive decline[*].
Adding these greens to your meals can provide volume without too many added carbs or calories.
Cruciferous vegetables (those of the cabbage family) are a good choice for low carbohydrates and high nutrition. Good options include:
- Bok choy (1.18 grams)
- Mustard greens (1.6 grams)
- Radishes (1.80 grams)
- Swiss chard (2.1 grams)
- Zucchini (2.11 grams)
- Cauliflower (2.97 grams)
- Green cabbage (3.00 grams)
- White cabbage (3.07 grams)
- Cucumbers (3.13 grams)
- Broccoli (4.40 grams)
- Turnips (4.63 grams)
- Brussels sprouts (5.15 grams)
- Kale (5.15 grams)
Cruciferous veggies are rich in vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K, as well as folate, dietary fiber and minerals. Studies show cruciferous vegetables can protect cells from DNA damage, have antiviral and antibacterial qualities and inhibit tumor growth can help protect against many different types of cancer and may help decrease insulin resistance in those with Type 2 diabetes [*].
Other Keto Vegetables
Outside cruciferous and leafy greens, there are still many low carb vegetables you can enjoy. These foods stay below the 5 grams of net carbs per 100 grams:
- Garlic (0.99 gram in one clove)
- Celery (1.37 grams)
- Asparagus (1.78 grams)
- Summer squash (2.25 grams)
- White mushrooms (2.26 grams)
- Olives (2.80 grams)
- Eggplant (2.88 grams)
- Bell peppers (2.9 grams)
- Bamboo shoots (3.00 grams)
- Artichoke hearts (3.88 grams)
- Okra (4.25 grams)
- Green beans (4.27 grams)
- Sauerkraut (great when naturally fermented, but beware of low-quality brands and added sugar — 4.28 grams)
- Snow peas (4.9 grams)
These cruciferous veggies can taste delicious when you cook them the right way. Check out how Perfect Keto founder Dr. Anthony Gustin (@dranthonygustin) cooked this big batch of asparagus (and follow him for more keto meals):
Now that we’ve covered some of the best keto vegetables to use on your ketogenic diet, let’s talk about those that should be limited or avoided completely.
Vegetables to Limit and Avoid on Keto
There are two groups of vegetables you should avoid on keto: starchy vegetables and vegetables that could be defined as a legume.
Enjoy In Moderation: Sweet Vegetables
Some vegetables are higher in carbs but can still be enjoyed in moderation on keto. One serving of these per day should be fine (pro tip: when enjoying one of the foods below, enjoy leafy greens the remainder of the day to keep your carb count low). That includes sweet vegetables like:
- Carrots (6.78 grams)
- Pumpkin (5.14 grams)
- Winter squash (7.09 grams)
- Onions (8.71 grams)
Avoid Altogether: Legumes and Tubers
Beans and legumes typically include 10–20 grams of net carbs per 100 grams. Examples include:
Enjoy Low Carb Veggies: Keto Recipes
There are lots of ways to enjoy vegetables on a ketogenic diet. Enjoy them as a side dish topped with a dollop of healthy fat, like grass-fed butter or a drizzle of olive oil or coconut oil. You can saute them in stir fries or add them to soups and stews. They’re also a great base for keto salads.
Enjoy fresh veggies in season, and stock up on frozen veggies when your favorites are not in season (or if you don’t have easy access to fresh produce year-round). Frozen vegetables are typically cheaper than fresh, and just as nutritious.
Here are some low carb meal ideas incorporating keto-friendly vegetables:
- Roasted Chicken Stacks (with cabbage)
- Crispy Cheesy Chicken Salad (with zucchini, romaine and kale)
- Chicken Caesar (with romaine)
- White Turkey Chili (with cauliflower and onion)
- Crispy Skin Salmon (with cauliflower rice)
- Shrimp Stir Fry (with cauliflower rice)
- Bebere Enchilada-Style Stuffed Peppers (with bell peppers, carrots, onion, garlic and cauliflower)
- Brown Butter Buffalo Bites (with cauliflower)
- Smoked Salmon Pate (with cucumber)
- Creamy Mushroom Chicken (with onion and mushrooms)
- Avocado Breakfast Bowl
There are an abundance of low carb vegetables to enjoy on keto, all of which offer various health benefits. Leafy greens, cruciferous veggies and other low carb foods can be enjoyed in large quantities. Sweet veggies such as onions, carrots and squash should be enjoyed in moderation. Certain foods, like starchy tubers and legumes, are best avoided.
Get creative with meal planning, incorporating a wide variety of veggies in your diet. For more recipe ideas, visit the Perfect Keto recipe library.
Dr. Anthony Gustin is a board-certified sports chiropractor, functional medicine practitioner, entrepreneur, podcast host, and founder of Perfect Keto.
After growing his sports rehab and functional medicine clinics to six locations in San Francisco, he shifted his mission to help as many people as possible achieve optimal health and well-being.