Substitution List Topic: Starches

Return to List

Starches Category including Breads & Crackers, Cereals, Grains & Pasta, Starchy Vegetables, and Convenience Breakfast Foods & Snacks.

Each serving in the starch group has approximately 60-90 calories, 15 grams of carbohydrate, at least 3 grams of protein and optimally no more than 0-1 grams of fat per serving. The foods in this section are all interchangeable.

Breads & Crackers

Choose whole-grain breads, pancakes and waffles: they contain the most fiber and best nutrition. Just Look for "whole wheat" or whole grain" as the first ingredient. Most of the items below may be found as whole-wheat versions.

All of the following servings of bread or crackers are interchangeable. (Each of the following servings equals approximately 1 ounce or 28 grams.)


  • 1 slice bread
  • 2 slices 40-calorie "diet" bread
  • 1/2 small bagel (approximately 1/2 "Lender's"-type 2.5 to 3 oz. bagel)
  • 1/2 English muffin
  • 1/2 hamburger or hot dog bun
  • 1/2 pita bread, approximately 6 inch across
  • 2 Wasa Light Bread (type of flat-bread cracker)
  • 4 Melba Toast
  • 6 saltine crackers
  • 2  4-inch rice cakes, approximately 35 calories each
  • 1 tortilla (corn or flour, approximately 6-8 inch across)
  • 2 low-fat pancakes (approx. 4 inch diameter; frozen or prepared)
  • 1 low-fat waffle (approx. 2.5 oz., 4 inch square; frozen or prepared)
  • 1 slice low-fat French toast; (frozen or prepared)
  • 1 "board" of matzo, (approx. 1 oz.)
  • Bread sticks, crisp (4-4" x 1/2" breadsticks or ~2/3 ounce total)
  • Bread sticks, soft, plain (3/4 stick or ~1 ounce total)

Cereals, Grains and Pasta

For cereals, serving sizes vary depending on the brand and type of cereal. Most cold cereal packages show a serving size of one ounce on the Nutrition Facts label, and we are providing the measurement amount for your convenience. For best nutrition, choose high fiber/low sugar cereals with at least 2 grams of fiber per serving, and choose a cereal with less than 8 grams of sugar per serving. Watch for code words like “crunchy” and “crispy”: they mean added sugar.

  • 3/4 cup flaked or "Chex"-type cereal: low sugar, ready to eat, like bran flakes or wheat Chex
  • 1 1/2 cup puffed cereal like puffed wheat or puffed rice
  • 1/2 cup cooked hot cereal like oatmeal, Wheatena or Farina
  • 1/3 cup nugget-type cereal like Grape-Nuts
  • 1/4 cup low-fat granola
  • 1/2 cup cooked kasha, millet, grits, barley or couscous
  • 1/2 cup pasta, cooked
  • 1/3 cup cooked white or brown rice
  • 1 (4 Tbsp.) oz. Wheat Germ

Most recipes will display measures of pasta, rice and grains uncooked. The rule of thumb for cooking is most pasta, grains and hot cereals double in volume, and rice triples in volume when cooked. Here is information to assist you in preparing portions for one:


Oatmeal or Grits

3 Tbsp.

1/2 cup


2 Tbsp.

1/2 cup

Spaghetti & Macaroni

1/4 cup

1/2 cup

Dried Beans & Dried Peas

1/4 cup

1/2 cup


3 Tbsp.

1/2 cup


2 Tbsp.

1/3 cup

Starchy Vegetables

Starchy vegetables have 15 grams of carbohydrate per serving which is higher than vegetables like broccoli and spinach, which have only 2 grams. That's why starchy vegetables are included in the starches category.

  • 1 small potato or 1/2 medium potato, baked or boiled (about 3 oz.)
  • 1 small sweet potato or 1/2 medium sweet potato, baked or boiled (about 3 oz.)
  • 1/2 cup mashed potatoes
  • 1 cup winter squash (butternut or acorn)
  • 1/2 cup cooked plantain or cassava
  • 1/2 cup cooked corn
  • 1 small (5 oz.) piece corn on the cob
  • 2/3 cup cooked lima beans
  • 1/3 cup baked beans
  • 1/2 cup cooked dried beans and peas such as kidney, black, pinto, or white beans
  • 1/2 cup cooked lentils, split peas or black-eyed peas
  • 1/2 cup cooked soybeans
  • 1/2 cup green peas

Convenience Breakfast Foods and Snacks

The serving size given for each of the items below has about 60-90 calories, about 10-15 grams of carbohydrate, and about 2-5 grams of fat.

The Convenience option is a guide to healthful choices, and it’s meant to allow you to substitute easily. Cereal bars should contain 3 grams of fat or less per serving, and should not have some form of sugar in the first two ingredients if possible. Note that the sodium content of convenience foods is generally higher than fresh foods, so if you’re working to lower the sodium in your diet, we suggest sticking with the recipe plan. Notice that the serving size of some cereal bars and snack bars may be 1/2 of the bar.

  • Cereal bar such as NutriGrain (1/2 bar), Quaker (1/2) or Health Valley (1/2)
  • 8 Animal Crackers
  • 3 graham crackers, 2.5-inch square
  • 3 cups air popped popcorn
  • 1/4 bag "light" microwave popcorn
  • 15-20 (3/4 oz.) fat-free baked potato chips or baked tortilla chips
  • 3/4 oz. pretzels

These starchy foods count as a serving of starch plus one serving of fat

  • 1 biscuit (2 1/2 inches across)
  • 1 cup croutons
  • 1/4 cup regular granola
  • 1/3 cup of stuffing
  • 2 taco shells
  • 16-25 small French fried potatoes
  • 1/2 cup chow mein noodles