Veggies may not be as traditionally yummy as pasta or a good steak, but if you know how to prepare them the right way, you might realize your childhood aversion to certain plant matter was misplaced. (Justice for Brussels sprouts!)
What’s more, a plant-based diet can be helpful for weight loss: “Vegetables are typically very low-calorie—especially non-starchy ones like spinach, broccoli, and tomatoes,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Plant Based with Amy and Master the Media in Stamford, Connecticut.
Meet the experts:
Jocelyn Rodriguez, RDN, is a registered dietitian in Laredo, Texas.
Dani Lebovitz, RDN, is a food and nutrition education expert based in Franklin, Tennessee, and founder of Kid Food Explorers.
Michelle Rauch, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian at the Actors Fund Home in Englewood, New Jersey.
Why You Should Eat Vegetables If You’re Trying To Lose Weight
In addition to being low-cal, fiber-packed vegetables will help you stay fuller for longer since fiber takes a long time to digest, says Melissa Darlow, a New York City-based registered dietitian and certified trainer.
And “if you are eating a meal that contains carbohydrates, which everyone should, it helps to decrease the blood sugar response,” she adds. For example, say you’re having pizza and you got a side salad. “You would decrease the blood sugar response, which would in turn keep you fuller for longer,” Darlow explains. “You won’t be craving that second piece of pizza right off the bat because the fiber will help keep you satisfied.”
A veggie-full diet can also help improve your overall health by, for example, decreasing your blood pressure, says Jocelyn Rodriguez, RDN, a registered dietitian in Laredo, Texas. Plus, “vegetables will provide a variety of nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, and antioxidants,” she adds.
But, not all vegetables are created equal. Here are the best ones to eat for weight loss, plus, their nutrition facts and how to prepare them, per registered dietitians. Bon appétit!
“Cauliflower is very versatile,” Darlow says, adding that it’s got a good amount of fiber and antioxidants. “The sky is the limit if you’re willing to experiment.”
Fresh or frozen cauliflower is easy to pop into the oven or air fryer, Darlow says. You can also eat it raw with hummus or guacamole. Or, make a pizza with a cauliflower crust.
Serving size: 1 cup, raw (110 grams) | Calories: 27.5 | Fat: 0.308 grams | Protein: 2.11 grams | Carbohydrates: 5.47 grams | Fiber: 2.2 grams | Sugar: 2.1 grams | Vitamin C: 53 milligrams | Iron: 0.462 milligrams
2. Brussels Sprouts
“Brussel sprouts are everything,” Darlow says: They’re low-calorie and full of fiber, folate, vitamin K, and vitamin C. Folate, a.k.a., B9, is important for fetal growth for pregnant women, she adds. It’s also “a nutrient that offers protection against free radicals and [is] important for collagen production,” says Rodriguez.
Prepare them with your protein of choice, or add as a topping on salads or an omelet, for example. “For the best flavor, cook until brown and crunchy by air frying, roasting, or sautéing,” she suggests.
Serving size: 1 cup, raw (88 grams) | Calories: 37.8 | Fat: 0.264 grams | Protein: 2.97 grams | Carbohydrates: 7.88 grams | Fiber: 3.34 grams | Sugar: 1.94 grams | Vitamin C: 74.8 milligrams | Iron: 1.23 milligrams
“Kale is a wonderful addition to your diet as it provides many positive health benefits,” says Vandana Sheth, CDCES, a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of My Indian Table: Quick & Tasty Vegetarian Recipes. Kale has vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K, and it’s low-calorie and high in fiber, Darlow says. Vitamin K is super important for bone health and coagulation purposes in the body, she adds.
It’s yummy raw in a salad, sautéed with pasta, chicken, or eggs, and in soups and stews. Even better? Prepare it as kale chips with cheese, garlic powder, and nutritional yeast, Darlow says.
