The Best and Worst Vegetables for People with Diabetes

It's easy to assume all vegetables are created equal, but for people with diabetes it can be confusing. Our dietitian breaks down the best and worst vegetables for people living with diabetes.

If you or someone you love is living with diabetes, understanding carbohydrates and blood sugars is important. While most vegetables are excellent for our health, some can be deceiving when it comes to carbs. It’s also important to keep in mind that quantity matters.

Psst! Do you know the best and worst meats for diabetics?

The Worst Vegetables for People with Diabetes

Across the board, starchy vegetables are higher in carbohydrates than their less starchy counterparts. That starch is what places them on the “worst list.” It’s not as though you can’t enjoy these vegetables, but when you do it’s best to keep their quantity in check and pair them with higher protein and higher fat foods to offset the spike in blood sugars. For instance, if you love potatoes, have a small roasted potato with grilled salmon and steamed broccoli, instead of a heaping mound of mashed potatoes and fried chicken.

Potatoes

Potatoes are America’s favorite vegetable; unfortunately, they also are a high glycemic food best left off the plate for people with diabetes. Research shows that frying potatoes (like french fries) even increases the starch! Just one small potato has 30 grams of carbs and almost 4 grams of fiber. If you opt for a potato, be sure to stick to boiled over fried. These are the best carbs for people with diabetes.

Corn

Whether it’s on the cob or from a can, just ½-cup of corn kernels has a whopping 21-gram carb count and only 2 grams of fiber. If you love corn, be sure to keep the portion small and pair it with protein and high-fiber foods.

Peas

Peas are a better choice among the starchy vegetables; however, one cup of peas has 20 grams of carbs. Stick to a small portion of a ½-cup and skip the split pea soups.

Butternut Squash

Butternut squash has 16 grams of carbohydrates per cup and less than 3 grams of fiber, making it less desirable if you are strictly monitoring your carbs.

Vegetable Juice

This beverage lacks one key component in helping to regulate blood sugar: fiber! No matter which vegetable you choose to enjoy, it’s best to eat the whole food. That way, you can get the benefit of the fiber, especially when counting carbs. Just one cup of vegetable juice can have close to 20 grams of carbs per cup, and if you add fruit to sweeten the taste, that number increases rapidly! (Here are the best fruits for diabetics.)

Find delicious diabetic-friendly dinner recipes.

The Best Vegetables for People with Diabetes

If you’re looking for the best vegetables for a person living with diabetes, then you’ll want to consider three key things:

  1. Fiber content. Fiber helps lessen the spike of blood sugars.
  2. Nutrient density. Although cucumbers and iceberg lettuce taste delicious, they don’t rank high in nutrient density.
  3. TASTE! If a person doesn’t love it, then they won’t eat it.

Here are our recommended vegetables for people with diabetes:

Broccoli

Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous family and is packed with fiber and nutrients—whether raw or cooked. A cup of chopped broccoli contains only 6 grams of carbohydrates and 2.5 grams of fiber. If you like sprouts, you can opt for broccoli sprouts, as research has shown them to be beneficial for those living with Type 2 diabetes. Still not convinced? Chopped broccoli may even help prevent cancer.

Try It: For a simple side, try Marinated Broccoli or Parmesan Roasted Broccoli. You can enjoy it as a main dish, too, like in this Saucy Beef with Broccoli recipe.

Cabbage

Braised, fermented or made into slaw, cabbage is a fantastic vegetable to add to your plate. One cup of shredded cabbage has only 4 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of fiber.

Try It: Hungry? Give Grilled Cabbage or Beef & Rice Stuffed Cabbage Rolls a try.

Asparagus

Another delicious vegetable to add to the plate is asparagus. In just 1 cup you get 3 grams of fiber and only 5 grams of carbohydrates. Before you whip up a recipe, check out our tips on how to prepare asparagus.

Try It: We love Roasted Asparagus, and adding this veg to skillet meals, like this Asparagus Turkey Stir-Fry and Chicken Veggie Skillet.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower has gained popularity in recent years, and for good reason. Plus, cauliflower has only 5 grams of carbs per cup and 2 grams of fiber. Check out its other health benefits here.

Try It: This veggie is very versatile. Use it to make Garlic Asiago Cauliflower Rice, Cauliflower Mash and even Cauliflower Pizza Crust.

Kale

Kale has also been growing more popular in recent years. Boasting 3 grams of fiber and only 6 grams of carbohydrates per cup, it’s a perfect addition to the plate!

Try It: We enjoy simple Steamed Kale, a fresh Kale Salad and our favorite: Old Bay Crispy Kale Chips. By the way, these are the best salad dressings for diabetics.

See the foods that people with diabetes should be eating.

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Wendy Jo Peterson, MS, RDN
As a registered dietitian Wendy Jo touches on the science and facts behind food, but as a gardener and world traveler she savors the classical dishes our great-grandmothers once made. When she’s not in her kitchen, you can find her and her family exploring the US in their campervan, Olaf!