The 12 Healthiest Vegetables for Weight Loss

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Filling half of your plate with vegetables is one of the simplest and most effective things you can do to lose weight. In general, most vegetables offer a lot of nutrients but not a lot of calories.

To lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit—meaning you are expending more energy than you are taking in. This can be achieved through engaging in regular exercise and more physical activity throughout the day or by reducing calorie intake—or a bit of both. But at the same time, you don’t want to feel restricted, deprived or hungry, and you want your diet to be healthy. Otherwise, you won’t be able to stick with your plan.

Read on to find out why vegetables aid weight loss and our experts’ top picks of vegetables for weight loss.

Why Should You Eat Vegetables for Weight Loss?

Compared to many other foods, vegetables are low in calories and high in water and fiber. Typically, 1 cup of vegetables has only 20 to 50 calories.

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is key for weight loss. It moves through the digestive tract slowly, keeping you full longer. The calories from fiber are not absorbed, but fiber does provide satisfying volume and makes us feel full. This helps to suppress your appetite throughout the day, making it easier to eat fewer calories. Fiber also slows blood sugar and insulin spikes, which slow fat storage.

If you eat more calories than your body needs, the extra calories are stored as fat. But excess fiber is not stored as fat. Fiber passes mostly intact into the large intestine, where gut bacteria feed on it and produce beneficial compounds like short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). A 2019 study published in Nutrients showed that SCFAs may contribute to fat burning. And a 2023 literature review published in Lipids in Health and Disease suggests that SCFAs may aid weight loss efforts, in part, by helping to regulate inflammation in the body.

We asked dietitians for their thoughts on vegetables that may help with weight loss; here are their top choices.

1. Cauliflower

From cauliflower pizza to cauliflower rice, cauliflower is here to stay—and for good reason! One cup of chopped cauliflower has only 27 calories, with 2 grams of fiber and 2 g of protein.

“It’s filling and versatile,” says Elysia Cartlidge, M.A.N., RD, a registered dietitian at Haute & Healthy Living. “My favorite way to prepare cauliflower is to chop it up, drizzle it with some olive oil and a generous sprinkle of garlic powder and nutritional yeast, and then roast it in the oven until lightly browned and crispy along the edges. Roasting the cauliflower brings out so much flavor, so it’s a great way to incorporate more vegetables and fiber, especially if you’re not a veggie lover.”

Not a fan of roasted cauliflower? Registered dietitian Moushumi Mukherjee, M.S., RDN recommends ricing it, or you can buy it pre-riced in the frozen section of your grocery store.

To make riced cauliflower, chop it up and pulse it in a food processor to achieve a rice-like texture. “Then freeze it and use it in smoothies, soups, curry and fried rice,” says Mukherjee. Because cauliflower has a mild flavor, it can be mixed into just about any dish.

Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA, 1 cup chopped raw cauliflower contains:

  • Calories: 27
  • Carbohydrates: 5 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Sugar: 2 g
  • Added Sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 2 g
  • Total Fat: 0 g
  • Sodium: 32 mg

2. Spaghetti Squash

Jacob Fox

Get the Recipe: Spaghetti Squash with Herbs & Garlic Breadcrumbs

“All winter squashes are low-calorie foods effective for weight loss. But spaghetti squash is my personal favorite,” says Cheryl Mussatto M.S., RD, LD, author of The Nourished Brain. “It’s the perfect low-calorie alternative—only 42 calories in 1 cup—for anyone wanting to cut back on conventional spaghetti. It’s also low-fat and provides fiber that’s both filling and nutritious. And for those with diabetes who need to limit their carbohydrate intake, it won’t spike blood sugar the same way pasta might. So, not only is spaghetti squash a great go-to weight-loss food, but you’ll also still retain that ‘spaghetti’ mouthfeel we all love.”

Cook up a spaghetti squash or two and use it as a substitute for any pasta dish, or use half noodles and half spaghetti squash. Remember to pair it with other colorful vegetables and protein for a balanced meal.

Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA, 1 cup cooked spaghetti squash contains:

  • Calories: 42
  • Carbohydrates: 10 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Sugar: 4 g
  • Added Sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Fat: 0.5 g
  • Sodium: 28 mg

3. Avocado

Yeah, yeah, we know avocados are technically a fruit, but we had to include them for their fat-burning properties (and most people treat them like a vegetable). That may sound like a contradiction since avocados are high in fat. However, they are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which keeps you full because it is digested slowly.

Half of an avocado has a whopping 5 g of fiber—half the amount to aim for at each meal. Avocados are versatile, making it easy to get them into your diet on a regular basis.