Serving size: 1 cup, raw (20.6 grams) | Calories: between 7.21 and 8.86 | Fat: 0.307 grams | Protein: 0.602 grams | Carbohydrates: 0.911 grams | Fiber: 0.845 grams | Sugar: 0.165 grams | Vitamin C: 19.2 milligrams | Iron: 0.33 milligrams
“If you’re craving a tasty way to support your weight management goals, it’s time to say hello to Jerusalem artichokes, also known as sunchokes, a major source of the gut-friendly prebiotic fiber inulin,” says Dani Lebovitz, RDN, a food and nutrition education expert based in Franklin, Tennessee, and founder of Kid Food Explorers. Inulin is a type of fiber that can improve “gut microbiota, increases mineral absorption, and reduces constipation,” she adds.
Inulin-type fructans, found in Jerusalem artichokes, can possibly help people feel more satiated and have a reduced desire to eat sweet, salty, and fatty foods, per a 2019 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
It’s pretty common to see artichokes show up on a restaurant menu in something like artichoke spinach dip, but artichokes by themselves are very healthy, rich in fiber and folate, Darlow says. You can find them canned, but you can also grate them into a salad, roast or steam them, add them to soups and stews, or sub potatoes for them in recipes, Lebovitz and Darlow say.
Serving size: 100 grams or 2/3 cups | Calories: 47 | Fat: 0.15 grams | Protein: 3.27 grams | Carbohydrates: 10.5 grams | Fiber: 5.4 grams | Sugar: 0.99 grams | Vitamin C: 11.7 milligrams | Iron: 1.28 milligrams
“Zucchini is a great vegetable to include in your diet if you are looking for vegetables to help with weight loss,” says Michelle Rauch, a registered dietitian at the Actors Fund Home in Englewood, New Jersey. It’s a good source of vitamin C, which is awesome for immune health, vitamin K, potassium, and fiber, says Darlow.
Plus, it has a high water content of between 94 and 95 percent, “which can help increase satiety when incorporating it into dishes,” says Rauch. It also has antioxidants such as lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin which have been studied for eye, heart, and skin health benefits, she adds.
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Zucchini is high in fiber, low in calories and similar to cauliflower in that it can be used in so many ways. You could sauté it, put it in a smoothie, or add it to baked goods (think: zucchini walnut bread or a zucchini brownie with cacao and cinnamon).
Serving size: 1 cup, raw and chopped (124 grams) | Calories: 21.1 | Fat: 0.397 grams | Protein: 1.5 grams | Carbohydrates: 3.86 grams | Fiber: 1.24 grams | Sugar: 3.1 grams | Vitamin C: 22.2 milligrams | Iron: 0.459 milligrams
“You can roast it on its own or incorporate it into recipes,” says Gorin. It has some protein in addition to fiber, which will keep you full, plus it provides prebiotics, which help maintain a healthy gut, she adds.
Serving size: 1 cup, raw (134 grams) | Calories: 26.8 | Fat: 0.161 grams | Protein: 2.95 grams | Carbohydrates: 5.2 grams | Fiber: 2.81 grams | Sugar: 2.52 grams | Vitamin C: 7.5 milligrams | Iron: 2.87 milligrams
7. Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash contains a lot of fiber, and it’s very versatile, making it a great lower-calorie pasta alternative.
To prepare it, cut it open and put it in the oven for a pasta-like consistency. You can easily use it as a substitute for spaghetti, or make a red sauce and do half spaghetti, half pasta, Darlow says.
Serving size: 1 cup, raw and cubed (101 grams) | Calories: 31.3 | Fat: 0.576 grams | Protein: 0.646 grams | Carbohydrates: 6.98 grams | Fiber: 1.52 grams | Sugar: 2.79 grams | Vitamin C: 2.12 milligrams | Iron: 0.313 milligrams
“This is an underrated veggie, yet it provides many nutrients,” Gorin says, noting that it has a good amount of vitamin K, which is “important for blood clotting and bone health,” and vitamin C.
