I have been told that potatoes get a bad rep from dietitians and have been brainstorming why that may be. Nutritionally, potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) classifies them as a starchy vegetable. So, what does that mean? In extremely simple terms, it’s a vegetable that is comparable to a grain in it’s carbohydrate and caloric content, but has the nutrition and is biologically speaking more like a vegetable.
Try this quiz: True or False
- “Potatoes make you fat.” False. Potatoes are fat free. Eating anything in excess will make one gain weight. Potatoes may contain fat, but only by means of preparation.
- “Potatoes are high in carbohydrates.” First you need to define “high.” Potatoes do contain more carbohydrates than non-starchy vegetables, such as lettuce or zucchini. What it really comes down to is portion size. The USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory lists a medium (2 ¼ – 3 ¼ inch potato, roughly the size of a computer mouse) raw potato (flesh and skin) as 169 calories, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 4.7 grams fiber and 0 grams fat, which translates into a good source of fiber, fat free and about the same amount of carbohydrates in 2 slices of bread.
- Potatoes can be part of a healthful diet. True. As with most whole foods (i.e. foods that come from nature and not the lab) it comes down portion sizes and preparation.
Chew on this:
- Preparation: Try baking, steaming or boiling potatoes as they require no fat to cook. Be aware of the amount of oil used when roasting potatoes.
- Add in’s and on’s: Be aware of the amount of cheese, bacon, sour cream, butter, etc that you mix in or put on your potato.
- Skin: Potato skin (no, not the potatoes skins that are fried and loaded with cheese, bacon and sour cream) contains most of the fiber and potassium in the potato and much of the vitamin C is located in the flesh under the skin.
- Serving Size: ½ cup cooked potato (size of a tennis ball) or ½ medium potato is considered 1 serving.
- Consume the potato with the skin.
- Substitute low-fat Greek or plain yogurt for sour cream or mayonnaise. This will boost protein and calcium and decrease saturated fat.
- Be aware of portion sizes.
- Add flavor without fat by using herbs, such as dill, chives, parsley, rosemary or tarragon.
- Top baked or boiled potato with salsa (especially fresh salsa) for extra kick!