What is good about starchy vegetables?
Starchy vegetables are naturally rich in a variety of nutrients, including some nutrients that tend to be low in people’s diets. They are good sources of dietary fiber, which lowers cholesterol and aids digestive health. Some are great sources of potassium, which lowers blood pressure and is linked to lower heart disease risk. Orange ones, such as sweet potatoes and acorn squash, are excellent sources of beta-carotene, an antioxidant. In addition, they are low in sodium, and some are linked to lower risk for diabetes.
Why doesn’t your Lark coach count starchy veggies as a superfood?
While almost unlimited amounts of non-starchy vegetables are okay, it is not quite so simple with starchy vegetables. First, they are higher in calories and carbohydrates than other vegetables. For example, a cup of cooked, mashed sweet potato has 240 calories and 55 grams of carbohydrates, while a cup of cauliflower has 35 calories and 7 grams of carbohydrates.
With these carbohydrates comes a significant impact on blood sugar. While non-starchy vegetables have a minimal impact, starchy vegetables can drive up blood sugar quickly, although not all have the same effect or glycemic index. White potatoes and parsnips are high-glycemic, while sweet potatoes and green peas are far lower. Always be sure to input your food logs into your lark app!
Sources of “starchy veggies”
Starchy vegetables include the following.
- Sweet potatoes and yams
- Corn (but cornmeal and popcorn count as grains)
- Green peas
- Winter squash, such as acorn, kabocha, and butternut
Tips for making starchy veggies work for you
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- Serving size matters. A serving is a small white potato, half a small sweet potato, half an acorn squash, or a half-cup of peas or corn.
- Starchy vegetables count towards your meal and day carbohydrate limit along with other high-carb foods such as fruit, grains, and beans.
- Preparation can make or break the starchy vegetable. French fries, buttered corn on the cob, creamed peas, potato chips, and sweet potato pie are far higher in calories and fat and/or sugar than plain versions of these vegetables.
- Eating starchy vegetables with a source of protein and fat can lower their glycemic index.
- Starchy vegetables can be a good side dish instead of a refined grain such as pasta or white rice.
- Alternatives to starchy vegetables can help keep portions smaller. Examples include baked zucchini sticks instead of French fries, kale chips instead of potato chips, pureed cauliflower, turnip, or carrots instead of mashed potatoes, and cooked cauliflower instead of potato in potato salad.
Ideas for using starchy vegetables
- Breakfast hash with leftover cooked sweet potato cubes, onions, spinach, egg or tofu, bell pepper, and seasoning such as garlic, Italian seasoning, or cumin and chili powder.
- Baked acorn squash stuffed with chickpeas mixed with soy protein and tomato sauce.
- Minestrone soup with sweet potatoes, corn, tomatoes, peas, carrots, celery, and kidney beans, in a tomato soup or beef soup base.
- Black bean salsa with corn, tomatoes, cilantro, onions, lime juice, and jalapenos.
- Baked slices of sweet potatoes spread with blue cheese and topped with walnuts for a snack or lunch.
- Fisherman’s pie with a base of green peas, onions, and carrots covered with a layer of cod or tilapia (or any fish) cooked with spinach, garlic, thyme, and a splash of white wine and mixed with melted fat-free cream cheese to make it creamy, and (optional) topped with pureed cauliflower or turnip.
- Mock potato salad with cooked cauliflower, cooked potato or sweet potato, dijon mustard, olive oil, green peas, hard-boiled egg whites, fat-free plain Greek yogurt, diced celery, diced onion, paprika, dill, and black pepper.