Starchy and Non-Starchy Vegetables: Everything You Need to Know

Starchy and Non-Starchy Vegetables: Everything You Need to Know

Do you ever want to develop a balanced meal plan, only to find you don't have room for those "bad" foods that also happen to be not-so-bad sometimes? We're talking potatoes, bananas and other carbohydrate-heavy fruits and veggies? It can be confusing to figure out, but let's shed some light on how these healthy treats actually function in our bodies.

Starchy vegetables are more abundant in carbohydrates and we all need a certain amount of carbohydrates so our bodies can function without shutting down. There was a time when a reduced-carbohydrate diet was thought to be effective in controlling diabetes, but researchers have clearly shown that this approach actually interferes and leads to a more progressive decline within the pancreas. Therefore, getting both non-starchy and starchy vegetables in your daily meal plan is important.

A serving of the following is a half-cup and provides about 15 grams of carbohydrate. In addition, each one of these foods provides vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The USDA Nutrient Data Base is a fantastic tool for looking up the exact amounts of any nutrient in these foods.

  • Parsnip
  • Plantain
  • Potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Acorn squash
  • Butternut squash
  • Green Peas
  • Corn
  • Dried Beans
  • Legumes
  • Peas
  • Lentils

Try to include dried beans into several meals per week. They are a great source of protein in addition to the carbohydrate, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Next are the non-starchy vegetables and, because they have so few calories - about 25 calories per cup - they are usually considered “free” foods.

In most meal plans, a minimum of 2 1/2 cups per day of raw vegetables is encouraged, but keep in mind: to get adequate amounts of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, 4-8 cups of these is better. At 25 calories a cup and fewer than 5g of carbohydrate per cup, 8 cups of these “free” vegetables provides about 200 calories and fewer than 40 grams of carbohydrate. This is a wonderful way to optimize your diet and they can be enjoyed raw and cooked!

  • Amaranth or Chinese spinach
  • Artichoke
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Asparagus
  • Baby corn
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Beans (green, wax, Italian)
  • Bean sprouts
  • Beets
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage (green, bok choy, Chinese)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chayote
  • Coleslaw (packaged, no dressing)
  • Cucumber
  • Daikon
  • Eggplant
  • Greens (collard, kale, mustard, turnip)
  • Hearts of palm
  • Jicama
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Pea pods
  • Peppers
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Salad greens (chicory, endive, escarole, lettuce, romaine, spinach, arugula, radicchio, watercress)
  • Sprouts
  • Squash (cushaw, summer, crookneck, spaghetti, zucchini)
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomato
  • Turnips
  • Water chestnuts
  • Yard-long beans

Include a healthy balance and variety of all foods for the best health!

Registered Dietitian, Licensed Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator


Comments
Comment by Roberto2013
August 10, 2014
Every time I read more about nutrition I get more convinced that the best way to maintain a good health is with balance and variety. Just like this article mentions how starchy and non-starchy vegetables have their pros, same thing happens with raw vegetables vs cooked or steamed, low calorie vs high calorie fruits, different kind of fruits vs different kind of vegetables, etc. Vary your food and don't fall to one side or the other, that is the key.
Comment by theKman
August 09, 2014
You state "There was a time when a reduced-carbohydrate diet was thought to be effective in controlling diabetes, but researchers have clearly shown that this approach actually interferes and leads to a more progressive decline within the pancreas." Would you please cite sources for this? I'm interested in reading more. Thank you Jeannene.
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