Is it true that vegetables are a “free food” and don’t need to be tracked?

Do I count vegetables in my macros or are they free calories?

Out of the 200 emails, we get every day, this question is asked probably 5 times. Having helped over 16k clients lose weight, I can’t even count the number of times this fat burning question comes up.

It’s a great question and the answer is a complicated one but can be summed up by answering a simple question. What do you do with the vegetables, are the truly a free food?

Do you dress them up in little astronaut suits then parade them around pretending they are little space aliens looking for a new planet to occupy or do you eat them? If you eat your vegetables, then the answer is simply yes, you should count them in your daily macros.

Intrigued? Read on friend. Read on.

Should You Track Vegetables And Fruit With IIFYM?

You’ve already received your macros from our Macro Calculator and you’ve probably heard that you really can’t get enough vegetables while on a weight loss program. Fruit and veggies are full of vitamins and minerals, rich in antioxidants, loaded with fiber, and contain hardly any calories. Plus, they can be eaten and prepared in so many different ways, there’s really no reason to ever get bored of them. What’s not to love? This is where so many get the idea they can be a “free food”.




On the fruit side of things, these foods are also full of antioxidants and many deemed ‘superfoods’ because of their sky-high nutritional profile. They do contain natural fruit sugars, but since Mother Nature created these, they are generally much more acceptable to eat in the eyes of the general population (and the sugar damning media).

But this still leaves the question; Do I count vegetables towards my weight loss macros?

The answer, most often, is a resounding yes, you should count your vegetables when following a weight loss program. Just because fruit and veggies can be great for your health, doesn’t mean they cannot wreck your fat loss diet!

This is one of the biggest things we try to get our clients to understand. Health food (or healthy food) still has calories, and calories add up, and can most certainly cause weight gain. This is why it is uber important that you log every single thing you eat every day. Vegetables included! Stop the “free food” madness!

As with everything related to IIFYM and your diet plan, the key is first knowing how many daily calories your body requires to function (your TDEE). Then subtracting the right amount of calories from that number to create your fat loss deficit. This is one of the MANY strategies we do for our clients that follow our Custom Macro Blueprint. Those that follow our simple instructions not only lose weight and burn fat at an alarming rate, but they do so while eating the foods they love and don’t even feel like they on a diet plan!

Here’s what you need to know about IIFYM, macros & tracking vegetables for weight loss

Precise macro tracking is key to sustainable weight loss results!

So if you are just using the IIFYM diet plan to get healthier and to ensure that you are eating the right balance of foods, you may not need to be too strict with yourself and track every single vegetable that passes your lips. If you happen to eat two cups of spinach and estimate it at only one cup, no big deal. This will only be a couple calories out.

But, if you are hoping to see maximum results and truly want to take your diet to the limit, you must track everything. It’s perfectly possible for people to eat 100-200 calories per day full of vegetables if they have a hearty appetite and really enjoy these types of foods. Which is why the idea of “free food” can be detrimental to your weight loss progress.

If you aren’t accounting for the veggies you eat, at the end of the week, you may not see your desired rate of weight loss achieved and this could largely be why. The more accurate you are with your tracking, the more you can guarantee that you see the weight loss results you’re looking for. We see this time and time again with our clients. Those that are accurate with tracking, burn the most fat in the least amount of time.

Too Much Fiber, Can Cause Problems

Another big reason you may want to focus on tracking your fruits and vegetables is due to them being a high-fiber food. Which is great… in moderation.

If you take your fiber intake from say 10 grams per day all the way up to 30 or more, you can rest assured it’s going to cause some stomach related issues. You’ll feel bloated, uncomfortable, and maybe even suffer a cause of serious diarrhea.

What you need to do is increase your fiber intake in a slow and steady fashion. If you are tracking your macros, this is going to be that much easier to do.

You’ll also be more aware of how quickly it will add up and which fruits and vegetables are the highest in total fiber content. This can be helpful for both keeping your fiber intake in check while also helping you learn how to boost your fiber should you need to into the future.


iifym fiber macro


Fruit Sugar Still Impacts Blood Glucose

Another reason to track especially your fruits due to the sugar found in fruit which will still influence your blood glucose levels. Some people mistakenly believe that because all fruit is natural, it’s perfectly fine to eat in abundance.

While you should be taking in some fruit on a daily basis unless you are on a very strict low-carb diet plan, the fact is that sugar is sugar and if you eat too much of it, it can still cause a problem.

Especially if you are someone who is suffering from diabetes or who is concerned about the condition, you’ll want to be watching your fruit intake closely.

Managing sugar is key to diabetes, so fruit sugars must be monitored very closely and tracked super accurately. Another very important consideration we have to be mindful of when working with our clients.

Diabetes is no joke and can be deadly! With the right coach to help you navigate your IIFYM diet plan, you will have a much better go at dieting for fat loss.

Likewise, different fruits do have varying sugar contents themselves so by tracking this in your planner as you use your IIFYM diet plan, you can come to learn which fruits are the best to keep your overall sugar intake in check.

