Food & Nutrition

ZeroPoint Cheat Sheet: Potatoes & Starchy Vegetables

All your top questions about starchy vegetables, answered
Published November 4, 2021

While “zero” usually means “nothing,” at WW, ZeroPoint™ foods are everything! If potatoes and sweet potatoes are ZeroPoint foods for you and you’ve got questions, you’re in the right place.

Wait—I know a potato is considered starchy, but what other starchy veggies are there?

  • Acorn squash
  • Baby potatoes
  • Fingerling potatoes
  • Frozen potatoes, prepared without fat
  • Idaho potatoes
  • Japanese sweet potatoes
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Lotus root
  • New potatoes
  • Parsnips
  • Plantains
  • Potatoes, baked
  • Potatoes, mashed, plain
  • Potatoes, roasted without oil
  • Potato wedges, oven-roasted without oil
  • Purple potatoes
  • Red potatoes
  • Russet potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes, baked
  • Sweet potatoes, mashed, plain
  • Sweet potatoes, roasted without oil
  • Sweet potatoes, unsweetened, canned
  • Sweet potato wedges, oven-roasted without oil
  • Taro
  • White potatoes
  • Yams
  • Yellow potatoes
  • Yucca
  • Yukon Gold potatoes

Why are potatoes and starchy veggies ZeroPoint foods?

Healthy eating patterns include a variety of plants from all of the USDA’s five vegetable subgroups: dark green; red and orange; beans, peas, and lentils; starchy; and other vegetables. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other starchy vegetables have naturally occurring fiber and key nutrients, like potassium, which supports healthy blood pressure, and vitamin C, an antioxidant. For those reasons, and because they are filling and nutritious, we want to encourage you to eat starchy veggies.

Sweet potatoes are better for you than white potatoes, right?

Hang on tight, because that’s actually a myth! The truth is that neither potato is “better” than the other. They both have nutritional benefits, just different ones. Did you know that potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C? Meanwhile, sweet potatoes can be your go-to for vitamin A. And both are solid sources of potassium. So go ahead and enjoy both.

If I peel potatoes, do I lose most of the nutritional benefits?

That’s another misconception. Most of a potato’s vitamins and minerals are found not in the skin, but in the flesh. So in short, no, removing the skin does not render the spud nutritionally bankrupt. But don't automatically reach for the vegetable peeler just yet. With its skin still on, a potato has more potassium than a banana and can be a very good source of fiber.

Are sweet potatoes and yams the same thing?

Despite looking similar and sometimes being called for interchangeably in recipes, yams and sweet potatoes are not twins. True yams are starchier edible roots native to Latin America, while sweet potatoes are root vegetables, which are typically sweeter than yams. What Americans often refer to as yams are actually sweet potatoes.

There are so many colors and types of white potatoes and sweet potatoes at the grocery store. What’s the difference, and how do I choose?

From slender fingerlings to purple potatoes to giant garnet-colored sweets, there’s a much bigger selection of starchy veggies to choose from at the market than ever before. Flavors, starch levels, and textures vary among them all, so use whatever your recipe calls for. When buying potatoes, they should be firm with even, unblemished skin. Don’t choose any with soft or black spots or any little sprouts popping up.

Are plantains just giant bananas?

While plantains and bananas could be mistaken for each other at a quick glance, they’re not the same. Like bananas, plantains are a fruit (technically), but they’re treated more like a vegetable in the kitchen (like tomatoes). Plantains are never eaten raw and are used either in their green unripened state or their yellow-with-black-spots state.

When unripe, plantains have a more neutral taste similar to a potato or yucca. When yellow and ripe, they’re sweet and soft and cook up like a banana.

Why is acorn squash considered a starchy veggie instead of a non-starchy one like butternut squash?

While both have loads of nutritional benefits, acorn squash contains more calories and more naturally occurring sugar by volume than butternut squash, making it starchier than its long-necked cousin.

Related Links

ZeroPoint Cheat Sheet: Poultry

The Skinny on Potatoes

A Dozen Hearty Potato Recipes

Lisa Chernick is the executive food editor and has been on WW’s editorial team since 2005. She creates food and recipe content including WW cookbooks.