Knowing what is “safe” to eat on a low-carb diet is one of the most challenging things to master for beginners. Often times, “healthy” diet plans include sweet potatoes, but are they compatible with a low carb diet?
The short answer is: no, not really.
Below we’ll dive deeper to find out why, and list some great alternatives to satisfy your keto sweet potato cravings.
How many net carbs are in a sweet potato?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, sweet potatoes contain 20.1g of total carbohydrates per 100g serving. Of this, 3g is dietary fiber, which means that sweet potatoes contain 17.1g of net carbs per 100g serving.
A medium sweet potato weighs around 150g and can range in size up to (and over) 300g. That means that on average, one sweet potato can contain anywhere from 25g-50g net carbs.
Is it OK to eat sweet potatoes on a low carb diet?
Typically keto diet guidelines restrict daily net carb intake to around 20g, which means that a single sweet potato could easily put you over your daily carb budget!
In very small amounts (<100g) you might be able to get away with snacking on sweet potatoes. But since they are fairly high in net carbs per serving, it is best to completely avoid sweet potatoes on a keto diet.
What about yams?
I’ll admit, I used to think that sweet potato and yam were synonymous, but I was wrong. It turns out that in the USA, orange sweet potatoes have been marketed as “yams” since the 1930s. So it’s no wonder so many people are confused!
More often than not, orange sweet potatoes are labeled as yams in the supermarket. True yams look a little bit different than sweet potatoes, though both are root vegetables. There are many varieties of yam, but most have rough exteriors and interior flesh that ranges in color from white to purple.
Similar to true sweet potatoes, yams are also high in carbohydrate content. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, yams contain 27.9g of total carbohydrates per 100g serving, including 4.1g of dietary fiber. That comes to 23.8g of net carbs per 100g serving of yams. For that reason, it’s best to avoid yams on a keto diet.
Low-carb sweet potato alternatives
If you’re looking for a low-carb alternative for sweet potatoes, there are two important things to consider: taste and texture. In most cases, you can get one or the other, but not both.
Since sweet potatoes are pretty sweet, it’s hard to find a low-carb facsimile that keeps that sweetness. There are a few vegetable alternatives with lower carbs that can be used in moderation to replace that sweet potato taste.
- Pumpkin – a fall season staple. Canned pumpkin is available year-round, and at 6g net carbs per 100g serving, it can be used in moderation. Cooked pumpkin flesh has a similar flavor and texture to sweet potato, though it is a bit… gooier.
- Carrot – carrots are usually on the “avoid” list for keto, but they do have fewer carbs than sweet potatoes. At 6.8g net carbs per 100g serving, they clock in at about 1/3 the carbs of a sweet potato. So adding some carrot to stews or casseroles can work in a pinch! Just don’t overdo it.
- Butternut squash – this is the most ‘carby’ of our flavor substitutes at 9.7g net carbs per 100g serving. This isn’t a huge improvement over sweet potato, but it’s still an option.
Sweet potatoes are often mashed, sliced up in a casserole, or cut into fries. You can get similar textures by using other sturdy, root-like vegetables that contain fewer net carbohydrates. Below is a list of the best textural sweet potato alternatives.
- Jicama – This low carb vegetable is probably the closest to potato texture, though it is slightly more firm. Jicama, like sweet potatoes, are root vegetables. They are sturdy and contain lots of fiber, bringing their net carb count to 3.9g per 100g serving. If you’re craving french fries, jicama fries are a great keto sweet potato alternative.
- Rutabaga – This is another great root vegetable that is high in fiber and low in net carbs. Try grating up some rutabaga and pan-frying to make a tasty low-carb hash brown alternative. Rutabaga has just 6.3g net carbs per 100g serving.
- Turnip – Keto mashed “potatoes”, anyone? Turnips are a great potato substitute, and at just 4.6g net carbs per 100g serving, they fit very well into keto carb allotment.
- Cauliflower – This is best to use if you’re craving a sweet mashed potato recipe. Cauliflower is great for making faux mashed potatoes and can be sweetened up with keto-friendly sweeteners. Best of all, it has just 3g net carbs per 100g serving, so it’s a great low-carb substitute!
Though they are delicious and packed with nutrients, sweet potatoes also have a high load of carbohydrates. Since sweet potatoes are high in net carbs, they should be avoided on a keto diet.
Fortunately, there are ample sweet potato alternatives! If you have any favorite keto-friendly “potato” recipes that you love, leave them in the comments below!
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