Pass me the potatoes, please

March 10, 2021

By: Abi Gottshall, MS, RDN, LD 

In a world of conflicting health information, potatoes have become a food that are feared and avoided by many. Individuals with diabetes often remove potatoes from their diet after receiving the common medical advice “avoid anything white”, a color synonymous with many starchy foods.  Others might avoid potatoes due to being on a low carbohydrate or ketogenic diet in an effort to lose weight. Potatoes contain a variety of nutrients and can fit into a healthful meal with the right preparation. 


Potatoes are the most heavily consumed vegetable in the United States; the USDA found the average Americans consumed 49 pounds of potatoes in 2019, predominantly in the form of French fries [3]. Commercially prepared French fries and hash browns often have added fats and salt, making them a less optimal choice for those who are looking to limit calories. Although potatoes are often thought to be a food that contributes to weight gain, the preparation is what contributes to excessive calories. Focusing on portion control is a useful skill for weight management. Those who are not physically active may not need large portions of carbohydrates. Potatoes should replace other starches, such as corn, peas, or dinner rolls, at a meal.  


According to the USDA’s Food Database, one small Russet baked potato (roughly 5 ounces), with the skin, contains 30 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, and is a good source of potassium, Vitamin C, and manganese [1]. In addition, potatoes contain a small amount of magnesium and phosphorus; minerals necessary in the human body [1]. Potatoes are one of the few foods, alongside apricots, lentils, and squash, that provide a large amount of the recommended daily intake of potassium [2]. Potassium can help lower high blood pressure and decrease risk of developing certain types of kidney stones [2]. Instead of peeling potatoes, leave the skin and scrub them well to preserve the fiber and minerals.  Pair potatoes with a lean protein and a side of broccoli or other non-starchy vegetable for a balanced meal. Consult with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to discuss how to incorporate potatoes into your meal plan. Visit eatright.org to find a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in your area. 


Here are some ways to healthfully incorporate potatoes into your diet: 

  • Cut potatoes into small chunks, coat with a tablespoon of olive oil, add some herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and oregano, and bake at 400 degrees until crispy.  Pair with a chicken breast or salmon fillet and a low-starch vegetable (think broccoli, cauliflower, or yellow squash) for a balanced meal.
  • Recreate potato skin appetizers from a restaurant by cutting your potatoes into wedges and baking until crispy.  Add chopped chives, a sprinkle of reduced-fat cheddar cheese, and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt for a protein boost.
  • Turn a baked potato into a full meal by topping it with bean chili, broccoli, and reduced-fat sour cream. 



References: 
[1] FoodData central search results. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170030/nutrients   [2] Potassium. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Potassium-HealthProfessional/ 

[3] Potatoes and tomatoes are the most commonly consumed vegetables. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2021, from  https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/chart-gallery/gallery/chartdetail/?chartld=58340