Mix a quarter to one-half of an avocado into any smoothie for a creamy, silky treat (you can’t taste the avocado), add sliced avocado to a salad or make guacamole for a snack. Avocados are also delicious on tacos, in tuna salad and in egg salad. Stick to a serving size of a quarter to half an avocado. One medium avocado has 240 calories, so it is possible to have too much of a good thing if your goal is to lose weight.

Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA, ½ of an avocado contains:

  • Calories: 120
  • Carbohydrates: 6.5 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 1.5 g
  • Fat: 11 g
  • Sodium: 5 mg

4. Cabbage

Photography / Greg DuPree, Styling / Ruth BlackBurn / Julia Bayless

Get the Recipe: Simple Cabbage Salad

“Cabbage is low in calories and high in fiber,” says registered dietitian Jinan Banna, Ph.D., RD. “Consuming enough fiber is an important part of a diet for weight loss, as it helps you to stay full and provides little in the way of calories.”

Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, along with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale. Cruciferous vegetables contain potent phytonutrients that can help fight off cancer and reduce inflammation. And with only 22 calories and 5 g of total carbs per cup, cabbage is diabetes- and weight-loss-friendly. Plus, it’s versatile. You can roast it, create a coleslaw or throw it on fish tacos. “It also can be used to make fermented dishes such as kimchi, which [may] promote a healthy gut,” says Banna.

Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA, 1 cup chopped raw cabbage contains:

  • Calories: 22
  • Carbohydrates: 5 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Sugar: 3 g
  • Added Sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Sodium: 16 mg

5. Zucchini

“Zucchini is a great way to add fiber, volume and nutrients with very few calories,” says Anya Rosen, M.S., RD, LD, CPT, a functional medicine practitioner based in New York City. One cup of sliced zucchini has only 19 calories and 3.5 g of total carbohydrates. “It has a neutral taste that easily adapts to other more flavorful ingredients—both sweet and savory. You can grate it into oatmeal, add it to a smoothie or sub it for pasta,” says Rosen.

Zucchini is also delicious when it’s roasted and cooks quickly on the stove, making it easy to add to stovetop dishes like pasta and stir-fries. You can even swap out noodles for zoodles, also known as zucchini noodles, made with a spiralizer or a vegetable peeler. And don’t forget zucchini makes delicious baked goods too.

Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA, 1 cup sliced raw zucchini contains:

  • Calories: 19
  • Carbohydrates: 3.5 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Sugar: 3 g
  • Added Sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 1.5 g
  • Fat: 0.5 g
  • Sodium: 9 mg

6. Romaine Lettuce

Jason Donnelly

Get the Recipe: Caesar Salad with Grilled Steak

If you’re looking for one of the lowest-calorie vegetables, romaine lettuce has only 8 calories per cup. The downside is that it is pretty low in fiber too, with just 1 g per cup. But it’s a great “catch-all” vegetable, says registered dietitian Jennifer Fiske, M.S., RDN, LD. “Meaning you can toss a lot of things in and have a great dish. You can also use romaine hearts for lettuce wraps and to add crunch to sandwiches. I recommend buying a three-pack and prepping as needed; they last much longer than precut lettuce. Romaine lettuce is a low-calorie food rich in a variety of nutrients, such as folate, and has a mild flavor. It’s not fancy or flashy, but it’s versatile, affordable and great for weight loss”.

Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA, 1 cup shredded romaine lettuce contains:

  • Calories: 8
  • Carbohydrates: 1.5 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Sugar: 0.5 g
  • Added Sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 0.5 g
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Sodium: 4 mg

7. Green Peas

Peas are starchy vegetables (like potatoes and corn), meaning they have more carbohydrates than non-starchy vegetables. But green peas pack a punch of fiber and protein, something most other vegetables can’t boast about. One cup of peas has 8 g of fiber and 8 g of protein. Similar to fiber, protein promotes satiety, and high-protein diets are associated with weight loss, according to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Obesity & Metabolic Syndrome. The body burns twice as many calories digesting protein than carbs and fat.

From snap peas to snow peas, there are many varieties to choose from. Peas can be enjoyed plain or mixed into a variety of dishes like fried rice, pasta or soup.

Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA, 1 cup peas contains:

  • Calories: 117
  • Carbohydrates: 21 g
  • Fiber: 8 g
  • Sugar: 8 g
  • Added Sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 8 g
  • Fat: 0.5 g
  • Sodium: 7 mg

8. Kale

Get the Recipe: Superfood Chopped Salad with Salmon & Creamy Garlic Dressing

One cup of kale has only 7 calories, which means you can fill your entire plate with 4 to 5 cups of kale for under 50 calories. It also “has a rougher texture than other greens, so it takes a little longer to chew,” says registered dietitian Lisa Andrews, M.Ed., RD, LD, owner of Sound Bites Nutrition. And eating slowly helps you feel full with fewer calories.

Kale’s rough texture isn’t for everyone, but there are plenty of ways to enjoy it. Roast kale on a baking sheet for homemade crunchy kale chips or blend it into a smoothie to add filling fiber. To reduce the roughness of raw kale, massage it with olive oil and lemon juice and let it stand for several minutes before tossing in your other salad ingredients.

Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA, 1 cup chopped raw kale contains:

  • Calories: 7
  • Carbohydrates: 1 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 0.5 g
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Sodium: 11 mg

9. Spinach

Spinach makes a perfect staple in your refrigerator because there are so many ways to sneak it into your diet. It has a milder taste and texture than kale, which appeals to more people’s taste buds.

Nutrition-wise, spinach is similar to kale, with 7 calories and 0.7 g of fiber per cup. Enjoy spinach in a salad, smoothie, stir-fry or pasta dish. Or sauté it with olive oil, salt and pepper for a savory side dish. You can buy it fresh or frozen. If it’s starting to wilt, add it to soup or toss the whole bag in the freezer to use for smoothies.

Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA, 1 cup raw spinach contains:

  • Calories: 6
  • Carbohydrates: 1 g
  • Fiber: 0.7 g
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Sodium: 20 mg

10. Carrots

Victor Protasio

Get the Recipe: Cumin Roasted Carrots with Dill Yogurt

While carrots have a little more sugar than other vegetables, they also have more fiber. One cup of carrots delivers 3.5 g of fiber, which is three times the amount of fiber in a cup of leafy greens. And they are still low in calories at 52 per cup. Carrots are a crunchy alternative to potato chips, which have about 130 calories in a serving size of just 12 to 15 chips, per the USDA. And perhaps most important, chips lack the fiber that is present in carrots.

Lisa Young, Ph.D., RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim, loves carrots for their versatility. “You can eat them raw, shredded in salads or you can roast them with different spices or sauces, so you can enjoy them sweet or savory. And they are high in fiber and super [nutritious]. You will never be bored with this veggie,” says Young.

Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA, 1 cup chopped raw carrots contains:

  • Calories: 52
  • Carbohydrates: 12 g
  • Fiber: 3.5 g
  • Sugar: 6 g
  • Added Sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Sodium: 88 mg

11. Bell Peppers

“Bell peppers are low in calories and high in nutrients. In fact, one bell pepper contains more vitamin C than an orange! With research linking those with lower vitamin C levels to higher amounts of body fat, this is a vegetable that should top your grocery list!” says registered dietitian Christie Gagnon, RD, owner of Hoorah to Health.

Red, orange and yellow peppers are sweet, making them easy to eat. One cup of sliced raw peppers has just 24 calories with 2 g of fiber. Dip peppers in hummus or tzatziki, add them to a turkey wrap or cook them in a skillet alongside onions for some fiber-packed fajitas.

Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA, 1 cup sliced raw red pepper contains:

  • Calories: 24
  • Carbohydrates: 5.5 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Sugar: 4 g
  • Added Sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Fat: 0.3 g
  • Sodium: 4 mg

12. Broccoli

Brie Passano

Get the Recipe: Lemon-Garlic Dump Chicken Thighs with Broccoli

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable with cancer-fighting, anti-inflammatory compounds, specifically sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, per a 2023 review in Antibiotics. Broccoli also has the antioxidant quercetin, which may help lower blood pressure, according to a 2021 review published in Phytotherapy Research.

When it comes to weight loss, 1 cup of cooked broccoli has 5 g of filling fiber, plus 3.7 g of protein. Broccoli is 90% water, which contributes to its fill-you-up factor. Plus it’s high in vitamins C and K.

There are many ways to enjoy broccoli. In addition to eating it steamed and boiled, try roasting it. Toss the chopped broccoli pieces in olive oil, salt and pepper, and then roast them at 400°F to 425°F for about 20 minutes. Turn on the broiler at the end for a few minutes to achieve that restaurant-style crispy texture.

Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA, 1 cup cooked, chopped broccoli contains:

  • Calories: 54
  • Carbohydrates: 11 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Sugar: 2 g
  • Added Sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 3.7 g
  • Fat: 0.5 g
  • Sodium: 64 mg

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