If you’re trying keto and struggling with veggies, you’re not alone. It’s not always easy being green with this particular diet. More restrictive than simply cutting carbs or caveman-style paleo, the ketogenic diet can be extreme—high fat, moderate protein, and really, really low carb. If you’re truly counting every gram of carbohydrate, then you already know they don’t go far. Even if you skip starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, and corn, you might still be wondering how many non-starchy vegetables you can still enjoy. First things first: It’s still important to eat your veggies! They’re filled with fiber and essential nutrients, which your body needs to thrive. Here’s how a few people recommend getting those greens, from nutrition experts who want to make sure you’re eating enough plants, to food and fitness pros with personal strategies.
The Nutrition Expert
Ginger Hultin is a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “You have to understand that the ketogenic diet was designed by doctors for children with epilepsy,” she emphasizes. “You need to take it seriously, and work closely with a doctor and a dietitian.” Whether you’re being super strict or trying it more casually, she insists on maximizing your intake of veggies, otherwise you’ll wind up with constipation—not so sexy. Hultin recommends hitting veggies at every meal, across breakfast, lunch, and dinner, to feed your body fiber on an ongoing basis. The farmers’ market is her favorite way to get fresh inspo, and she recommends roasted broccoli with lots of luscious olive oil, and mushroom caps stuffed with gooey cheese.
The Natural Health Advocate
Dr. Will Cole is a leading functional medicine practitioner. Yeah, he hangs out with Gwyneth Paltrow. Of course, he’s got a beautiful cookbook. Ketotarian combines keto with plant-based eating, correcting the misconception that the diet has to be all bacon and butter. “Many people are nervous about eating more vegetables for fear of going over your carb limit,” Cole explains. “But it is possible to eat 100 percent plants, without relying on meat and dairy.” His hard-and-fast rule: “Every time you eat a healthy fat, pair it with a non-starchy vegetable.” His faves include dark leafy greens for smoothies (just add coconut milk), and roasted cauliflower tacos (go big on guac).
The Fitness Trainer
Lauren Berryhill is a certified personal trainer who lost more than 100 pounds, pulling back from a diagnosis of prediabetes. As a bodybuilder, she loves having consistent energy for fasted workouts, and gaining muscle without bulking up. “I built my entire physique on the keto diet,” she says. “People think you need protein, but a high fat diet is what works for me, getting me through 5 am workouts while hitting my heaviest PRs.” She does follow the strict total carbs method, personally aiming for 20 to 25 grams per day. Her clients range from carnivores to plant lovers, but she keeps veggies simple, by suggesting 2 or 3 small servings, at less than 10 grams of carbs each. That could look like 4 to 6 Brussels sprouts, ½ cup mashed cauliflower, or 2 cups leafy greens. She loves roasted asparagus wrapped in bacon, decadently topped with Parmesan and heavy cream.
The Food Personality
Leanne Vogel is a popular podcast host, video blogger, and bestselling author. With three cookbooks and counting, she’s tested hundreds of recipes. She follows the net carb method, personally aiming for 30 grams of carbs from fiber, 50 grams of carbs total per day, which gives her more room for vegetables. In fact, she was vegan before she went high fat 5 years ago, so seriously, she’s never breaking up with carrot chips. With this flexible approach, she loves zucchini noodles, butter lettuce burgers, and epic cauliflower nachos. “Keto doesn’t have to mean low veggie,” she confides. “That’s one of the most common mistakes women make. There are oodles of ways to get more green in your life, without worrying about it affecting your ketones.”
Becky Duffett is a writer, editor, and cook living in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in EatingWell, Healthyish, Taste, Eater SF, and Edible SF. She was previously the nutrition editor at Fitbit, and she’s currently the senior editor at Good Eggs, supporting farmers, ranchers, and other local producers.