Just as in any healthy diet, vegetables should make up a significant portion of your daily consumption when you choose to go low carb.
They provide so many wonderful and necessary nutrients, they add flavor and texture, and all the fiber helps fill you up and keep you satisfied. But not all vegetables are created equal when it comes to carbohydrates and a few, like sweet potatoes, carrots and some winter squash, can be surprisingly high carb.
If you’re looking to keep your carbs low, here are twelve healthy low carb vegetables that will give you the most bang for your buck. They are all low in carbs and high in fiber and nutrients. Plus some of them can be used in place of pasta, bread, and chips. You can’t beat that!
*All carb counts are listed from Self Nutrition Data, which uses the USDA National Nutrient Database. All counts are listed for raw vegetables, with skin, in 1 cup servings.
Spinach (1 cup, raw) = 1 g carbs, 1 g fiber. It’s hardly a surprise that this leafy green tops the list. And besides being almost zero carb, it’s a nutritional powerhouse, with plenty of vitamins and minerals. Make like Popeye and devour your spinach.
Lettuce (green leaf, 1 cup shredded) = 1 g carbs, negligible fiber. Another shocker, right? Eating lettuce is a little like eating air sometimes so it must be low carb. Almost all varieties of lettuce are very low carb, but the deep greens and reds have the most nutrients.
Belgian Endive (1 cup raw, chopped) = 2 g carbs, 2 g fiber. Endive looks a little like lettuce but it’s actually a member of the chicory family. It’s quite a popular vegetable these days and the stiff, scoop-shaped leaves make a great alternative to chips for scooping out dips and salsas.
Mushrooms (1 cup white button, raw, sliced or chopped) = 2 g carbs, 1 g fiber. Mushrooms aren’t actually vegetables, but we certainly treat them as such. They are deliciously low carb, adding that unique umami flavor to any dish. They are also packed with great nutrition, including the essential sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D.
Celery (1 cup raw, chopped) = 3 g carbs, 2 g fiber. Celery, the poster child for any diet. It’s both low calorie and low carb, but it’s also crunchy and delicious. I think it’s best filled with something tasty like herbed cream cheese. Or better yet, used to cool off your mouth with a plate of hot wings!
Radishes (1 cup raw, slices) = 4 g carbs, 2 g fiber. Radishes are one of the root vegetables with the fewest carbohydrates. If you don’t love the peppery bite of the raw red globes, consider roasting or pan-frying them. They become much mellower and make a great alternative to potatoes.
Zucchini (1 cup raw, chopped) = 4 g carbs, 1 g fiber. Zucchini is well loved in the low carb world for its versatility. Not many vegetables can go from savory to sweet, but the green summer squash does well in both. And it makes a fabulous replacement for everything from noodles to fries to chips.
Cucumber (1 cup raw slices) = 4 g carbs, negligible fiber. There is no vegetable quite as refreshing as cucumber. Of course, it’s mostly water, but still that crunchy green veggie makes a great addition to salads. It’s also the perfect little round for finger foods. Top it with tuna salad or smoked salmon and cream cheese for a delicious low carb appetizer.
Cauliflower (1 cup raw, chopped) = 5 g carbs, 3 g fiber. Another darling of the low carb set, this cruciferous vegetable is incredibly useful and versatile. People are making everything from pizza crust to mashed “potatoes” to rice. I’ve even seen low carb hot pockets made out of cauliflower!
Eggplant (1 cup raw, cubed) = 5 g carbs, 3 g fiber. Eggplant really doesn’t have a lot of flavor on its own but it absorbs a lot of flavor during the cooking process. This makes it useful in many low carb dishes because it can play the role often assigned to bread. Consider it for little mini pizzas or as the base for eggs benedict. I’ve even seen it used in low carb bread pudding!
Asparagus (1 cup, raw) = 5 g carbs, 3 g fiber. This springtime vegetable is a healthy low carb choice, as it contains plenty of nutrients. It’s a great source of folates, B Vitamins and Vitamin C. Try grilling it and tossing with some lemon to lock in the fresh flavors.
Broccoli (1 cup raw, chopped) = 6 g carbs, 2 g fiber. Low carbers can’t get enough of this green cruciferous vegetable. It’s great in salads, soups, stir-fries, casseroles and just on its own for snacking. And don’t throw away the stems. You can spiral cut them into a great noodle substitute.
Carolyn Ketchum is culinary editor of ASweetLife. She writes the popular low carb food blog All Day I Dream About Food.