If you're on a low-carb or ketogenic diet, you are probably looking for exactly what low-carb vegetables are safe to eat. Did you know that a lot of common vegetables today are actually high or moderate carb? You don't want to be caught eating a high carb vegetable by accident when eating keto - one serving of one of these (ie, a potato) could keep you out of ketosis!
Sad to say, when you're on the keto diet, vegetables from carbs still count as carbs (minus the fiber of course). Even though they're "healthy", if they're not carbs from fiber your body sees them as glucose. Of course, if it's a high fiber vegetable the carbohydrates are digested slower, which eases the blood glucose/insulin spike that you would see without fiber.
Low-Carb Beginner Guidelines
Eating vegetables on the keto diet becomes kind of complicated, but it doesn't have to be. If you're just starting out you're most likely following the less than 20 net carbs per day rule. (Calculate what you should be eating for keto here!) In order to keep this keto diet healthy, most of these carbs should come from low-carb vegetables.
For keto beginners, it's probably best to stay with the lowest carb vegetables...it's surprising how quickly the carbs from vegetables add up. Then if you add in some almonds and nuts to your daily diet, the carbs add up even faster! You'll quickly be at your 20 net carbs per day. Don't ruin it by eating a moderate carb vegetable that you could of sworn was ok to eat.
Follow our guided list of keto safe vegetables to see what is OK to eat!
P.S. Some of the foods on our low-carb vegetable list are not technically vegetables. In real terms, they are categorized under fruit. But for the purpose of listing out healthy low carb foods for keto, we are putting them on this list.
The serving size for each of these vegetables is 1 cup of the vegetable, chopped into fair size pieces (not ground up, but chopped into 1-2" pieces). There are vegetables that we chose different serving sizes because 1 cup just did not seem to apply. These serving sizes are listed with each vegetable and are denoted with *.
Some ketogenic diets are paired with anti-inflammatory diets. On these diets, you may be avoiding nightshade vegetables. There is conflicting evidence on whether nightshades are inflammatory or actually anti-inflammatory, but if that is what your doctor recommends then follow their advice (or do your own research 😉 ).
For example, eggplant is classified as a nightshade, yet it is also a common keto food. For our low-carb keto vegetable list, we've included these foods. We've highlighted nightshade vegetables in purple so you are aware of them as you go through our list.
There is also the soy factor with edamame beans. Soy can be inflammatory for some people, or not recommended for those who have issues with low or high estrogen.
Canned Vegetables are a No No
Don't go substituting canned vegetables for fresh raw vegetables thinking they are the same. You can purchase fresh string beans and it a whole cup for only 4.3 net carbs. If you try to do the same thing with a can of green beans, you'll be in for a sad awakening. Canned green beans can have up to 6 grams net carbs per cup and almost zero nutrients. Learn to read the nutrition labels - you won't survive keto long without understanding how it works.
Moderate Carb Vegetables
We've included a few moderate carb vegetables in our keto vegetable list. We find that these are ok in moderation - meaning you do not allow them to consume your entire carb allowance every day, nor do you use them as an excuse to go over in carbs thereby taking you out of ketosis.
For example, you can actually eat small amounts of spaghetti squash in moderation because it rounds out to 7 grams net carbs per cooked cup. We wouldn't recommend having it every day, but every now and then it's an ok vegetable to have to keep you in ketosis.
Comparison of Low Carb to High Carb Vegetables
In comparison, we've listed some of the high carb foods you used to eat before keto. When you used to eat pasta, in 1 cup you were eating about 38 grams of carbs. When you used to have a potato, sweet or regular, it was almost the same as the pasta! And these were high glycemic as well, so they increased blood sugar fast.
Vegetables As Starch Substitutes
The great thing about vegetables is there's a lot you can do with them to make your keto meals seem normal. Low-carb vegetables like cauliflower and zucchini are very versatile. They are becoming well known as substitutes for high carb vegetables like potatoes or high carb grains like pasta.
Cauliflower as a Starch Substitute
Cauliflower can be completely ground up and made into cauliflower mashed potatoes. It goes fabulously with sour cream and butter to make a super yummy and creamy keto mashed potatoes.
Cauliflower can also make a great rice substitute. It can be made into fried rice for a side to an Asian stir-fry. Or we've even seen it in some home-made sushi rolls!
Zucchini as a Pasta Substitute
Zucchini can be cut into spirals with a spiralizer and used as pasta. But there are other vegetables that go great as carb substitutes as well. Have you tried our baked eggplant fries? They are superb, especially with some low-carb ketchup or mayonnaise for dipping.
Our newest favorite is jicama. Jicama stays more firm throughout cooking, yet it has barely any carbs! It doesn't offer too much in the way of nutrients, but if your goal is simply staying under carbs for a french fry snack for one meal, then you might take the low nutrients.