Here’s your low carb and keto guide to vegetables.
Did you know that vegetables contain carbohydrates? All plants do. However, that doesn’t mean they should be avoided when living low carb. Let’ take a look at what are low carb vegetables as well as the higher carb vegetables.
A simple rule to follow when looking for vegetables that are low carb is to eat veggies that grow above ground and avoid the ones that grow below ground. Vegetables that grow below ground, mostly root vegetables are highest in starch. This is because vegetables store a lot of their carbs in their roots.
Vegetables store carbs in their roots.
This rule is not 100% foolproof but is a good general guide. For example, leeks, peas and beans are higher in carbs but all grow above ground.
Lowest Carb Vegetables
The veggies with the lowest carb count are leafy salad greens and non-starchy vegetables that grow above ground.
Eating vegetables is an excellent way of getting vitamins and minerals into your diet. However, the nutrient density does vary between them. The types of vegetables you eat on a low carb diet will depend on your daily carb allowance. For example, are you keto, or moderate low carb?
Veggies are much healthier than processed starches like bread, rice and pasta but still be mindful of portion control. Too much starchy veg will raise your blood sugar levels just like bread and pasta will.
Above Ground / Below Ground Vegetables
Above ground and green veggies can be eaten pretty freely. Unlike most fruit that ar emuch higher in carbs. That’s why they taste sweet. Nature’s candy!
Below groung veggies, or root veggies are higher in carbs.
We’re often told to swap white potato for sweet potato as a healthier option but they are actually higher in carbs.
Can I Eat as Many Vegetables as I Like?
Pretty much, yes.
Apart from the starchy root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes and beetroot.
You can eat them occasionally if you like but if you’re aiming to lose weight, the extra carbs in these below-ground vegetables may stall your progress. People who follow a keto diet will avoid these vegetables.
It pays to know where your carbs are coming from. Work out what works best for you.
Generally accepted percentages for being ‘low carb’ are under 100g of carbs per day.
Here is a simple breakdown of low carb eating:
Ketogenic: up to 20g carbs per day
Low Carb: up to 50g carbs per day
Moderate: up to 100g carbs per day
Vegetables are a fantastic vehicle for healthy fats which help absorb the fat-soluble vitamins – A, D, E and K. Plus fat makes them so much more delicious!
Many veggies can be frozen so you can buy them in bulk when they are in season. And it means they are cheaper to buy.
Puree and freeze – pumpkin/squash, sweet potato, cauliflower
Par-cook and freeze – broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, spinach, kale, beetroot leaves, chard and collards
Blitz to make ‘rice’ – broccoli and cauliflower
Cook and freeze – beetroot
Freeze raw – onions, capsicum (peppers)
Buy frozen – corn, peas
Not suitable for freezing – lettuce, celery, watercress, cabbage, cucumber, endive, radish. They become soggy when thawed due to their high water content.
Which Vegetables are Keto?
Anything with less than 5g net carbs per 100g are suitable for keto.
Mostly above-ground veg except for leeks, peas, and green beans. See the full list below.
How to Use Low Carb Vegetables
There are so many ways to use low-carb vegetables to keep interest and variety in your meals.
Here are just a few ideas to explore;
Cabbage: Wraps (Asian), pasta replacement, coleslaw, sauté in butter
Cauliflower: mash, rice, pizza base
Broccoli: steam, fry in butter, stirfry, baked with cheese
Zucchini: baked chops or fried, zoodles, lasagne sheets
Spinach: better cooked than raw (oxalates)
Asparagus: wrap in prosciutto, cover in hollandaise sauce
Kale: frittata, oven-baked chips, salads
Beans: roasted, steamed, salads
Veggie sticks (crudites) – capsicum, carrots, celery, cucumber with dips and sauces
Fermented veg – cabbage for sauerkraut and kimchi, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, beetroot, radishes, cauliflower
Carbohydrates in Vegetables
Below, we’ve compiled a list of the most popular vegetables people like to eat. It’s been split into two – lower-carb and higher-carb vegetables.
As you will see, their carb content varies greatly.
All values are net carbs, calculated by total carbs – fibre = net carbs
Carb calculations are per 100g for uncooked vegetables.
Lower Carb Vegetables
- Spinach 1g
- Garlic 1g (per clove)
- Ginger 3g (1 tbs)
- Asparagus 2g
- Lettuce 2g
- Celery 1.5g
- Swiss Chard 2g
- Radish 2g
- Cabbage 3g
- Cauliflower 3g
- Cucumber 3g
- Zucchini 3g
- Eggplant 3g
- Green pepper 3g
- Kale 3g
- Mushroom 3g
- Green beans 4g
- Broccoli 4g
- Red pepper 4g
- Chives 4g
- Fennel 4g
- Yellow pepper 5g
- Brussels sprouts 5g
- Artichoke 5g
- Spring onion (scallions) 5g
Higher Carb Vegetables
- Celeriac 6g
- Turnip 6g
- Rutabaga (swede) 6g
- Pumpkin (kent) 6g
- Butternut pumpkin (squash) 7g
- Beetroot 7g
- Carrots 7g
- White onion 8g
- Peas 9g
- Red onion 10g
- Leeks 12g
- Parsnip 13g
- Potato 15g
- Sweet potato 17g
- Corn 17g
- Cassava (yuca) 36g
Is That a Vegetable?
There are a few inclusions and exclusions on the above lists.
Corn – commonly considered a vegetable but is actually a grain.
Capsicum (bell peppers) are botanically a fruit but have been included here as most people cook them as a vegetable.
Mushroom – technically a fungus but we have included them here as they are widely considered in the veg category.
Peas – botanically a legume like beans and lentils but widely embraced as a vegetable.
Artichoke – actually a thistle, the artichoke is usually also treated as a veg in cooking
Garlic – part of the onion and leek family.
Ginger – the root of the ginger plant.
Tomatoes, avocadoes, olives – find them in the Carbs in Fruit blog post.
The bottom line is, vegetables are full of nutrients and vitamins and minerals. Even the higher carb ones will be a better choice than reaching for processed and packaged foods.
All carb calculations are from cronometer, a nutrition tracking application you can get access to for free.