Let’s make one thing very clear: Vegetables, despite being carbohydrates, are good for you. YOU SHOULD EAT VEGETABLES. But if you’re on the ultra-restrictive keto diet—which demands that you follow a high-fat, low-carb eating plan—you might want to avoid certain higher-carbohydrate vegetables that could potentially knock you out of ketosis.
While vegetables are among the most nutritious things you can eat, there are a few starchy and carbohydrate-dense items that can definitely throw off your keto diet—and in small servings, too. (We’re looking at you potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots.)
Even if you aren’t on the keto diet, the vegetables that follow on this list are great for you. Many of them are rich in gut-filling fiber and they’re all loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants. Plus, many of them also possess a high water content, which in addition to helping you maintain good hydration can also help you with your feelings of fullness (and thereby help you eat less at mealtime and avoid mindless snacking after mealtime. All these vegetables incredibly flavorful on their own—no ranch dressing needed—and are easy to work into healthful meals.
Feast upon them and you can even go ahead and call yourself “plant-based,” even though experts still aren’t entirely sure what the heck that actually means.
Instead, fill up your plate with these keto-friendly vegetables, all of which have few net grams of carbs and bring some more of the good stuff to your meals.
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That’s right, this orange-hued vegetable is allowed on ketosis in moderate amounts. “Don’t put pumpkin in a fall-only category! Pumpkin puree is low in carbs and a good source of fiber,” says Maggie Michalczyk, MS, RD. Plus, it’s a great ingredient for keto-compliant desserts when you want something sweet and satisfying, she says. There are 7 grams of net carbs per ½ cup serving.
“This super green is one of the few vegetables that is a good source of protein (3 grams per cup), and it’s also low in carbs and high in other nutrients like vitamin A, C and K,” says Michalczyk. It’s really versatile—you can use it for omelets, keto air fryer kale chips, salads, soups, and more. It has just 3.4 grams of net carbs per cup.
“Another super green, spinach is packed with vitamin A, C, calcium and iron. It’s very low in carbs and makes for an amazing addition to any meal,” says Michalczyk. It’s a great vegetable to always have on hand in the fridge for easy weeknight meals when you’re pinched for time. A cup has a mere 2.5 grams of net carbs.
Use these multi-colored peppers in a variety of ways, like in stir-fry, eggs, and fajitas, or as a dipper for keto spreads. Michalczyk notes they’re “packed with vitamin C and potassium, which is great for active bodies.” There are 5.9 net grams per half a cup chopped.
Don’t underestimate this power green and just reserve it for garnish. “This peppery green is a little different from kale and spinach, but like them, is low in carbs and high in nutrition. It’s also a good source of folate, calcium, potassium and magnesium, which are great for your blood pressure,” says Michalczyk. There are 0.4 grams of net carbs in a full cup.
“This summer squash is a perfect substitute if you are wanting pasta but adhering to the keto diet,” says Michalczyk. Spiralize it, and you may not even know the difference—especially if you have a flavor-packed dressing and some meatballs on top. “It’s filled with vitamin C, A, and calcium, plus it’s low in carbs,” she says. There are just 3 grams of net carbs per 1 medium-sized zucchini.
With just 2 grams of net carbs per ½ cup, broccoli is a major superfood that should be a staple on the keto diet, says Suzanne Dixon, RD. It’s high in fiber and protein to keep you full and you can use it in just about anything—stews, soups, and keto makeovers of your favorite foods like casserole.
Cauliflower has a similar nutrition profile to broccoli. It’s also a great cruciferous veggie to choose when you’re on keto, says Dixon, as it has 1.5 grams of net carbs per half a cup. It’s pretty bland in taste, but that’s the beauty of it, as you can adapt it to whatever you are making with the right spices and sauces.
Take advantage of celery’s high water content to prevent the dehydration that’s often associated with keto. With just 1 gram of net carbs in a large stalk, it’s a great addition for soups, or as a crudité for a dip (or with nut butter on top), says Dixon.
Cabbage is delicious when stuffed into keto fajitas, used in soups, or made into coleslaw with a rich, creamy high-fat dressing that’s keto-friendly. It has 2 grams of net carbs per cup shredded, so you can eat a lot in one sitting without falling out of ketosis, says Dixon.
Asparagus has just 2 grams of net carbs per 1 cup chopped, and it is super versatile, Dixon says. This green veggie is high in fiber and folate. Add it to stir-fry, grill it, or use it in your slow cooker for hearty stews.
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