You can eat it raw in a salad, sauté it, or add it to a pesto recipe, she adds.
Serving size: 1 cup, raw and chopped (34 grams) | Calories: 3.74 | Fat: 0.034 grams | Protein: 0.782 grams | Carbohydrates: 0.439 grams | Fiber: 0.17 grams | Sugar: 0.068 grams | Vitamin C: 14.6 milligrams | Iron: 0.068 milligrams
9. Bell Peppers
Bell peppers contain fiber and antioxidants, and they’re low in calories, says Darlow. You can snack on them raw (say, with guacamole or hummus). Or, sauté them, add them to an omelet, roast them, or put them in a stir fry, she suggests.
Serving size: 3/5 of one large bell pepper (100 grams or 2/3 cups) | Calories: between 27 and 31 | Fat: 0.13 grams | Protein: 0.9 grams | Carbohydrates: 6.65 grams | Fiber: 1.2 grams | Sugar: 2.4 grams | Vitamin C: 142 milligrams | Iron: 0.35 milligrams
“Potatoes are a good source of fiber and resistant starch,” Darlow says, noting that resistant starch can improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar, therefore helping with weight management. In terms of other health benefits, sweet potatoes contain carotenoids, or vitamin A, as well as potassium, but the white potato actually has more potassium, which is important for maintaining blood pressure, Darlow adds.
When prepared and consumed in the right way, potatoes can help with weight loss goals. Try throwing them in the air fryer or oven, make a baked potato or roasted sweet potato slices, or add them to a soup or puree with cinnamon and sea salt or garlic, onion, and pepper, she suggests. You could even try cutting them in slices and making sweet potato toast topped with avocado and a scrambled egg.
Serving size: 1 cup, raw and cubed (133 grams) | Calories: 114 | Fat: 0.067 grams | Protein: 2.09 grams | Carbohydrates: 26.7 grams | Fiber: 3.99 grams | Sugar: 5.56 grams | Vitamin C: 3.19 milligrams | Iron: 0.811 milligrams
“This is one of my favorite veggies because it adds low-calorie flavor to so many dishes,” says Gorin. It contains fiber, which benefits your cholesterol levels and will keep you fuller for longer, she says. Additionally, they have vitamin C and the antioxidant allicin.
Add them to your diet by putting them in salads, soup, or even homemade prune jam, Gorin adds.
Serving size: 1 cup, raw and chopped (160 grams) Calories: 64 | Fat: 0.16 grams | Protein: 1.76 grams | Carbohydrates: 14.9 grams | Fiber: 2.72 grams | Sugar: 6.78 grams | Vitamin C: 11.8 milligrams | Iron: 0.336 milligrams
“While not technically a vegetable, this fungi is really delicious and offers so many health benefits, says Gorin. Mushrooms are a great source of fiber, protein, and vitamin D, which we don’t usually get from food, but instead, sunlight, Gorin and Darlow say. “Vitamin D is essential for bone health, immune health, for our teeth, [and] for getting converted into other hormones in the body,” Darlow notes.
Add mushrooms to a stir fry, roast ’em in the oven, or eat them raw (after washing them really well), she suggests. Mushrooms can also be tasty on a homemade pizza, pasta, and stuffed peppers.
Serving size: 100 grams, raw or 2/3 cups | Calories: 34 | Fat: 0.49 grams | Protein: 2.24 grams | Carbohydrates: 6.79 grams | Fiber: 2.5 grams | Sugar: 2.38 grams | Vitamin C: 0.3 milligrams (for cooked shiitake mushrooms) | Iron: 0.41 milligrams
Addison Aloian (she/her) is an editorial assistant at Women’s Health. When she’s not writing about all things pop culture, health, beauty, and fashion, she loves hitting leg day at the gym, shopping at Trader Joe’s, and watching whichever hockey game is on TV. Her work has also appeared in Allure, StyleCaster, L’Officiel USA, V Magazine, and Modern Luxury Media.
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