If you’re starting the ketogenic diet, you might be tempted to eat just cheese or bacon for every meal — after all, who wouldn’t want to eat these favorite comfort foods every chance they get? But just because you’re trying to increase your fat intake and limit your carbs doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still focus on eating a balanced diet, and that includes making sure you get enough plant foods. As indulgent as it would be to eat bacon all day, vegetables are important to incorporate into your meals, and thankfully, there are plenty of low-carb varieties that won’t bump you out of ketosis (using fat for fuel).
The exact amount of carbs each person may need to consume when on a keto-diet varies, but most guidelines recommend 20-50g a day. Since there are different types of vegetables that tend to be more carb-heavy than others, choosing the right vegetables can help you get the vitamins and minerals you need without going over your carbohydrate limit.
As a general rule of thumb, vegetables that grow above ground — think lettuce and broccoli — are typically lower carb and better for a ketogenic diet than their more starchy counterparts that grow below ground, such as potatoes. Vegetables like lettuce can be eaten more freely, which can help ensure you’re getting an abundance of nutrients without compromising your diet.
If you’re going keto and wondering what vegetables to include, there are a variety of low-carb vegetables you can try! Below is a quick cheat sheet to guide you when you're grocery shopping or eating out. Save it, pin it or print it and keep reading to find out why these veggies are a great choice for your keto diet.
1. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and arugula are great options when it comes to keto-friendly veggies. They are low in carbs but high in other important nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. You can use them raw in salads, and you can also cook them into omelets, soups, and more.
1 cup of raw kale (67 grams or 2.4 ounces) has 4 grams of net carbs and 2 grams of fiber.
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
Members of the cruciferous vegetable family, such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower can be enjoyed as part of the keto diet. These nutrient-rich vegetables have been widely studied for their cancer-fighting components, plus they are high in fiber, and they can be prepared in a wide range of dishes. Cauliflower can be particularly useful, as it can be made into a rice substitute or even used as a pizza crust.
1 cup of raw broccoli (91 grams) has 4 grams of net carbs and 2 grams of fiber.
1 cup of raw cauliflower (100g) has 2 grams of net carbs and 3 grams of fiber.
Missing pasta? Try incorporating some zucchini “zoodles” into your life. This keto-friendly squash is low in carbs but loaded with other essential vitamins and nutrients such as antioxidants and fiber. This heart-healthy veggie can be used as a substitute for spaghetti, but it also works well in casseroles, stir fries, or made as fries or chips.
1 cup of raw zucchini (124 grams) has 3 grams of net carbs and 1 gram of fiber.
This high-fiber veggie is low in calories and carbs but high in important nutrients such as folate. It can not only help you fill up, but it can also make your dishes more exciting. Cook it as an appetizer with butter or use it as a base for dishes such as salmon or eggs.
1 cup of cooked asparagus (180 grams) has 4 grams of net carbs and 4 grams of fiber.
Celery is notorious for being low in calories, but it’s also low in carbs, making it the perfect keto-friendly veggie and vehicle for cream cheese, dips, or peanut butter. This vitamin-rich veggie can also be stuffed with foods as an appetizer or baked into dishes such as gratin.
1 cup of raw celery (101 grams) has 1 gram of net carbs and 2 grams of fiber.
6. Bell Peppers
Loaded with vitamin C, vitamin B6, and vitamin K, bell peppers are a great low-carb, keto-friendly option that can be used for anything from salads to crudite platters. They can also be stuffed with meats and cheeses for a fancy entree.
1 cup of raw, red bell pepper (149 grams) has 6 grams of net carbs and 3 grams of fiber.
This immune-boosting and antioxidant-rich vegetable is a great option when it comes to eating keto. They’re low-carb, but rich in important nutrients such as the B vitamins. Mushrooms can be added to salads or entrees, or they can be prepared on their own as an appetizer.
1 cup of raw mushrooms (70 grams) has 1 gram of net carbs and 1 gram of fiber.
Going keto doesn’t mean giving up vegetables. Stick with these low-carb options, and you’ll help keep your diet balanced while striving for ketosis — and if you must, you can always top them with bacon or cheese!
Carina Wolff is a health and wellness writer and food blogger based out of Los Angeles. She graduated from New York University with a degree in journalism and psychology. She writes for a number of websites, including Bustle, FabFitFun, Reader's Digest, and more. She also runs a healthy food blog called Kale Me Maybe, where she develops clean-eating recipes.