FOOD
09/06/2017 7:29 AM AEST | Updated 28/02/2018 5:58 AM AEDT

This Is What 'Low Starch' Veggies Are (And Why We Should Care)

These veggies are lower in carbs and energy.

"Fill your plate with low starch veggies." It's something we hear all the time, but it can be a confusing term. What's the difference between low starch veggies and regular veggies, and why should we be including them?

First, let's take a look at what 'starches' are and what they have to do with vegetables.

"Starch is a polysaccharide (carbohydrate) that is produced by most plants as an energy store. It is the most common carbohydrate and is contained in large amounts in foods such as potatoes and wheat," nutritionist Fiona Tuck told HuffPost Australia.

"The less starch a vegetable contains, the less carbohydrates and, therefore, the less calories. This means for the same calories, we can eat a larger quantity of non-starchy vegetables compared to smaller servings of starchy vegetables."

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It's for this reason that low starch vegetables are recommended for filling our plates, especially if we're trying to lose or maintain weight.

"Low starch vegetables also contain more water," nutritionist and celebrity chef Zoe Bingley-Pullin explained. "You can eat a larger amount at any one time and therefore have a higher overall nutrient intake."

Low starch vegetables include:

  • Green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, Asian greens, cabbage)
  • Salad greens (rocket, lettuce, watercress)
  • Cucumber
  • Fennel
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Capsicum
  • Sprouts
  • Tomato
  • Eggplant
  • Celery
  • Zucchini
  • Leek
  • Onion
  • Green beans
  • Asparagus
  • Mushrooms

So, what about starchy vegetables?

"Starchy vegetables contain higher amounts of carbohydrates. Potatoes, corn, peas, parsnips, sweet potato and yams are all examples of starchy vegetables," Tuck said.

"Starchy vegetables provide important nutrients and fibre -- however, we only need to eat them in small amounts. So avoid filling your plate with high starch veggies, but by all means include portion-controlled amounts in your diet."

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Remember to count sweet potatoes in your 'carb' portion.

It's important to reiterate that starchy veggies aren't 'unhealthy' or that we should avoid them -- Australians aren't eating enough veggies to begin with -- but do keep in mind that they are higher in carbohydrate content and kilojoules.

"If you are not very active and looking to lose weight, you should be mindful of your portion of starch-containing vegetables and limit to a quarter of a plate per meal," Bingley-Pullin told HuffPost Australia.

For delicious ways to include more low starch vegetables, try these nutritionist-approved ideas.

"Both low and high starch veggies provide beneficial nutrients into our diet," Tuck said. "Try spiralising zucchini for a light, nourishing take on spaghetti, or finely chop onion, zucchini and capsicum and add to cottage pie and Bolognese sauce to up the nutrient content.

Evi Oravecz / Green Evi via Getty Images
You can even make low carb cauliflower pizza.

"Roast cauliflower with turmeric and garlic for a tasty low starch version of roast potatoes, or mash cauliflower for a lighter version of mashed potato.

"Throw together bok choy, capsicum, garlic, ginger, basil, celery and capsicum for a quick veggie stir fry and add your choice of protein such as chicken, fish or tofu."

More low starch veggie meal ideas:

  • Grate zucchini and toss into scrambled eggs, fritattas or fritters
  • Stuff mushrooms with a mixture of veg and ricotta, as a dinner side or light meal
  • Roast capsicum and combine with tomato and herbs to make a salsa
  • Make broccoli or cauliflower into 'rice'
  • Use asparagus spears to dip into soft boiled eggs or dips (such as hummus)
  • Stuff eggplants and/or capsicum with a Bolognese sauce
  • Add celery and spinach to fresh juice

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