Loading your plate with more veggies is a good way to drop those unwanted pounds. Veggies fill you up without a lot of calories. Plus, they're an incredible source of nutrients your body needs for good health. As far as the "best" vegetables, all veggies make healthy additions to your weight-loss plan, although the lower-calorie ones are especially good choices. If you've upped your intake of veggies and still aren't losing, consult a registered dietitian to evaluate your diet and help pinpoint potential pitfalls.
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The Value of Veggies for Weight Loss
When it comes to weight loss, quantity may count more than calories, according to a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This study found that a group of obese women were able to eat less and lose weight by simply reducing their fat intake and eating more fruits and vegetables. Vegetables have a very low energy density -- which means they have few calories compared to their weight -- so they fill you up without putting much of a dent in your daily calorie allowance.
While eating more vegetables helps people lose weight without tracking calories, the numbers still count. Knowing how many calories you need to lose weight, and keeping tabs, is an important part of any weight-loss plan. With 3,500 calories in 1 pound of fat, you need to decrease your calorie needs by 500 calories a day to lose 1 pound a week. Use an online calorie calculator to help you estimate your calorie needs. For example, if you require 2,000 calories a day to maintain your weight, eating 1,500 calories -- 2,000 minus 500 -- a day should help you lose.
Nonstarchy Veggies Are Best for Saving Calories
Of all the veggies, nonstarchy ones are the lowest in calories, which makes them the best choice for weight loss. Filling your diet with these gems will surely help you lose the weight. Examples of nonstarchy veggies include spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, cucumbers, beets, green beans, artichokes, eggplant, onions, mushrooms and peppers. Many weight-loss diets encourage you to eat as much as you like of these veggies.
While all nonstarchy veggies make good additions to any weight-loss plan, some are especially beneficial. Raw leafy greens, such as spinach, kale and lettuce, have fewer than 10 calories per cup, so you can enjoy a large salad containing 4 cups and barely tap into your daily calorie needs. Sliced cucumbers, with 16 calories per cup, also make a good choice. Beets and carrots are a little higher in calories, with 50 calories per cup raw, but they still make good options.
Not only are these watery veggies low in calories, but they're also high in fiber. And getting more fiber in your diet helps you lose weight, according to a 2015 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Starchy Veggies Are Good, Too
They may be a little higher in calories than nonstarchy veggies, but the starchy ones may benefit your weight-loss efforts, too. Starchy vegetables include potatoes, peas, plaintains, winter squash, sweet potatoes and corn. If your hunger is getting out of control, you may want to throw a few boiled potatoes into the mix. These filling tubers are really good at keeping hunger pangs away, according to a 1995 study published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Of 38 foods tested by researchers, boiled potatoes provided the most satiety value.
One cup of boiled potatoes has 140 calories. Sweet potatoes, which are rich in fiber and vitamin A, have 180 calories in 1 cup. Cut corn has 140 calories per cup and green peas 130 calories per cup.
Eat More Beans, Peas and Lentils
Legumes, which include beans such as chickpeas and kidney beans, split peas and lentils, are so rich in nutrients they not only count as a vegetable but as a protein as well. Like potatoes, legumes also have a satiety factor. This may be due to their fiber and protein content, both of which help with weight loss, according to a 2010 article published in Advances in Nutrition.
Legumes are a little higher in calories than starchy vegetables, but given their appetite-control benefits, they make a good choice on your weight-loss plan. One cup of cooked kidney beans has 225 calories and 1 cup of cooked lentils 230 calories. While you can eat legumes by themselves, they also work well mixed with whole grains and nonstarchy veggies.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Dietary Energy Density in the Treatment of Obesity: A Year-Long Trial Comparing 2 Weight-Loss Diets
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: A Satiety Index of Common Foods
- American Diabetes Association: Non-Starchy Vegetables
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Spinach, Green Leaf Lettuce, Kale
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Carrots, Beets, Cucumbers
- Annals of Internal Medicine: Single-Component Versus Multicomponent Dietary Goals for the Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Trial
- American Diabetes Association: Grains and Starchy Vegetables
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Boiled Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Green Peas
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Corn, Kidney Beans, Lentils
- Advances in Nutrition: Pulse Consumption, Satiety and Weight Management
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Beans and Peas Are Unique Foods
- FamilyDoctor.org: What It Takes to Lose Weight
- Baylor College of Medicine: Adult Energy Needs and BMI Calculator