Americans continue to struggle with overweight and obesity. Several diet regimens, like intermittent fasting or macros, are promoted for weight loss. Another diet, the ketogenic diet, is arguably one of the most popular diets.
The keto diet limits carbohydrates and the majority of calories come from fat and protein. It is common to do daily carb counts and limit intake to 50 grams of carbohydrate per day or less.
Due to the very limited amount of carbohydrates allowed on a ketogenic diet, entire groups of food are restricted, including grains, breads, cereals, dairy, and fruit. These groups of food are important sources of needed nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Eating vegetables is important to make sure that you within your carb count but are still getting those needed nutrients.
For example, vitamin C is an essential nutrient that is particularly important in supporting immune health. Citrus fruits, kiwi, and strawberries are all great sources of vitamin C but would likely provide more carbohydrate than allowed on a ketogenic diet. However, bell pepper is also a rich source of vitamin C and it provides very little carbohydrates.
Is there such a thing as a keto vegetable? Below are 23 keto-friendly vegetables to include in your meal plan.
23 Best keto vegetables
There are a lot of options for vegetables on a keto diet. As a general rule, vegetables that grow in the ground tend to be higher in carbohydrates (potatoes, rutabagas, parsnips), whereas, vegetables that grow above ground (greens, bell peppers, broccoli, and cucumber) tend to have a lower carbohydrate count and very little net carb.
Vegetables, such as leafy green vegetables, are extremely low in carbs, have minimal calories, and pack a lot of nutrients. They are a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid, and potassium. It makes them the perfect vegetables to include on a keto diet.
Arugula has a great peppery taste to it making the flavor distinct from other leafy greens. A full cup of arugula is only 5 calories and provides less than a gram of carbs and fiber.
Kale provides just 12 calories and just over 2 grams of carbs in one cup. Half of those carbs come in the form of fiber. Kale can be used in salads or added to tomato sauces and soups. You can also try making kale chips.
One cup of spinach has just 1 gram of carbs. Spinach is great raw in a salad, added to soups, or can be served as creamed spinach.
4. Swiss Chard
A cup of Swiss chard contains under 7 calories, 1.35 grams of carbs, and 0.5 g fiber. Add it to soups in the winter or saute to add in a frittata.
Additional leafy greens such as mustard greens and salad greens can all be included as they have such a small amount of calories and provide very little carbohydrate.
Additional vegetables that are low in carbs and acceptable on the keto diet are included below.
Artichokes are a great source of fiber and provide just 6.5 grams of net carbs and 60 calories in one medium artichoke.
Asparagus is one of the first vegetables to come available at farmers’ markets in the Spring. A cup of it provides 27 calories, 5 grams carbs, but only 2 grams of net carbs per cup. Add it to salads, saute to add to an omelet, or just grill the spears to enjoy as a side dish.
Avocado, technically a fruit, is a popular option for the keto diet due to its high-fat content. Avocado is a good source of healthy, unsaturated fats. It is also a great source of fiber. Although one avocado provides 12.5 g carbs, it is only 2.8 grams of net carbs. It also provides more potassium than a banana.
Add avocado to a taco salad or use to make avocado toast.
8. Bamboo Shoots
A cup of bamboo shoots added to a stir fry will add 41 calories and just 4.5 grams of net carbs.
9. Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are one of the top sources of vitamin C. One cup provides 35 calories, 7.6 grams of carbs, and 2.7 grams fiber.
Bell peppers can be roasted, sautéed, or enjoyed sliced and raw as a snack.
10. Bok Choy
A cup of shredded bok choy provides only 9 calories, barely enough to worry about counting its carb content. This is also a great vegetable to add to a stir fry or curry recipe.
One cup of broccoli provides 30 calories, 5.8 grams carbs, and 2.3 grams fiber. Roasted broccoli with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper makes a great low carb side to most meals.
12. Brussels Sprouts
A cup of Brussels sprouts provides 38 calories and 7.9 grams of carbs. Yet, it offers approximately 4 grams of net carbs. They are also a great source of vitamin K.
Brussel sprouts are great roasted in the oven or even prepared in an air fryer if possible.
A cup of cabbage provides 22 calories, 5.2 grams of carbs, and 2.2 grams fiber. Consider adding cabbage to a stir fry with cauliflower rice and chicken or meat. Cabbage can also be grilled as a side dish.
Of all the vegetables, is there one any more popular than cauliflower at this moment? Its low carb content and versatility lends itself to much greater use. One cup provides 27 calories, 5.3 grams carbs, and 2.1 grams of fiber.
