Eat Your Veggies

Mom always said, “Eat your veggies!". As usual, she was right. Out of all four food groups in Canada’s Food Guide, we’re supposed to eat the greatest number of servings per day from the vegetable and fruit group. For people with diabetes, at each meal ½ of the plate should be filled with non-starchy vegetables. So why are vegetables so important for health and what role do they play in diabetes management?

Healthy Weight. Fill up on low-calorie veggies rather than higher-calorie foods to aid weight loss and weight maintenance. Vegetables provide nutrients and bulk to a meal without lots of calories. Non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, celery, cucumber, and sweet peppers are mostly water, fibre, vitamins and minerals - essential components of good health. Non-starchy vegetables contain only small amounts of carbohydrate, so they don’t have a large effect on blood glucose. Starchy vegetables like potato, sweet potato, parsnip, peas, and corn contain more carbohydrate, and therefore have an effect on blood glucose.

Blood Glucose Control. Non-starchy vegetables can aid blood glucose control since the fibre in them can produce a feeling of fullness without increasing carbohydrate intake. See the chart at the end to find out the carbohydrate content of some vegetables.

Heart Health including Blood Pressure. Increasing vegetable intake can displace foods higher in saturated fats and sodium that may contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, and weight gain. In addition, the fibre in vegetables helps reduce LDL (‘lousy’) cholesterol; vegetable oils such as canola, olive, and sunflower oils used in place of animal fats such as butter and lard also have this effect. Always check the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel on frozen and canned vegetables to ensure they are low in unwanted extras such as cream sauces, sodium and added sugars!

Hydration. Non-starchy vegetables contain considerable amounts of water that can help keep you hydrated, especially when the temperature starts to climb. Staying hydrated is important to maintain energy as well as blood glucose levels!

Regularity! Although we don’t often talk about it, regularity is important for health. Vegetables along with contributions from whole grains provide fibre that helps keep the digestive system functioning well and ensures regular bowel movements. People with diabetes need up to 50 g of fibre daily.

Most of us are trying to eat more vegetables daily. Here are some tips to help increase veggie intake all day long:

At Breakfast try adding a dark green veggie, onions, peppers or another favourite vegetable to your morning egg scramble – frozen spinach can be quickly microwaved and thrown into any egg dish. If you miss out on veggies at breakfast, bring along a morning snack that includes cut-up raw veggies and low-fat dip like hummus.

At Lunch load your plate with veggies. If you’re eating out, ask for more vegetables so they fill half your plate. If you pack a lunch prepare more veggies for dinner the night before and use these planned leftovers for lunch the next day!

At Dinner build your meal around your veggies. When planning, think about the veggies first, next identify what meat or alternative will fill a quarter of your plate, and what whole grain or starch will fill the remaining quarter. 

At Snack Time have washed, pre-cut veggies at the ready! Plan your snacks so healthier options are always on hand. If you have more than 4 – 6 hours between meals, a snack is important to make sure blood glucose doesn’t drop. Always have non-starchy vegetables with carbohydrate-containing food at snacks as non-starchy vegetables alone won’t provide enough carbohydrate to keep your blood glucose level until your next meal.

No wonder Canada’s Food Guide recommends 7 - 10 servings of vegetables and fruit every day – they’re important for so many components of health! Keep track of your intake and be sure to eat all your recommended servings in snacks and meals every day. Here are some details on different veggie choices to get you started!

Carbohydrate Content of Some Vegetables

Food

Serving Size

Carbohydrate

Fibre

Diabetes Food Choices per 1 serving

Starchy Vegetables

Acorn Squash

½ cup (125 mL)

16 g

2 g

1

Butternut Squash

½ cup (125 mL)

11 g

2 g

1

Corn

½ cup (125 mL)

19 g

2 g

1

Parsnip

½ cup (125 mL)

14 g

3 g

1

Peas

½ cup (125 mL)

12 g

4 g

½

Potato

½ medium size

19 g

2 g

1

Sweet Potato

½ medium size

12 g

2 g

1

Vegetables, mixed: canned/frozen peas and carrots

½ cup (125 mL)

11 g

3 g

½

Non-starchy Vegetables

Green or yellow beans

½ cup (125 mL)

5 g

2 g

0

Beets

½ cup (125 mL)

9 g

2 g

½

Broccoli

½ cup (125 mL)

6 g

2 g

0

Cabbage

½ cup (125 mL)

2 g

1 g

0

Carrots

½ cup (125 mL)

6 g

2 g

0

Celery

1 stalk

1 g

0.6 g

0

Cucumber

4 slices

1 g

0.2 g

0

Eggplant

½ cup (125 mL)

5 g

1 g

0

Leeks

½ cup (125 mL)

4 g

0.5 g

0

Lettuce

½ cup (125 mL)

2 g

1 g

0

Mushrooms

½ cup (125 mL)

2 g

1 g

0

Onions

½ cup (125 mL)

4 g

1 g

0

Sweet Peppers

½ cup (125 mL)

4 g

1 g

0

Spaghetti Squash

½ cup (125 mL)

5 g

1 g

0

Radish

3 medium

Trace

0.2 g

0

Tomato

1

5 g

1.5 g

0

Tomatoes, canned, stewed

½ cup (125 mL)

8 g

1.4 g

½

Turnip

½ cup (125 mL)

4 g

2 g

0

Zucchini

½ cup (125 mL)

4 g

1 g

0

The content of this newsletter is for information purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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