Non-Starchy Vegetables List for Healthy Eating

    
Emmie Satrazemis, RD, CSSD
Emmie Satrazemis, RD, CSSD

Here’s everything you need to understand about non-starchy vegetables including potential health benefits and a comprehensive list to choose from.  

What are non-starchy vegetables?

Starch is a type of complex carbohydrate known as polysaccharides, that consist of multiple sugar units. Other types of carbohydrates include simple carbohydrates or “sugars” (monosaccharides and disaccharides) and fiber (fiber is also a polysaccharide).  

Commonly when we think of starchy foods, our minds go straight to options like bread, rice, and pasta, but carbohydrates come from all plant foods - including vegetables. 

Starchy vs. Non-Starchy Vegetables

All vegetables contain carbohydrates in small amounts, but what differentiates a starchy veggie from a non-starchy one is simply the amount of starchy carbohydrates it contains.

Although the majority of vegetables can be considered non-starchy, a notable few can pack a significant amount of starch comparatively. So much so, that many of these veggies are often considered a carb food or grain alternative, and are used to make breads and pastas.

Common starchy vegetables include:

  • Corn
  • Green Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Yams

What About Fiber? 

The bulk of vegetables are also naturally high in fiber, a beneficial type of carbohydrate thought to support digestive health. Fiber is unique in that it can not easily be absorbed by the body and oftentimes get pushed right on through. This also means it likely does not impact your blood sugar levels the same way starches and sugars might.

Interestingly, because of this phenomenon, even though fiber content shows up on the nutrition label as carbohydrates, it can be oftentimes subtracted from your total daily carb intake, leaving you with a net carb amount. 

Total carbs minus fiber  = net carb intake

If you’re eating a diet low in sugar or following a ketogenic lifestyle, paying attention to the amount of fiber you consume is an easy way to load up on nutrient dense veggies without all the carbs.

Nonetheless, fiber content is not considered when determining whether a veggie is non-starchy or not, as peas, corn and other starchy foods can still be an excellent source of fiber.  

Potential Health Benefits of Non-Starchy Vegetables

Low starch vegetables are rich in important important vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) and water content. This means they are naturally rich in nutrition and low in energy - making them one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. 

Compared to other starches, like rice, that contain more than 200 calories and 50g of carbs per cup, a cup of leafy greens has only seven calories and roughly one gram of carbohydrate. 

If you are looking to lose weight or improve your health, increasing your intake of non-starchy vegetables can help drastically augment your nutrition and support a calorie controlled diet (1,2). 

Additionally, research suggests that diets high in vegetables are associated with reduced risk for chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer (3,4,5,6). 

Complete List of Non-Starchy Vegetables

Here is your comprehensive list of nutrient dense veggies, including fiber content and net carb totals for each. You can opt for either fresh or frozen vegetables. 

Vegetable

Serving Size

Total Carbs (g)

Fiber (g)

Net Carbs (g)

Kale

2 cups

1.8

1.7

0.1

Broccoli Rabe

1 cup, chopped

3

2.8

0.2

Jalapeno

1 pepper

0.9

0.5

0.5

Watercress

2 cups

0.9

0.3

0.6

Bok Choy

1 cup, shredded

1.5

0.7

0.8

Arugula

2 cups

1.4

0.6

0.8

Spinach

2 cups

2.2

1.3

0.9

Celery

1 cup, chopped

3

1.6

1.4

Swiss Chard

2 cups

2.7

1.2

1.5

Mustard Greens

2 cups

5.2

3.6

1.6

Radish

20 medium

3

1.4

1.6

Asparagus

7 med spears

4.3

2.4

1.9

Mushrooms

1 cup

3

1

2

Tomato

½ cup cherry or ½ med tomato

2.9

0.9

2

Onion 

¼  med

2.6

0.45

2.15

Bamboo Shoots

½ cup 

3.95

1.7

2.25

Eggplant

1 cup, cubed

4.8

2.5

2.3

Cucumber

1 small, whole

3.4

1.1

2.3

Leek

¼ whole leek

3.15

0.4

2.75

Turnip

1 small

3.9

1.1

2.8

Cauliflower

1 cup, chopped

5.3

2.1

3.2

Bell Pepper

½ large

5

1.7

3.3

Kohlrabi

1 cup

8.4

4.9

3.5

Broccoli

1 cup, chopped

6.5

2.5

4

Zucchini

1 med

6

2

4

Okra

8 pods

7

3

4

Green Beans

½ cup

7

3

4

Cabbage

2 cups

8

3.5

4.5

Brussel Sprouts

1 cup

7.9

3.3

4.6

Snow Peas

1 cup

7.4

2.5

4.9

Carrots

1 large

6.9

2

4.9

 

Improve Your Nutrition

Optimizing your nutrition goes beyond choosing a single food, it is important to eat a healthy, balanced approach across the board. 

If you struggle with figuring out how to do this, increasing your consumption of non-starchy vegetables is a great place to start - followed by learning how to fine tune your macronutrients and caloric intake based on your health needs. 

Learn how to master calorie control and your nutrition intake with this free meal prep toolkit for weight loss. An RD-written guide complete with macro meal planner, food lists, and expert advice to help you lose weight quickly. 


Get My Toolkit

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