We’ve all been told in our lives, at one point or another to, “eat your vegetables!” Of course, not all of us do eat our vegetables which is a shame, because vegetables are not only incredibly good for you, but they can also help you lose weight.
Vegetables for weight loss should be an important component of anyone’s diet. If you’re trying to lose weight then you MUST include vegetables in your menu planning. In fact, you should add as many vegetables as possible. No longer should they just take up a small portion of your plate–they should take up the majority.
A Study published in 2001 evaluated vegetable and fruit consumption compared to high-fat and high-sugar consumption. Two groups were evaluated. One group was put on a diet that decreased the amount of high-fat, high-calorie foods they were allowed to eat. The other group was encouraged to increase the amounts of fruits and vegetables in their diet. After one year the fruits and vegetables group had significantly greater decreases in weight than the group in the decreased fat and sugar group. In other words, the group that ate fruits and vegetables instead of simply cutting back on high-fat, high-calorie foods lost more weight. Also, the group who increased their fruits and vegetables had naturally cut back significantly on high-fat and high-sugar foods.
Foods With Low Energy Density
Everyone knows that in order to lose weight you need to eat fewer calories than you expend. But people may not limit what they eat based on calories alone. The main reason people stop eating is because they feel full. The amount of food you eat at a meal is what makes you feel full, not how many calories you consume.
This is where foods with low energy come into play. Foods with low energy density (vegetables) provide a greater amount of food for a much lower amount of calories. High energy density foods (foods high in sugar and fats) provide a high amount of calories for a much smaller amount of food (think donuts).
This is why you should try and consume low energy density foods. You can eat a relatively large amount of food and still only rack up a small amount of calories. Vegetables are perfect low energy dense foods because they contain large amounts of water and fiber. Water and fiber increase the volume of foods and reduce energy density.
The Mayoclinic has an example of high density vs. low density fruits and vegetables:
Here’s a quick example with raisins and grapes. Raisins have a high energy density — 1 cup of raisins has about 434 calories. Grapes have a low energy density — 1 cup of grapes has about 104 calories.
Canned And Frozen Vegetables
What about canned and frozen vegetables for weight loss? Are they just as good? Actually, yes. Canned and frozen vegetables are excellent options when the fresh versions are not readily available. Just make sure that you’re careful what you buy. Read the package and avoid frozen or canned vegetables that contains added sauces, sugar, syrup, etc. that may add additional calories. Also, be aware that most canned and frozen vegetables will sometimes contain added salt.
Vegetables Vs. Fruits
When you’re trying to lose weight you need to eat BOTH vegetables and fruit. However, you should eat more vegetables than fruit because they do contain a lower amount of calories. If you are having trouble reaching your weight loss goal then you should start substituting more vegetables for fruit (see our top 10 vegetables for weight loss below). The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published by the US Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, recommends that HALF of your plate be made up of fruits and vegetables. If you’re trying to lose weight fast you could make the majority of that half of the plate be vegetables.
Preparing Vegetables For Weight Loss
How you prepare your vegetables is going to make a HUGE difference in their effect on your weight loss. This is basically common sense. If you add breading, high fat dressings or high fat sauces then you’re going to greatly increase the calorie count. You’ll still get some of the nutritional benefits of the vegetables but you’ll negate the weight loss benefits. Below we discuss more in depth the best ways to serve vegetables when you’re trying to slim down.
If you simply can’t stand the taste of most healthy vegetables for weight loss by themselves, you can easily lower the energy density (i.e. calorie content) of other foods like casseroles, sandwiches, soups, pizzas, and more by substituting vegetables for higher density ingredients like meat and cheese. For example, you can add sliced vegetables (lettuce, tomato, onion, etc.) to your sandwhich instead of cheese or additional meats. Also, add vegetables to pasta sauce instead of meat or load up a casserole with vegetables instead of meat and cheese.
Raw vegetables for weight loss are incredibly good for you. They’re rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. However, according to UWHealth.edu, you often get “a greater volume of vegetable in a 1/2 cup cooked portion compared to a 1/2 cup raw portion. Therefore, there is more fiber in cooked mushrooms or spinach compared to 1/2 cup of raw.” Cooked vegetables simply have more density than raw vegetables. If you think about it another way, if you take a full cup of spinach and sautee it, you’ll end up with less than half a cup when done.
Starchy vegetables are higher in calories so they should be eaten in smaller amounts than other vegetables when you’re trying to lose weight. Starchy vegetables include legumes (garbanzo beans, pinto beans, lima beans, etc.), potatos, corn, peas and squash. Here is a non-starchy vegetable list from TotalFitness.net that you can download and reference.
It should be noted that starchy vegetables, even though they contain more calories, can help you stay fuller longer so don’t eliminate them from your diet. Plus, starchy vegetables, although higher in calories than other types of vegetables, still contain less calories than other foods that are high in sugar and fat.
Steaming vegetables is an excellent way to cook your vegetables for weight loss and still make sure that they contain all of their important vitamins and phytochemicals. While boiling still allows vegetables to retain most of their nutrients, there is a minor loss.
Cruciferous Vegetables For Weight Loss
We’ve included a section here for cruciferous vegetables because they are, quite possibly, the ideal vegetable for weight loss. This family of vegetables contains: Broccoli, kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, mustard greens, bok choy, arugual and more.
These good vegetables for weight loss are incredily high in fiber and other nutrients that not only help you ward of disease and illness but also help you reach your weight loss goal.
Plus, you can eat TONS of these vegetables without adding too many calories to your diet. For instance, 2 cups of cooked broccoli only has 50 calories. Two cups of cooked kale contains only 72 calories. Dig in!
Top 10 Best Vegetables For Weight Loss
Okay, we’ve been blubbering on about vegetables for weight loss too long Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Here are the top 10 best vegetables that you should be eating for weight loss. Of course, you should include a wide varity of vegetables in your diet but these 10 represent the best in terms of weight loss benefits.
1. Broccoli (2 cooked cups only 50 calories).
2. Spinach (2 cooked cups only 20 calories).
3. Eggplant (7 ounces grilled is only 70 calories)
4. Salad greens (2 cooked cups only 40 calories)
5. Tomatoes (2 cups of cherry tomatoes are only 50 calories)
6. Baby carrots (2 cups only 50 calories — dip them in tahini free hummus for a delicious, healthy and low calorie snack!–one of our favorites)
7. Celery (10 5 inch stalks are only 50 calories–that’s only 5 calories per stalk)
8. Peppers (2 cups of sliced bell peppers only 60 calories)
9. Portabella mushrooms (2 cooked only 40 calories)
10. Sweet potatoes (2, cooked 4 ounce sweet potatoes only 160 calories). Sweet potatoes are a starchy vegetable but they are LOADED with nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.
Learn more about eating fruits and vegetables for weight loss by downloading this fruit and vegetable weight loss guide from the CDC.