Starches vs. Non-Starchy Vegetables

carbs for weight loss, starches and non-starchy vegetables, freshman 15 avoid

The #1 thing that has helped me the most in my personal weight management journey is limiting starchy foods.

I generally think a diet that is overall low in starchy foods is good for our health. Here is a great, well written, well-researched article: Important nutrition myths debunked!

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Starchy foods are NOT BAD! No food is bad :) There are no “good foods” or “bad foods”.

Starchy foods are helpful for many reasons:

  1. We need the nutrients they provide!

  2. They’re emotionally satisfying

  3. They provide immediate energy

BUT eating a diet higher in protein and fat (while still including some starchy foods), compared to a diet higher in starchy foods, may be more filling and help us more easily meet our health goals.

When hearing this, some people say: but don’t you need carbohydrates to function? I thought carbohydrates were an important part of the diet?

True BUT…

did you know?

So many other foods also include carbohydrates:

  • Dairy foods (cheese, milk, yogurt, etc.)

  • Nuts

  • Sauces

  • Dressings

  • Desserts

  • Beans and legumes (including lentils, hummus, and falafel)

  • Fruit

  • Non-starchy vegetables like greens and tomatoes

Therefore! I would strongly argue that even by limiting the amount of starchy carbohydrates in the diet, you are still getting plenty plenty of total carbohydrates :)

Ok! On to what is classified as what!



Starches include grains like bread, rice, pasta, and quinoa, and starchy vegetables include beans, peas, corn, potatoes, hummus, falafel, and French fries.

Here’s a (pretty) complete list! And what “1 serving” includes (about 120 calories per serving).


  • Bagel: 1/2 bagel

  • Barley: 1/2 cup cooked

  • Bread - white, whole wheat, rye, etc.: 1 medium slice

  • Bulgar: 1/2 cup cooked

  • Farro: 1/2 cup cooked

  • Flour - whole wheat, corn meal, rye etc.

  • Oatmeal: 1/2 cup uncooked

  • Pasta: 1/2 cup cooked

  • Quinoa: 1/2 cup cooked

  • Rice - white, brown, wild: 1/2 cup cooked

Starchy Vegetables

  • Acorn squash: 2 cups

  • Beans, lentils, split peas, and black-eyed peas: 1/2 cup cooked

  • Butternut squash: 2 cups

  • Corn: 1 cup kernels

  • Hummus: 1/3 cup

  • Falafel: depends on the type!

  • Parsnips: 1 cup cooked

  • Peas: 1 cup cooked

  • Plantains: 1/2 medium, raw

  • Popcorn: 4 cups popped

  • Potato - sweet, white, etc.: 1 medium potato

  • Pumpkin: 2 cups


Non-starchy veggies are also so important to eat for a number of reasons:

  1. They have so many antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals

  2. They add a lot of VOLUME to meals and snacks, without adding many calories

Non-Starchy Vegetables

1 serving = 1 cup - except for leafy greens, where 2 cups of raw leafy greens = 1 cup of vegetables (because there’s so much air in there!)

  • Artichoke/ hearts

  • Asparagus

  • Beets

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Broccoli

  • Cabbage

  • Carrots

  • Cauliflower

  • Celery

  • Cucumber

  • Eggplant

  • Green beans

  • Leafy greens e.g. collard, kale, mustard, turnip, bok choy, kohlrabi

  • Jicama

  • Leeks

  • Mushrooms

  • Okra

  • Onions

  • Peppers

  • Radishes

  • Snap peas

  • Sprouts

  • Summer squash

  • Spaghetti squash

  • Tomato

  • Turnips

  • Water chestnuts

  • Zucchini

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