First, let’s set the record straight: You really can’t go wrong with vegetables. They’re a fantastic food group and a key part of every healthy diet.
That said, some veggies pack a bigger nutritional punch than others. Here are the veggies your dietitian would downplay in favor of other, more nourishing options:
“It may be colorful and yummy, but it is one of the starchiest veggies out there,” says Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD. “The body sees sweet corn similar to the way it sees bread.”
When you’re looking for regular vegetable consumption, she says there are better options available.
“I like kale just like the next guy and use it frequently,” says . “But kale received superstar status that overtook all other great veggies — like broccoli, beets, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, etc.” While kale is great, variety is even better, she notes.
Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, agrees. “Several dark, leafy greens that go unnoticed contain nutrients that are similar to kale’s,” she says. “Also, kale is an acquired taste and can be hard to incorporate into meals. And for many people, digesting kale is a struggle.”
She suggests trying other dark, leafy greens and lettuces: spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, arugula, Swiss chard, rapini (broccoli rabe), red and green leaf lettuce, and romaine.
“Store-bought vegetable juices may give you a good amount of vitamins and minerals,” says Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD.
“But you’re missing all the benefits of the fiber and extra nutrients found in their skins.”
“This pale lettuce falls short of the reputation of its darker-hued cousins and contains fewer vitamins and phytonutrients,” says Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD.
“But some lettuce is better than no lettuce, provided you don’t slather it with high-fat ranch, Caesar or bleu cheese dressings.”
Love iceberg lettuce salads? That’s fine. Just pump up the nutrition, she suggests. Add a variety of chopped veggies (red bell peppers, grated carrot, cucumbers, grape tomatoes) and a handful of darker leafy greens (spinach, mixed spring greens). Then dress with red wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil.
“From a nutritional perspective, these starchy vegetables are the most overrated,” says Brigid Titgemeier, MS, RDN, LD. “While potatoes contain fiber and potassium, they cause a much faster spike in blood sugar levels than non-starchy vegetables like kale or broccoli.”
A recent study suggests that replacing 1 serving of potatoes (boiled, baked, mashed or French fries) with 1 serving of non-starchy vegetables (spinach, peppers, onions, etc.) can lower the risk of hypertension.
Our dietitians all agree on one thing: Variety is key. So don’t be afraid to try new vegetables, and look for a variety of colors. That will bring you the widest variety of nutrients.