High Carb Foods to Avoid on a Low Carb Diet: Thomas DeLauer
Are Starchy Vegetables Healthy, or Just High-Calorie?
Eating Fruits and Vegetables Won't Guarantee Weight Loss
Before I debate the merits of potatoes and peas, let's take a step back and look at the bigger question here: Does piling on more produce at meals really help you lose weight? This new study suggests it might, but it wasn't a randomized, controlled trial. The researchers didn't give people extra servings of spinach, Brussels sprouts, and blueberries and then measure changes in their weight over the 20-year-plus duration of the study. They simply observed and recorded what unfolded. (I know I harp on these study design differences a lot, but they're really important to accurately interpret the results.)
Contrary to these newly reported findings, an analysis of randomized trials published last year found that tacking on extra servings of vegetables and fruit did not cause people to slim down. (Read "Vegetables and Fruits Are Not Weight-Loss Magic Bullets" for my take on that study.) Eating more low-calorie produce to satisfy hunger is a strategy that many dieters swear by, but the research suggests it may not be enough on its own. Watching your portions of other foods, especially those high-calorie snacks and desserts that are ridiculously easy to overeat, is just as important.
Be Smart About Starchy Vegetables
Now, about those starchy vegetables. Potatoes, peas, and corn get a bad rap because they're higher in calories and carbs than other veggies and have a higher glycemic index, meaning they raise blood sugar more quickly during digestion. But they are by no means a candy bar. Peas are a good source of fiber at 4 grams per 1/2 cup. Potatoes (white and sweet) are among the best sources of potassium. These vegetables do have nutritional value. The problem is that many people come to rely on them too heavily for their veggie intake. They don't eat a wide-enough variety of other types like leafy greens, broccoli and green beans, which pack in tons of vitamins and minerals for minimal calories. Potatoes, corn, and peas are inexpensive, mild in flavor, and generally well-liked by kids, which means some families get into the rut of serving them night after night. The keys to enjoying these foods are moderation, portion control, and smart preparation techniques. If you're regularly indulging in piles of mashed potatoes whipped with heavy cream and puddled in gravy, baked potatoes heaped with sour cream, peas in greasy casseroles, and corn slathered with butter, then it's time for a veggie intervention.
Rather than pairing starchy vegetables with another carb-heavy side like rice or pasta at a meal, enjoy them with a non-starchy vegetable, such as cauliflower, broccoli, or zucchini. (I wouldn't characterize steak with mashed potatoes and peas as a well-balanced meal.) If you love peas, buy the frozen blends that include carrots, too. Mix frozen corn with green beans. And watch those toppings: Enjoy ears of sweet corn plain, or sprinkle them with black pepper or lime juice instead of smearing on gobs of butter. Eat baked potatoes with the skin to take advantage of the fiber, and if they're large (like most are), stick to half of one per meal. Top your spud with salsa or Greek yogurt and scallions, or try a dash of cinnamon on sweet potatoes.
Don't let this latest study convince you that you should never eat starchy vegetables because they make you fat (I've seen headlines warning healthy eaters to avoid them at all costs). I'm certainly not giving up my summer sweet corn, or quick-fix dinners of baked potatoes topped with black beans, cheese and salsa (so good ... so easy). If you like these veggies, include them in your meal rotation, but make the bulk of your intake non-starchy vegetables — including those leafy greens I was plugging hard here on the blog a few weeks ago.
Photo credit: Genevieve Laplante/Getty Images
Video: Starchy vs. Non Starchy Vegetables on a Low Carb Diet
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