Poor potatoes—they’re so misunderstood. People think that because taters are white in color and contain carbs that they’re an unhealthy food. But that just ain’t true!
First, let’s talk about this ‘avoiding white foods’ myth that seems to be everywhere. We always hear that we should ‘eat the rainbow,’ since a colorful plate ensures a variety of powerful vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But that doesn’t mean that white produce like mushrooms, cauliflower, onions, garlic,—and of course, potatoes—are any less valuable. These rather bland-looking foods still offer nutritional benefits, often including fiber and antioxidants, so the color white definitely has a place on the health spectrum (when it’s produce, not white bread).
Still don’t believe me? Hear me out—and then give yourself permission to go pick up some potatoes:
They’re not high in calories.
Though we seem to think of potatoes as being calorie bombs, your average white potato comes in around 165 calories. That puts the half a baked potato we all know and love at about 82 calories—not bad, right?
It’s often what we put on our taters that gets us into trouble. A couple tablespoons of butter, some bacon bits, and a big ‘ole dollop of sour cream can really rack up the calories. Instead, try using plain Greek yogurt, mustard, or horseradish instead of those fat-laden, nutritionally-lame condiments.
They won’t drive you into carb overload.
That 165-calorie potato contains 37 grams of carbs, 4 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber. The fiber in that tater will slow down your body’s absorption of the carbs, lessening its impact on your blood sugar and keeping you satisfied.
They’re more nutrient-packed than you think.
When it comes to potassium, we think of bananas as the gold standard. But it’s potatoes that actually deserve the glory. While a banana contains 422 milligrams of potassium, a medium baked potato (with the skin) packs 951 milligrams. Betchya didn’t know that one!
Plus, potatoes also provide vitamin C (perhaps the best-known antioxidant, which helps support healthy tissues and gums), vitamin B6 (which is important for a healthy nervous system), and magnesium (which helps supports your heart function and keeps your GI tract moving). And, fun fact: vitamin C enhances our absorption of iron, so having a side of potatoes with meat or poultry can help you get the most of that important mineral, which we need in order to produce a part of our blood cells, called hemoglobin.
They make for supreme post-workout eats.
Because of potatoes’ carb and potassium content, they make a great addition to your post-workout grub—especially if you’d rather have something savory instead of a sweet, sweet banana. Your body needs carbs to replenish the fuel you used up during exercise and to store energy for your next workout. And since you lose some potassium (which is key for heart, nerve, and muscle function) in your sweat, you’ll need to replace that through food, too.
We’re total potato-heads in my house! One of my favorite ways to eat spuds is tossed in with other veggies and then roasted. But I also love a classic baked potato topped with cottage cheese—not very colorful, I know, but pair it with a salad and you’ve got a powerhouse variety of valuable nutrients.
And in the spring and summer, this red, white, and blue potato salad is one of my go-to’s. Talk about a patriotic dish!
Red, White & Blue Potato Salad
- ½ pound each: red, white, and purple potatoes
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
- ¼ cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
- ¼ cup carrots, shredded
- ¼ cup light mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp pepper
Microwave the potatoes on high for nine to 11 minutes, or until tender. When cooled, cut potatoes into pieces and combine in a large bowl with the remaining ingredients. Toss gently to coat evenly. Serve warm or refrigerate for at least an hour to serve cold.
Per one 2/3 cup serving: 140 calories, 25g carbs, 3.5g fat, 3g protein, 2g fiber, 2g sugar.
Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Women’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.