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  • Writer's pictureThe Dietitian

The Spuds

The potato is a wonderful vegetable. It can also be frowned upon as well given the way it is prepared. In the Midwest diet the potato is a staple food item, most of those growing up in the Midwest, particularly farming generations lived on a diet of “meat and potatoes”. My husband’s grandpa actually grew up on a potato farm in northern Minnesota, and to this day potatoes remain a staple in the family’s diet. Potatoes are also a staple in diets around the world. I had the pleasure of traveling to Peru in my younger days and the potato (of all varieties, shapes and colors) is a staple in the country (along with quinoa). We had potatoes in all forms with nearly every meal!

Potatoes can be a healthy part of most diets. Of course there are things to consider for certain folks with certain disease states. For diabetics, you do have to be careful of the potatoes high carbohydrate content. For those with heart disease you do need to be weary of fried potatoes or potatoes mashed in a tub of heavy cream and butter and for those with kidney issues requiring dialysis potatoes may need to be avoided altogether.

But prepared in the right way a potato can be a healthy contribution to the meal. Potatoes are a great source of potassium! An average potato has more potassium than a banana. They are also a great source of fiber, both inside and outside of the potato. Leaving the skin on does provide more nutrients though. Potatoes do contain the assortment of phytochemicals as found in other vegetables, as well as Vitamin C, making potatoes a good addition to the diet to help with inflammation. Potatoes also pack a small protein punch. A medium sized potato has about 3 grams protein (about the same amount as a 1/3 cup milk). In addition potatoes do contain smaller amounts of other nutrients including B vitamins, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Potatoes themselves are low in fat, do not have any saturated fat, cholesterol and minimal sodium (that is the plain potato, once you start cooking them that is a whole other story!)

Try these tips below for healthier ways to prepare potatoes!

-Bake or Boil them

-Try seasonings other than salt such as garlic, pepper, chili powder.

-Use olive oils instead of butter or use a butter/olive oil blend.

-For mashed potatoes, try using Greek yogurts in place of the heavy creams. Increasing the other seasons such as garlic powder can help to hide the tangy flavor the yogurt can add.

-Make your own potato chips, slicing them thin with a Mandolin and baking them with a little drizzle of olive oil.

-Hold the Mayo when making potato salad. Try a vinegar dressing instead and use more fresh ingredients such as dill or parsley.

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