Starchy Vegetables and How to Enjoy Them

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Vegetables are good for you—they provide vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, volume, lots of color, and crunch. There are two different categories of vegetables: starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn, and peas, and non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, peppers, and kale.

If you have type 2 diabetes, you may have been told to limit starchy vegetables. This is because starchy vegetables contain more carbohydrates than non-starchy vegetables and, therefore, can increase your blood sugars at a quicker rate.

However, this doesn't mean you need to consider all starchy vegetables "off limits." Instead, you can learn how to identify starchy vegetables and monitor your portions. You can also work to determine which starchy vegetables you may want to limit by keeping track of how they impact your blood sugars by testing your blood sugar two hours after a meal, keeping a log and modifying your diet as a result.

Most to Least Starchy Vegetables
© Verywell, 2017

List of Starchy Vegetables

The list below is for cooked starchy vegetables. The serving sizes have about 15 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of protein, and 80 calories.

If you are eyeballing servings, 1/2 cup is roughly equal to the size of your cupped palm; one cup is about the size of your fist:

  • Beets (1 cup)
  • Carrots (1 cup)
  • Corn (1/2 cup or 1 medium cob)
  • Green Peas (1/2 cup)
  • Parsnips (1/2 cup)
  • Plantain (1/2 cup)
  • Pumpkin (1 cup)
  • Sweet Potatoes (1/2 cup)
  • Taro (1/2 cup)
  • White Potatoes (1 small or 1/2 cup mashed, 1/2 cup roasted or 10 to 15 French fries)
  • Winter Squash, such as acorn or butternut squash (~3/4 cup)
  • Yams (1/2 cup)

Carb Content

Starchy vegetables have higher amounts of carbohydrates, which people with diabetes have difficulty metabolizing. They also have a higher glycemic index, meaning they raise blood sugars at a faster rate than other food types, such as protein and non-starchy vegetables.

Comparatively, per portion, they are also higher in calories than non-starchy vegetables. This is important to consider if you are trying to lose weight.

Calorie Count Comparison

One-half cup of boiled potatoes contains about 70 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrate, whereas 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli contains 25 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrate.

Therefore, if you are following a consistent carbohydrate diet or a carbohydrate controlled diet, you'll want to watch your portions of starchy vegetables and count them towards your carbohydrate meal allotment.

Watching Portion Sizes

Watching your portion sizes is an important strategy in keeping track of your nutritional intake and ultimately improving the overall management of your diabetes.

One easy way to managing portion sizes without counting carbohydrates in grams is to practice the "plate method," which helps you visualize what should be on your plate at each meal.

The idea would be to keep your starchy vegetables to 1/4 your plate and fill 1/2 your plate up with non-starchy vegetables (salad, spinach, broccoli, peppers, onions, mushrooms, etc). The remaining 1/4 of your plate can be dedicated to lean protein sources, such as eggs or egg whites, white meat chicken, turkey, pork, fish, lean beef, tofu, etc. Nutritional needs are not one size fits all, so you should work with your healthcare provider to determine the right amount and proportion of each nutrient is right for you.

Healthy Versions of Starchy Vegetables

One of the most popular starchy vegetables in the American diet is the potato, which is usually consumed in the form of French fries or potato chips. These food choices are not the healthiest version of the potato, as they are rich in calories, saturated fat, and sodium.

To avoid the extra calories and fat, choose starchy vegetables that are prepared healthfully, such as baked, roasted, or steamed versions. For example, swap out your French fries for roasted or baked potato, or try some roasted butternut squash.

When portioned and cooked appropriately, starchy vegetables can be a healthy food choice, as they're rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and filling fiber.

A Word From Verywell

Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables for health and longevity. If you have type 2 diabetes or are looking to modify your carbohydrate content for weight loss or another specific reason, you can eat starchy vegetables. The important thing to consider is how they are prepared and how much you are eating. Choosing a portion controlled amount of starchy vegetables that are baked, roasted, or grilled, for example, can increase your nutrition profile without compromising your blood sugar or weight.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Food exchange lists.

  2. American Diabetes Association. Glycemic index and diabetes.

Additional Reading