You Can Definitely Work Quinoa Into Your Keto Diet (And You Should)

If you are on the keto diet, you know how important it is to know the macronutrient breakdown of each and every food you put into your body, particularly carbs. Naturally, you start to take a closer look at the grains you eat and rethink even the super healthy varieties. One question you may have is Is quinoa keto?

First of all, you should know that quinoa may be classified as a whole grain, it’s technically a seed. “Quinoa is considered a ‘pseudo grain,’ meaning it’s consumed much like a grain and has nutritional properties similar to a grain yet isn’t a true grain–it’s actually a seed from the Chenopodium quinoa plant, making it a popular gluten-free carbohydrate option,” explains Brittany Michels, RDN, LDN, CPT, of The Vitamin Shoppe.

While many people do use quinoa as a healthier replacement for refined grains, it’s normal to wonder whether it fits into the keto lifestyle, given how restrictive it is. ICYMI, the keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet that drives the body to use fats as fuel rather than carbohydrates, a state known as ketosis.

“Since the diet restricts the total number of carbs individuals can eat in a day, and grains are primarily a carbohydrate-rich food, it can be difficult to fit them into this way of eating,” adds Amy Davis, RD, LDN, a New Orleans-based nutritionist and the founder of The Balanced Dietitian.

So does quinoa make the cut when it comes to the keto diet? Here’s what dietitians think.

Meet the experts: Brittany Michels, RDN, LDN, CPT, is an integrative and functional dietitian and an NASM-certified trainer. Amy Davis, RD, LDN, is a nutritionist and the founder of The Balanced Dietitian. Lauren Manaker, RDN, is a nutritionist based in Charleston, South Carolina.

What are the health benefits of quinoa?

One fact that sets quinoa apart from other grains is that it’s a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine of the essential amino acids, says Michels. “Most whole grains are missing or contain very low levels of the amino acid lysine. Compared to most other grains, quinoa contains more protein, fiber, and healthy fats per serving,” she adds. They give quinoa great satiating power, making it great staple for weight loss.

It also provides B vitamins and minerals manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, iron, and zinc, per Michels. So, quinoa can be a satiating, high-protein option for those who want to lose weight or focus on general wellness.

So, can you eat quinoa while on keto?

The short answer is yes. It all comes down to being mindful about portion size because eating too much carbs like a huge helping of quinoa can take you out of ketosis.

Here’s the nutrition breakdown of one cup of quinoa:

  • Calories: 222

  • Fat: 3.6 g

  • Carbs: 39.4 g

  • Net carbs: 34.2 g

  • Dietary fiber: 5.2 g

  • Protein: 8.1 g

If your keto carb goal is 20 grams per day, you’d need to modify your serving size in order to make quinoa an option. “A ¼ cup of quinoa would provide 9.85 grams of carbohydrates and 8.55 grams of net carbohydrates. Although this would be half of the 20-gram allotment example, if you really wanted quinoa, you could make it happen,” says Michels.

What grains are keto-friendly?

You don’t have to completely ditch carbs if you’re on the keto diet. “All grains will contain carbohydrates and a significant amount of net carbs,” says Lauren Manaker. “For some, grains may be too high in carbs, while for others, it can be enjoyed in limited quantities.”

TBH, there is no one best choice out there, as so many have similar net carb quantities. But whole grains and high-fiber grains that have a similar nutrition profile to quinoa can be enjoyed on the keto diet in moderation, says Davis.

Here are some other types you can consider including in your diet on keto:

  • Barley (Carbs: 44 g; net carbs: 38 g)

  • Bulgar (Carbs: 33.8 g; net carbs: 25.6 g)

  • Brown rice (Carbs: 50 g; net carbs: 47 g)

  • Millet (Carbs: 41 g; net carbs: 39 g)

  • Wild rice (Carbs: 35 g; net carbs: 32 g)

  • Couscous (Carbs: 36 g; net carbs: 33 g)

  • Oats (Carbs: 28.1 g; net carbs: 24.1 g)

The bottom line: Quinoa is a superfood that packs tons of essential nutrients. While it’s also relatively carb-heavy, you can work it into the keto diet by limiting your portion size.

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