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What About the “Starchy” Vegetables?

Grace Aguirre, MS, RD
December 21, 2020
October 15, 2021
3

It’s true what they say! Vegetables are extremely important. They are absolutely packed with disease-fighting properties including fiber, vitamins, minerals, and thousands of powerful phytochemicals. In fact, the USDA states that the average adult needs between 3-5 cups of vegetables every day in order to prevent or manage chronic disease! This recommendation includes a variety and combination of both “starchy” and “non-starchy” vegetables in order to meet ALL of your nutrient needs.

Since starch is a type of complex carbohydrate, starchy vegetables have gotten a bad rap over the years, which is a concern for those who need or prefer to monitor their carb intake. In this article, we will address the pros and cons of starchy vegetables, starchy vegetable examples, and ideal preparation methods. 

Which Vegetables are “Starchy”?

Vegetables are considered to be starchy when their starch content is high enough to reach close to one serving of carbs per standard serving size. One serving of carbs is considered 15 grams. See the list below for a list of serving sizes of the most common starchy vegetables:

  • Beets, 1 cup
  • Taro, 1/2 cup
  • Carrots, 1 cup
  • Parsnips, 1/2 cup
  • White/Gold/Red Potatoes, 1 small or 1/2 cup mashed or roasted
  • Plantain, 1/2 cup
  • Winter Squash, ¾ cup, (like acorn or butternut squash)
  • Green Peas (1/2 cup)
  • Pumpkin, 1 cup
  • Yams, 1/2 cup
  • French fries, 10 to 15 (ideally baked, air fried, or roasted)
  • Sweet Potatoes, 1/2 cup
  • Corn, 1/2 cup or 1 medium cob
  • Legumes, ½ cup (white beans, navy beans, black beans, lentils, etc)

Starchy Veggies - Pros

Starchy Veggies - Cons

A source of essential nutrients: fiber, vitamins/minerals and phytochemicals

Can increase sugars in the blood after digestion

Provide healthy complex carbs to fuel the body

Portions need to monitor for certain medical conditions (i.e. Diabetes)

Filling and satisfying

Contain more calories than “non-starchy” vegetables

Slower blood sugar rise than many other high carb foods

Do not fit into all diet types/preferences 
 

Might be tempted to eat too many since they are so tasty!!

How to Prepare Them

Different methods of preparation are known for changing the flavor of the same food. For example, some people don’t care for steamed broccoli, but love it when it’s roasted! 

How you prepare your vegetable matters for flavor, but also nutrition! When choosing a cooking method, consider the amount of fat, salt and sugar you use. Also play around with different healthier methods of preparation to find your favorites! See the table below for examples of the healthiest way to prepare your veggies.

Instead of...

Try...

Deep-Fried

Baked/Broiled/Roasted, Air Fried, Grilled, Boiled, Steamed, Stir-Fried

(1-2 tsp of oil per serving)

Bottled/Jared Sauces

Home-made Sauces

High-sodium Seasonings/Sauces

Citrus juices (not from concentrate), Vinegar, Garlic, Fresh Herbs (Cilantro, Parsley and Rosemary), Fresh Spices (Cayenne, Black Pepper, Paprika, Turmeric, Chili Powder, etc)

Sweet Seasonings/Sauces 

(usually stir-fries)

Use naturally sweet ingredients such as fruit juices and honey. Aim to keep sugar under 12 grams (1 tbsp) per meal. 

Need Help?

If you are having trouble balancing your diet including a variety of vegetables or struggle to cook due to physical limitations, ask your dietitian nutritionist to help find the way to reach your vegetable intake target. Send a message in your iHealth Unified Care app today!