An acorn squash, a parsnip, and peas smiling with name tags on

Meet Some Less-Famous Starchy Vegetables

If you’ve taken even a passing interest in how you approach carbohydrates since you’ve had diabetes, or understood you are at risk for developing diabetes, then you already know potatoes and corn are a different kind of vegetable than broccoli, lettuce, or asparagus. And it’s not that potatoes and corn make much better chips than the others. It’s that “starchy” vegetables have much higher carbohydrate content (and much lower suggested portion sizes) than non-starchy vegetables. Compare ½ cup mashed potatoes with 15 grams carbohydrate to almost 4 cups sliced cucumber for the same carbohydrate load – that’s a big deal.

Starchy vegetables in a type 2 diabetes diet

But while we nutrition professionals encourage you to eat lots of non-starchy vegetables (one-half of your plate) both for the nutrients and for the volume, starchy vegetables remain part of a healthy diet. That ½ cup mashed potatoes can give you 15%- 20% of your recommended daily dose of potassium, copper, manganese, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. And starchy vegetables are delicious and often add a different texture to your palate. Here are a few lesser-known starchy vegetables you might want to consider to add variety to your meals.1,2


Parsnips look much like a yellowish, beige carrot, but they’re much sweeter with a natural nutty flavor. Like many root vegetables, they can be steamed, baked, sauteed, mashed, roasted, or fried. A ½ cup portion of cooked and sliced parsnips is about 13 grams carbohydrate and will give you about 10% of your daily folate.1

Green peas

Green peas seem like they should fall into the non-starchy camp by looks alone, but a ½ cup serving puts the carbohydrate content just below that magic 15 grams standard. Peas are rich in manganese and that ½ cup will get you almost 25% of the recommended daily dose. Peas also score high for fiber (18%), vitamin A (13%), vitamin K (26%), thiamin (14%), phosphorous (10%), vitamin B6 (9%), niacin (8%) and zinc (7%).1,2

Acorn squash

Acorn squash, one of the various varieties of hard shell or “winter” squashes, is wonderful baked. And ½ cup cubed is equal to 15 grams carbohydrate. Five grams of fiber, 19% of your daily recommended vitamin C, and 13% of heart-healthy potassium complement the rich flavor. (Note that “summer” yellow squash, zucchini, and the like, are non-starchy vegetables).1,2

Nutritious starchy vegetables should be part of your healthy diabetes eating plan, but managing portion size is important due to their concentrated carbohydrate content. And that goes for the chips as well.

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