Here Are The Best Veggies for Weight Loss
Looking to meet your healthy eating goals — and maybe lose a few pounds while you’re at it? Add vegetables to your plate. Research shows eating more veggies can support your weight loss goals.
But what are the best veggies for weight loss? The short answer is: all of them. Eating a variety of veggies will help you get a wide array of nutrients — especially if you “eat the rainbow,” since the color of a vegetable is closely associated with its nutrient profile.
Here’s what you need to know about eating veggies for weight loss.
What Are the Best Vegetables to Eat to Lose Weight?
“All vegetables are healthy and are a great addition to your diet,” says Mascha Davis, RDN, MPH, and founder of Nomadista Nutrition.
However, while some vegetables (like celery) have negligible calories and carbs, others (like potatoes) have higher calories and carbohydrates. And certain restrictive diets, like keto, require you to limit your veggie intake to low-carb vegetables only.
So can you still eat starchy vegetables when you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight? Yes. “Starchy vegetables are high in fiber and help you stay satiated after a meal,” Davis says. But you do need to keep a close eye on portions.
The USDA recommends that women between ages 19 and 30 eat at least 2.5 cups of vegetables per day, while men in the same age range should aim for at least 3 cups per day. However, they recommend limiting starchy veggies to 5 cups per week for women, or 6 cups per week for men. Crunch the numbers, and that means you should be eating less than one cup of starchy veggies per day.
Here’s a list of the best veggies for weight loss — both non-starchy and starchy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines non-starchy vegetables as those that contain about 5 grams of carbohydrate or less per serving. Non-starchy vegetables are low in calories and typically have higher water content than their starchy counterparts.
Some of the best non-starchy veggies for weight loss include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
- Summer squash
Starchy vegetables contain around 15 grams of carbs per half-cup — but there’s no need to avoid them completely, Davis says, as long as you keep your portions reasonable. For example, enjoy a small sweet potato with dinner rather than a heaping scoop of mashed sweet potatoes.
Some of the best starchy veggies for weight loss include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter squash
Can I Just Eat Vegetables to Lose Weight?
Short answer: No, it’s not a good idea. “Just eating vegetables is not the best approach to healthy eating,” Davis says. “A balance of other foods — such as protein-rich foods and healthy fats — is essential to stay healthy and avoid cravings.”
We’ve talked about fad diets before, some of which center around a specific vegetable — like the cucumber diet or the cabbage soup diet. And yes, limiting your diet to veggies (and only veggies) means you’ll likely be consuming fewer calories. But that type of diet is too restrictive to be sustainable, which means any weight loss will be very short term. Plus you’ll miss out on other important nutrients, and your energy levels will plummet.
Rather than eat veggies alone, you’ll want to balance your meals with other foods that support healthy, sustainable weight loss. “A healthy meal should be heavy on vegetables, but also include whole grains, lean protein, and fats,” Davis says.
How Veggies Help with Weight Loss
“Adding vegetables to your diet can help you reduce less-healthy foods and add nutrients that will support your body,” Davis says.
Veggies are typically low in calories and a great source of fiber and other nutrients. The fiber and water content also keeps you feeling fuller, which means loading up on veggies throughout the day can help reduce the total number of calories you consume.
There’s also evidence that the phytochemicals in vegetables may play a role in inhibiting the growth of fat tissue. And in addition to its potential weight loss benefits, research suggests a high-veggie diet can benefit your heart health and support healthy immune function.
How Many Veggies Should You Eat in a Day?
The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend adult women between the ages of 19 and 50 eat 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day, while men in the same age range should eat 3 cups.
Measuring a cup of veggies can get a little confusing, especially when it comes to leafy greens. In the case of raw or cooked vegetables (or vegetable juice), a cup is a cup. But for raw leafy greens, the USDA guidelines considers 2 cups to be a 1-cup serving.
How to Add More Veggies to Your Day
Here are some pro tips to increase your veggie intake.
- Follow the half plate rule
“Make half of your plate vegetables,” Davis says. “This could be a side salad or steamed veggies.”
- Add veggies to smoothies
“I like adding sweet potatoes, cucumbers, or spinach to my smoothie,” Davis says.
- Base your snacks around veggies
“Eating vegetables as snacks, with hummus or another dip, is also a great way to up your intake,” Davis says. (Just remember it’s easy to overdo it on dips, so watch your portions!)
- Head to the freezer aisle
“Fresh and local are always best, but frozen veggies are also a great option in the winter when local ones aren’t as easily available in some areas,” Davis says.