Cauliflower has been used as a substitute for rice and mashed potatoes, both appropriate foods on a keto diet. More recently it is seen to be used in pizza crusts and pastas such as gnocchi. Store purchased versions of these often have more carbs than one would think so be sure to read the labels.
Celery has been getting a lot of press as a juice but juicing is not necessary here. A cup of chopped celery is only 19 calories, 3.6 g carbs, and almost 2 grams fiber. Celery can make a great snack with added cream cheese for a keto diet.
Cucumbers have high water content. A cup of diced cucumber provides 14 calories and 2.6 grams of carbs.
A cup of eggplant is just over 20 calories with 4.8 grams of carbs and 2.5 grams fiber. Eggplant can be used to make ratatouille or roasted to make an eggplant dip. It can also be used to make eggplant parmesan.
18. Green Beans
Green beans have long been a traditional side dish for holiday meals. Including these at any meal is possible when following keto.
One cup provides 31 cals, 7 grams carbs, and 2.7 grams fiber.
19. Green Onion
Regular onions could add up as 1 cup provides almost 15 grams carbs but green onions are different. A cup of green onions, while milder in flavor, provide 32 calories, 7.3 grams carbs, and 2.6 grams fiber.
Mushrooms are the only vegetable to be considered high in Vitamin D. A cup of sliced mushrooms yields 15 calories and 2.3 grams of carbs.
The variety of mushrooms available provides multiple options for including them in low carb diets. Simple button mushrooms can be used with eggs in omelets, added to sauces, or used as a side with your chicken or steak. Shiitake mushrooms are great added to a stir fry or coconut curry dish. Portobello mushrooms can be grilled or stuffed with other foods low in carbs and roasted.
A full cup of okra offers 33 calories and about 4 grams of net carbs. Often added to southern dishes such as Gumbo, it can also be grilled and or roasted.
Olives also fall into the fruit category but because of their higher fat content can be included in a keto food diet. One cup of olives provides 165 calories, 16 grams fat but only 7.4 grams carbs with 4.3 grams coming from fiber. That’s just 3 grams of net carbs.
Often used in the Fall season, pumpkin can be a great source of vitamin A and beta carotene. One cup of pumpkin provides 30 calories, 7.5 grams carbs, and 0.6 grams fiber.
Radishes provide 18.6 calories and about 2 grams of net carbs per cup.
25. Snap Beans
One cup of snap beans provides 31 calories, 6.98 g carbs with almost half of the carbs in the form of fiber.
Although technically a fruit, they often get added to a vegetable list. Their nutritional breakdown is similar to other keto vegetables. One cup of diced tomato provides 43 calories, 7 grams carbs, 2.2 grams fiber.
27. Zucchini (Summer Squash)
Zucchini is low in calories, providing 21 calories per cup. It also provides just under 4 grams of carbs and 1.2 grams fiber.
Zucchini has also gained a lot of popularity as a substitute for pastas. It can be used to make zucchini noodles. If you are missing things like french fries and potato chips, try making a zucchini version of them. Long peeled ribbons if zucchini can also be layered and used in place of tortillas to make enchiladas.
Zucchini is also known as summer squash. Winter squash varieties, such as butternut and acorn squash, are also available. They tend to have a higher carb count than summer squash.
Vegetables to Avoid
Root vegetables or starchy vegetables have more carbs per cup compared to the others mentioned previously. Sweet potatoes, potatoes, and corn range from 27-42 grams of carbs per one-cup serving.
Celeriac, rutabaga, and beets are a bit higher in carbs compared to something like a leafy green like lettuce but are not as high as potatoes. Celeriac, beets, and rutabaga provide 11, 10, and 9 grams of net carbs, respectively. Carrots have also been suggested as vegetable to avoid but they provide 8.7 grams net carbs per cup.
Celeriac, rutabaga, beets, and carrots may be included but portion sizes would need to be followed closely to avoid overconsumption of carbs per day.
The Last Word
Learning what acceptable foods on the keto diet are can be overwhelming in the beginning. There are plenty of keto dieting foods on the market but vegetables are an integral food group to include in your eating plan.
Many vegetables are acceptable foods for a keto diet. You can and should eat your vegetables on a keto diet. Vegetables are a key source of important nutrients and offer health benefits. The benefits of eating vegetables include further prevention of high blood pressure and heart disease.
It is important to be aware of low-carb vegetables, follow serving size suggestions, and track total carbs per serving on this diet.
US Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central. Accessed May 29, 2020. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov.