When we think about eating for weight control we rarely consider vegetables as a potential pitfall. The public health message about vegetables in my opinion is far to vague. If you simply follow the general recommendation of 'going for 5' everyday with no other considerations you may end up with far more carbohydrate on your plate then you need. Starch is a carbohydrate, and as the name suggests, starchy vegetables have a lot of it. Let's take a closer look at which vegetables are starchy, how much carbohydrate they contain and how much we really should be having.
What Vegetables Are Starchy?
Commonly eaten starchy vegetables include potato, sweet potato, yams, corn, green peas, carrots, pumpkin, beets and plantains. All other vegetables are non-starchy and contain a negligible amount of carbohydrate. Starchy vegetables as a general rule grow under the ground or in a pod, the roots and bulbs are storage organs for plants and thus contain energy in the form of carbohydrate - this is an easy way to help remember what's starchy and what's not.
How Much Carbohydrate?
There is approximately 15g of carbohydrate and 300kj per serve of starchy vegetables which is equivalent to 1/2 cup or 75g cooked. To put this in perspective using other foods high in carbohydrate, this is the same amount as a medium piece of fruit, 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup of pasta or 1/3 cup of rice. Considering how much attention we give all these other high carbohydrate foods when controlling energy intake for weight loss or weight control its surprising how little emphasis we place on starchy vegetables.
How Much Should I 'Really' Eat?
'Going for 5' servings of vegetables everyday should be the minimum but being particular about which vegetables is the key to controlling energy intake and avoiding excess carbohydrate intake. Consume a variety of vegetables everyday majority of which are non-starchy (get plenty of leafy greens in there) and minimise starchy vegetables to 2 servings per day. You may even want to reduce this further if you are consuming a lot of other high carbohydrate foods in your diet such as grains.