January 2021 Issue

Culinary Corner: Revisit White Vegetables
By Jessica Ivey, RDN, LDN
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 23, No. 1, P. 66

This often-ignored hue in produce offers rich flavors and essential nutrition.

We often hear the mantra “eat the rainbow,” and while it’s true that eating colorful vegetables and fruits provides a wide range of nutrients, white vegetables also pack a nutritious punch.

White potatoes are the most commonly consumed vegetable in the United States1 and are an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of potassium, which has been identified as a nutrient of public health concern.2 One medium (5.3 oz) skin-on potato provides 26 g carbohydrate, but this complex carbohydrate contributes valuable nutrients not found in sugary foods and drinks.3

I’ve heard many clients speak of eating white potatoes with shameful whispers, noting that sweet potatoes would be better. As dietitians, we can bust the myth that this most popular vegetable should be considered “off limits.” Clients can enjoy potatoes as part of almost any healthful eating pattern, and there are many opportunities for healthful preparations with limited added saturated fat. For example, mashed potatoes can be cooked in low-sodium broth with the skin on and added olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper for flavor.

Cauliflower has received much attention lately as a replacement for higher-carbohydrate grains and starchy vegetables, and consumers now can purchase cauliflower mash, “rice,” pizza crust, and hash browns. Each one-cup serving of fresh cauliflower florets has just 27 kcal and provides 2.1 g fiber, a combination that promotes satiety.4 Cauliflower is high in vitamin C and is a good source of folate.5 In addition, it contains antioxidants, including glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, which have been shown to help protect against certain types of cancer.6 Cauliflower shines in a variety of recipes, such as roasted florets or “steaks,” puréed in creamy sauces, and in soups.

Other white vegetables, including onions, mushrooms, and turnips, also are rich in nutrients. Onions can be sautéed to create a flavorful base for a variety of dishes, such as soups, sauces, and casseroles, while mushrooms can be used to replace a portion of the meat in family favorites including tacos, spaghetti, and meatloaf. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of turnip roots, which also are delicious when teamed up with potatoes for mashing.

This comforting soup is rich and creamy thanks to the addition of cannellini beans. Serve with crusty French bread and a green salad for a light winter meal.

— Jessica Ivey, RDN, LDN, is a dietitian and chef with a passion for teaching people to eat healthfully for a happy and delicious life. Ivey offers approachable healthful living tips, from fast recipes to meal prep guides and ways to enjoy exercise on her website, JessicaIveyRDN.com.


1. Food availability (per capita) data system. US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service website. https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-availability-per-capita-data-system/interactive-charts-and-highlights/. Updated January 9, 2020. Accessed August 13, 2020.

2. US Department of Health and Human Services; US Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Eighth Edition. https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/chapter-2/a-closer-look-at-current-intakes-and-recommended-shifts/#underconsumed-nutrients. Published January 7, 2016. Accessed August 13, 2020.

3. Your guide to potato nutrition. Potatoes USA website. https://www.potatogoodness.com/nutrition/. Accessed August 12, 2020.

4. FoodData Central. US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service website. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/index.html. Accessed August 12, 2020.

5. Cauliflower. Produce for Better Health Foundation website. https://fruitsandveggies.org/fruits-and-veggies/cauliflower/. Accessed August 12, 2020.

6. Abdull Razis AF, Noor NM. Cruciferous vegetables: dietary phytochemicals for cancer prevention. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2013;14(3):1565-1570.


Cauliflower and White Bean Soup

Serves 6

1 1 1/2-lb head cauliflower
1 T olive oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 32-oz carton low-sodium vegetable broth
1 T fresh thyme leaves (or
1 tsp dried thyme)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Optional garnish: fresh thyme leaves

1. Remove outer leaves from cauliflower. Cut cauliflower florets and stem into 2-in pieces, discarding any tough parts of the stem.

2. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add celery and onion and cook, stirring frequently, 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Add cauliflower, beans, broth, and thyme, and bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.

4. Purée soup with an immersion blender until smooth. Stir in salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper (if using). Garnish each serving with thyme leaves, if desired.

Nutrient Analysis per serving (11/3 cups)
Calories: 100; Total fat: 2.5 g; Sat fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 280 mg; Total carbohydrate: 15 g; Dietary fiber: 3 g; Sugars: 3 g; Protein: 5 g