If you aren’t tracking, you may never know this information unless you decide to do the research on the fruits themselves.

How To Track Macros and Vegetables for Weight Loss

So now that you know why you should be tracking your fruits and vegetables with your diet plan, the next question that may come up is how to track them properly.

You may have heard some people say that since they contain so much dietary fiber, you don’t track them like you would other carbohydrates. That 10 grams of carbs from broccoli say is much different than 10 grams of carbs from brown rice.


Track veggies macros


The answer to this is that it is and it isn’t. What you need to remember is that the calories in fiber are not fully absorbed like calories in non-fiber carbs.

Generally speaking, you can account for about 2 calories per gram of fiber, rather than the 4 calories you get from a typical gram of carbs.

In essence, if you really wanted to get precise about it, what you would need to do if you were tracking this way is account for the fiber carbs separately from the regular carbs, another service we offer our clients that follow our Custom Macro Blueprint.

For instance, if your serving of vegetables in question had 10 grams of carbs and 6 of those were fiber, this essentially means that the fiber carbs would account for about 3 grams of carbs (since there are 4 calories per gram and fiber only has 2) and then you have the remaining 4 grams of carbs left over. This means that serving of vegetables would be counted as 7 grams of carbs towards your daily total.

Now, this is quite complicated and few people need to take it to this extreme. Instead, just count the carbs and call it a day. Any extra boost you get from having those fiber carbs in there will just help keep you leaner in the long run.

Still confused? Click here to hire an IIFYM Coach to design a Custom Macro Blueprint for you.

I can pretty much sum up this entire article in one short blurb:
There are only 3 reasons not to count vegetables:

1. You don’t eat any
2. You want an excuse to eat as much as you of something and hope there is no consequence.
3. You don’t care about being accurate with your food tracking.

End of story!

get your free

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  • gab

    i know that i have to count them, but in witch category? carb and fibres?

    • Just log them at and it will put them in the right category for you

  • Ahmed Gobah

    Is eating a lot of egg whites bad for you??

  • Ree

    The sarcastic admin person seems to think everyone has an iPhone

    • Marisa

      If you have any type of smart phone you can get myfitnesspal and he said meaning the website not the app for those people without a smartphone. You can keep track of what you eat in a notebook and transfer it to at the end of the day if you want.

  • nicole

    I love the responds to this question.

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  • Carolyn Embry

    This response alone makes me want to commit to this program.

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  • “Do you dress them up in little astronaut suits then parade them around pretending they are little space aliens looking for a new planet to occupy, or do you eat them?” lol dying

  • MJ

    I did get a chuckle; all true and to the point.

    One thing I do notice; which I’ve found in several IIFYM groups, is that the presentation, or maybe the responses to “stupid questions” are usually sarcastic and rude. I realize this happens on any topic; but for this one in particular; I find myself reminding those who preach & educate, to remember that we are teaching people who have been brain washed all of their lives by several, OK, thousands of fad diets, and popular weightloss plans such as Atkins, Weight Watchers, SFL…etc…which all have their own weightloss equations and all contradict the most simple form of weightloss. Most people, have tried several of these diets; and we can garuntee that, it’s harder to find the simple truth on long term weightloss than it is to have someone break it down to you in a few words; which could ultimately change their prospective forever, for the better. The majority have never known weightloss to be this simple; including all aspects of what we eat, how much and the simple math involved. I can’t speak for everyone, but I will say this, when you are asking “stupid” “repetitive” questions that everyone asks, are you going to learn best from sarcasm or a helpful informative responses? There will always be people asking the same questions; there is no way around it; be patient and remember, people who are asking questions really need your advice, and they could really use your support and insight.

  • Veronica Gamble

    I do count all the vegetables that go on my plate, but when I eat a raw, crunchy plant as a snack, rather than delving into the biscuits/chocolates/etc.. then you bet it’s FREE 🙂

  • Dany

    I lost 130lbs by not counting green vegetables in my calorie log. This is because I used to hate vegetables, and I thought it best to leave them as a free food so I’d eat more of them when I was hungry (since they were the one thing I didn’t have to count). I’d have something healthy to ‘fall back on’ if my appetite was raging when my daily limit was filling up.

    It worked. I lost the weight, and now I eat vegetables all the time because I developed a huge taste for them. Broccoli and spinach are two particular favourites. I am prone to eating so many, I have to count them now! I can easily put away 100s of calories worth of broccoli in a day, hah.

    I think if you’re overweight and don’t like vegetables, it’s good to leave them as a free food – you might do the same as me, end up eating more when you get hungry since you don’t have to count them, and develop a taste for them. Just the green ones perhaps, as they tend to not be calorie dense and wont damage a deficit too much if you’re not likely to eat many – at first.

    Not so much fruit! Very calorie dense, could easily wipe out a deficit with those (and more) leaving them ‘free’.

  • Dragon 9

    What do I do if I am hungry then?