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Whether you follow a keto diet, a low-carb diet for weight loss, or just feel better cutting down on carbs (though we’d recommend avoiding a no-carb diet!), there are so many reasons someone may choose to follow a low-carb diet. When planning your low-carb snacks and low-carb meals, it’s essential to pack in the best low-carb vegetables for the most satiety, fiber, and nutrients. We chatted with experts to see what best low-carb vegetables you can add to your diet, stat.
What are low-carb vegetables?
There are three types of vegetables we usually refer to when talking low-carb, says Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook and owner of Nutrition Starring YOU. Low-carb veggies are non-starchy, like kale, spinach, and cucumbers, higher-carb veggies are starchy vegetables that have a higher calorie level, like corn, peas, and potatoes, and then there are somewhere in between vegetables, like root veggies and winter squash, which are lower in carbs than the higher-carb vegetables. But, she says it’s important to remember that all vegetables provide really great nutrition and can have a place in your diet.
“The vegetables we typically refer to as low-carb are non-starchy vegetables. They’re high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, without excess calories,” adds Mary Ellen Phipps, M.P.H., R.D.N., L.D., author of The Easy Diabetes Desserts Cookbook.
She advocates incorporating low-carb vegetables into your diet to “fill that vegetable component” of your meals for a balanced plate and to add extra fiber into your day. After all, every good low-carb diet also incorporates high-fiber foods.
What is a low-carb diet?
A low-carb diet is based on the individual, but typically, the minimum carbohydrates you should have in a day are 130 grams, Phipps says. She encourages anyone looking to follow a low-carb diet to work with their doctor or dietitian to ensure they’re following a realistic and healthy eating plan before trying something new.
When following a low-carb diet, Phipps says finding balance is the main priority. Focus on fiber and protein sources that contribute some form of fat to keep you full and energized. She warns against consuming too much fat—or bland vegetables and proteins without any fat at all.
Phipps notes that a low-carb diet isn’t something that has to be done long-term. For some, like those who have endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or diabetes, a low-carb diet may alleviate some symptoms or make you feel better. If this is the case for you, and you’ve cleared your diet changes with your doctor or registered dietitian, then it’s totally okay to continue following a low-carb diet.
And though experts helped us put together a list of the best low-carb veggies, Harris-Pincus says, the most important thing to understand is that any vegetable is a good thing. Phipps adds that simply finding the vegetables that bring the best flavor and texture based on your preferences is a great goal to have. Here, they share their favorite low-carb veggies to try.
Phipps says bell peppers are super versatile and can be found year-round. She loves them raw with dip, stir-fried with other veggies and protein, or incorporated into sauces. About a half cup of chopped red bell peppers (100 grams) contains only 7 grams of carbohydrates.
Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts can be added to almost any savory recipe to increase your overall fiber, vegetable, and mineral intake, Phipps says. Just one cup of broccoli, for example, has 5 grams of carbohydrates, and cauliflower is packed with fiber, choline, vitamin K, and antioxidants like vitamin C.
Romaine, spinach, kale, collards, and more–these leafy greens are a great way to get a higher nutrient content with very little carbohydrates, Phipps says. Just one cup of kale, for example, has one 1 gram of carbohydrates along with fiber, vitamin C, folate, and B vitamins.
We know avocados are a fruit, but Phipps thought they deserved an honorable mention on the best low-carb list because they’re high in fat, but offer a significant source of fiber with few carbs. “They’re great to help you feel satisfied and add palatability and fat, she notes. Just one-half of an avocado has 6 grams of carbohydrates. Try them as a classic avocado toast or even in sweet settings, like this Avocado Mousse.
Harris-Pincus says blending frozen zucchini into a smoothie adds great, creamy texture and fiber, and you won’t even notice it. After all, one medium zucchini contains 6 grams of carbohydrates, plus vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and much more. Try one of these healthy zucchini recipes.
We know that celery juice has health benefits like vitamin C, B, A, and iron, but the stalk itself can be delicious with nut butter or cooked into a stir fry for dinner. One cup of chopped celery has 3 grams of carbohydrates.
Tomatoes boast vitamin C, potassium, folate, vitamin K, and plant compounds called lycopene and beta carotene that are good for your overall health. And a half-cup of grape tomatoes has 4 grams of carbohydrates. You can enjoy these veg (technically fruits) raw in salads or on sandwiches, but we love these Roasted Cherry Tomatoes as a side dish.
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