“All fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet,” says Joanne Perez, registered dietician. “But since some are higher in sugar and calories than others, portion size is important. The healthiest fruits and vegetables are those that have a high-density value, which is the number of nutrients a food has in relation to the number of calories. Foods with a high-density value will give you the most nutrients for the fewest number of calories.”
However, anyone who’s ever seriously tried to go vegetarian knows it’s not that easy. Just because food is plant-based, doesn’t mean it can’t be full of sugar and starch. Even healthy, fibrous vegetables can leave well-meaning dieters feeling bloated and sluggish.
Most nutritionists agree that any produce is better than none at all, but there are some that work better for people who are on diets or are trying to reduce bloat after overindulging during the holidays. To get your new year started off right, we’ve spoken to some top dieticians for advice on which fruits and vegetables they advise against for clients looking to lose weight.
While she doesn’t consider them unhealthy, Lauren Slayton, author of The Little Book of Thin, recommends that those trying to lose holiday weight skip starchy bananas in favor of fruits like raspberries.
“However, having said this,” Slayton continues, “I tell clients if you’re running through an airport, don’t skip the banana and opt for the candy bar. It’s all relative.”
While broccoli is a healthy vegetable, like Brussels sprouts, it’s not a great one if you’re looking to detox after the holidays, says Alissa Rumsey, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Broccoli can also cause excessive gas and bloating, which might leave you feeling too gross to hit the gym.
If you’re looking to ease bloating after the holidays, you may want to skip the Brussels sprouts, says Rumsey.
Certain fruits and vegetables are found to cause more bloating and gas than others, which can be counterproductive after a holiday season filled with overeating and feeling full; Brussels sprouts are one of the worst in this regard.
Coconut should be considered more of a treat than a fruit, says Maggie Moon, author of The Elimination Diet Workbook.
“Coconut is sometimes considered a fruit, sometimes a nut, but is high in saturated fat either way, and that means cholesterol-raising calories that add up quickly,” Moon says.
Slayton also recommends that clients skip sugary cherries when trying to bounce back from holiday indulgences.
“Overfruiting is super common,” Slayton says. “What happens is that excess fruit sugar (fructose) is easily welcomed by your fat cells.” Therefore, munching cherry after cherry could be counterproductive to your goals.
Instead, she recommends grapefruit and keeping fruit intake limited to one serving a day while detoxing.
This may come as a shocker, since eggplant is usually considered a “healthy” meat alternative, but Moon says mushrooms are a better bet than the purple squash.
“Eggplant is a low-calorie food, a good source of fiber, and is loved as a meat substitute because it soaks up flavor,” says Moon. “The down side of this is that they really do soak up everything. They’re like sponges for fat and seasoning, so it's easy to pile calories and sodium onto eggplant.”
If you find yourself mindlessly snacking on grapes, you could be getting much more sugar than you bargained for.
A large bunch of grapes actually has about 39 grams of sugar.
According to Alissa Rumsey, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, green peas are best eaten in moderation.
“Starchy vegetables like peas have higher calorie and carbohydrate content,” says Rumsey. “So while they are fine in small amounts, you want to try to fill up your plate with non-starchy vegetables instead like leafy greens, asparagus, mushrooms, or beets.”
Mango is another sugary fruit that Slayton encourages clients to skip.
There’s nothing wrong with oranges, but orange juice shouldn’t be considered an acceptable substitute for the solid fruit.
"Orange juice is a great way to get vitamin C and potassium, plus there are options with calcium and vitamin D,” says Moon. “However, a dieter may be better served by eating whole fruit instead of juice. Juice concentrates all things by nature: flavor and nutrients, as well as sugars and calories.”
Americans adore potatoes, but they’re not the best choice for maintaining a healthy diet, according to Moon.
“Even though potatoes are a great-tasting way to get potassium and vitamin C, the problem is that Americans love adding fat and salt to this humble root vegetable and removing the skin, which contains fiber. Additionally, nearly 60 percent of all potatoes consumed away from home are fried,” says Moon.