A low-carbohydrate diet typically cuts grains, fruit and legumes but emphasizes a good amount of vegetables — unless they're high in carbohydrates. Low-carb diet programs such as keto or Atkins often eliminate high-carb vegetables, despite the bevy of vitamins and minerals they also offer.
However, other plans say that high-carb vegetables are OK, such as Whole30. The first step in figuring out which starches you want to include in your diet is knowing which veggies are high in carbs.
Are Vegetables Carbs?
All foods are made up of the three macronutrients — protein, fat and carbohydrates — as well as micronutrients and water. Vegetables are high in micronutrients and water but tend to have more carbohydrates than the other two macros.
Even vegetables that are encouraged on a low-carbohydrate diet contain carbohydrates; for example, raw broccoli contains around 6 grams of carbohydrates per cup — but it's not included on the high-carb vegetables list.
Some of these carbohydrates are fiber, a plant-based carbohydrate that your body doesn't digest. Fiber moves things around in your digestive system, helping to prevent constipation. When an eating plan refers to "net carbs," it means the number of grams of carbs minus the number of grams of fiber present in the food.
What Foods are High in Carbs?
When it comes to carbs, there are all the usual suspects: Grains, such as bread, pasta, rice and oats, plus fruit—which is high in natural sugar, a form of carbohydrates, and legumes, such as beans and lentils. Dairy also has a fair number of carbohydrates in it, though some low-carb diets make allowances for full-fat dairy.
However, there are some high-carb vegetables, too, that you should watch out for. While most non-root vegetables are low in carbohydrates, there are others that you might want to cut back on or eliminate from your diet entirely, including:
Winter squash: Starchy winter squashes such as butternut squash, pumpkin, acorn squash and delicata are rich in nutrients but also in carbohydrates. For example, 1 cup of baked butternut squash contains 21.5 grams of carbs. There's one exception: Spaghetti squash, which is also a winter squash, only has 10 grams of carbohydrates per cup and is often touted as a healthy replacement for wheat pasta.
All varieties of potatoes: From standard russets to flavorful sweet potatoes to tiny fingerlings, all types of potatoes have a high carbohydrate content. The exact number will vary based on the size of the potato; a medium-sized russet potato—around 173 grams—has 37 grams of carbohydrates, while a 151-gram sweet potato contains nearly 27 grams of carbs.
Some strict low-carb followers also eliminate high-carb root vegetables beyond potatoes. This could include carrots, beets, turnips and parsnips.
What Vegetables Can I Eat on the Keto Diet?
Vegetables are an important part of all eating plans, even the ultra-strict low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet. Choose a wide variety of non-starchy vegetables to include in your diet in place of high-carb vegetables, whether it's Keto, Whole 30, Atkins, South Beach or otherwise. Each of these vegetables contains 5 net grams of carbs or fewer in a half-cup of cooked or 1 cup of raw vegetables.
- Bean sprouts
- Bok choy
- Green beans
- Leafy greens, such as lettuce, spinach, chard or kale
- Summer squash
- American Diabetes Association: Grains and Starchy Vegetables
- Aaptiv: What are High-Carb Vegetables and Should I Avoid Them?
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: What is Food Composed Of?
- Mayo Clinic: Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Basic Report: 11486, Squash, winter, butternut, cooked, baked, without salt
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Basic Report: 11493, Squash, winter, spaghetti, cooked, boiled, drained, or baked, without salt
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Basic Report: 11510, Sweet potato, cooked, boiled, without skin
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Basic Report: 11356, Potatoes, Russet, flesh and skin, baked