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.
- Acorn squash
- Butternut squash
- Green Peas
- Dried Beans
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 hearts
- Baby corn
- Bamboo shoots
- Beans (green, wax, Italian)
- Bean sprouts
- Brussels sprouts
- Cabbage (green, bok choy, Chinese)
- Coleslaw (packaged, no dressing)
- Greens (collard, kale, mustard, turnip)
- Hearts of palm
- Pea pods
- Salad greens (chicory, endive, escarole, lettuce, romaine, spinach, arugula, radicchio, watercress)
- Squash (cushaw, summer, crookneck, spaghetti, zucchini)
- Sugar snap peas
- Swiss chard
- Water chestnuts
- Yard-long beans
Include a healthy balance and variety of all foods for the best health!