By Janelle Sanchez, RD, clinical dietitian at CHOC
Whether they are mashed, roasted, baked, or served as pancakes, hash browns, or scalloped, potatoes are a delicious comfort food perfect for this winter season! Today the potato is produced in more than 100 countries and is the fourth largest food crop worldwide, following wheat, corn, and rice.
With more than 4,000 potato varieties, the debate continues as to which is the best.
Russets are classically used for baking, french fries, hash browns, mashed potatoes, and potato pancakes because of their ability to hold together. Waxy potato varieties are best for making chowder, potato salad, and scalloped potatoes. Learn more about cooking with different varieties.
You may be asking, “Are potatoes healthy?” Of course they are! Let’s take a look at their composition:
- Carbohydrates– Despite the common misconception that carbohydrates make you gain weight, we know a balanced diet without excessive intake of any food or food group is healthy. That being said, potatoes are primarily composed of carbohydrate, your body’s most important source of energy.
- Potassium– Potatoes with skin are packed with potassium, an essential element your body needs. Diets high in potassium may reduce the risk of hypertension and stroke.
- Vitamin C– This is important for healthy skin and gums, and may also help support the body’s immune system.
- Vitamin B6 –Some of the functions in this extremely versatile vitamin include converting food into glucose to be used for energy, maintaining normal nerve function, and contributing to protein metabolism.
- Antioxidants Substances like carotenoids and anthocyanins help prevent the damaging effects of oxidation on cells throughout your body. It is best to include an assortment of colors and kinds of potatoes in your diet, as the amount and types of antioxidants are dependent on the potato variety.
- Calories vary depending on the potato variety. For example a large russet potato provides about 300 calories, versus a large sweet potato at 160 calories.
There are a few ways to create a health-conscious potato dish. Choose to bake instead of fry those sweet potato fries, french fries and tater tots. Brush potatoes with a little olive oil and seasonings or herbs to flavor instead of butter. When picking out toppings or additives, select low-fat or nonfat dairy products including cheese, sour cream, cream cheese.
Try these tasty recipes for a healthy way to incorporate potatoes into your family’s diet.
Out with the French Fries, in with the Oven Fries:
- 2 large Yukon Gold Potatoes, cut into wedges
- 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil (just enough to lightly coat)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Toss potato wedges with oil, salt and thyme (if using). Spread the wedges out on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Bake until browned and tender, turning once, about 20 minutes total.
Recipe makes servings. Per serving: 102 calories; 5 g fat (1 g sat, 4 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 2 g protein; 1 g fiber; 291 mg sodium; 405 mg potassium.
Warm up with a bowl of Healthy Potato and Vegetable Soup:
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 ounces pancetta, chopped
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups cubed peeled acorn squash
- 2 cups diced peeled red potato
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1/2 cup chopped carrot
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
- 2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
- 4 cups chopped kale
- 1 (15.5-ounce) can navy beans or other small white beans, rinsed and drained
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; sauté 3 minutes. Add onion and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Add squash and next 6 ingredients (squash through thyme), stirring to combine; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes; cook 2 minutes. Stir in broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes. Add kale; simmer 5 minutes. Add beans; simmer 4 minutes or until potato and kale are tender.
Recipe makes 4 servings. Per serving: 349 calories; 10.4 g fat (3.3 g sat, 4.6 g mono, 1.4 g poly); 10 mg cholesterol; 55 g carbohydrates; 14.4 g protein; 10.5 g fiber; 405 mg potassium