Starchy Vegetables and How to Enjoy Them

Vegetables are good for you. They provide vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.

You may have been told to limit starchy vegetables, though. That's common advice for people with type 2 diabetes or on a low-carbohydrate diet.

That's because starch breaks down into carbohydrates. And carbs increase your blood sugar.

But this doesn't mean starchy vegetables are "off-limits." In this article, you'll learn which veggies are starchy, how to monitor your portions, and how to prepare them in healthy ways.

Starchy Vegetables
  • Corn

  • Peas

  • Potatoes

  • Squash

  • Yams

Non-Starchy Vegetables
  • Broccoli

  • Cauliflower

  • Kale

  • Lettuce

  • Peppers

Most to Least Starchy Vegetables

Verywell

Carb Content

Starchy vegetables have more carbohydrates than their non-starchy cousins. They also have a higher glycemic index. That means they raise blood sugar faster than other veggies and foods.

Per portion, starchy vegetables also have more calories than non-starchy ones. This is important to consider if you're trying to lose weight.

So, if you're trying to manage your carbs, watch your portions of starchy vegetables.

Calorie Count Comparison

A half-cup of boiled potatoes contains about 70 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrate. The same amount of steamed broccoli contains 25 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrate.

Portion Control

Watching portion sizes is important for managing diabetes. An easy way to do that without counting carbohydrates is the "plate method."

Under this method, your plate should be divided like this:

  • 1/4 starchy vegetables
  • 1/2 non-starchy vegetables
  • 1/4 lean proteins

Nutritional needs aren't one size fits all, though. Work with your healthcare provider to determine the right amounts and proportions for you.

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

If you're eyeballing servings:

  • A half-cup is roughly equal to the size of your cupped palm
  • One cup is about the size of your fist
STARCHY VEGETABLES SERVING SIZE
Beets 1 cup
Carrots 1 cup
Corn 1/2 cup or 1 med. cob
Green peas 1/2 cup
Parsnips 1/2 cup
Plantains 1/2 cup
Pumpkin 1 cup
Sweet potato 1/2 cup
Taro 1/2 cup
White potatoes 1 sm. potato, 10-15 fries, or 1/2 cup mashed or roasted
Winter squash (butternut, acorn) 3/4 cup
Yams 1/2 cup

Healthy Cooking Methods

The way you cook starchy vegetables makes a difference in how healthy they are.

For example, consider the potato. The popular starchy vegetable is often eaten as French fries or potato chips.

But these aren't the healthiest way to enjoy potatoes. These forms are especially high in calories, saturated fat, and sodium.

Instead of frying your veggies, choose healthier preparations such as:

  • Baked
  • Roasted
  • Steamed
  • Grilled

So swap out your fries for a baked potato, or try some roasted butternut squash.

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

Summary

Starchy vegetables can raise your blood sugar more than non-starchy veggies. They contain more carbohydrates and more calories. That makes them a potential problem for people who have diabetes or are on a low-carb diet.

It's important to limit your portions of starchy vegetables. A good rule is to only allow them to take up 1/4 of your plate.

To enjoy starchy vegetables in the most healthy way, avoid frying. Instead, bake, roast, steam, or grill them.

Tracking Blood Sugar

If you have diabetes, keep track of how starchy vegetables affect your blood sugar. Test your blood sugar two hours after eating, keep a log, and use the information to modify your diet.

A Word From Verywell

Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is good for your health and longevity. Instead of cutting starchy vegetables out of your diet, try to manage your portions and cook them in healthy ways.

If you find they still raise your blood sugar too much or stall your weight loss, try smaller portions. You also may benefit from seeing a nutritionist. They can design a meal plan based on your dietary needs and overall health.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are examples of starchy fruits?

    Bananas are considered starchy. Most other fruits have little or no starch.

  • Are starchy vegetables bad for you?

    Definitely not. Starchy vegetables can be an important part of a healthy diet. While starchy vegetables have higher carbohydrates, they also have the vitamins, minerals, and fiber your body needs. However, it's a good idea to eat them in moderation, especially if you have diabetes.

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3 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. American Diabetes Association. Carb counting and diabetes.

  2. National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Food exchange lists.

  3. Slavin J, Lloyd B. Health benefits of fruits and vegetablesAdvances in Nutrition. 2012;3(4):506-516. doi:10.3945/an.112.002154

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