First and foremost, it’s important to have a balanced meal – you want each meal to include a lean source of protein, a carbohydrate that contains fiber, plus veggies and/or fruit. You may have noticed that, in order to emphasize the importance of having a balanced meal, the “Food Guide Pyramid” was replaced with a picture of a balanced plate called “MyPlate” a few years ago (right).
Potatoes, like any other food, can be prepared healthfully or unhealthily. I’m sure I’m not bursting your bubble by telling you that french fries, or any kind of fried potatoes, are not a healthy option. In fact, at some fast food chains the french fries have more fat and calories in them than the burger. Frying doesn’t just add fat, it also removes the fiber.
However, when potatoes are prepared healthfully, they are an unsung hero. Many people believe they are just a starchy filler with empty calories. Not true. Potatoes are vegetables! They’ve got more nutrients in them than you think: one medium potato has more potassium than a banana, almost as much vitamin C as an orange, 15% of your daily fiber need, plus a small amount of B-vitamins, iron, magnesium and zinc. They also have antioxidants – cancer fighting chemicals found in many fruits and vegetables. Some of these nutrients are in the skin so be sure to leave the skin on.
And that’s not all – potatoes themselves are very low in calories; a medium potato has about 100 calories and no fat or cholesterol. That gives us some room to add calories during preparation, ie. olive oil for roasted potatoes, or vegetable oil spread and low fat sour cream on a baked potato. They also pair easily with tons of different spices that pack a powerful nutritional punch – garlic, onions, rosemary, thyme…I’m getting hungry.
So let’s say you plan to make a shift meal that includes a meat and a vegetable – and you need a carb to make it a balanced meal. A potato side dish does not only that, but it doubles the amount of veggies on your plate! And who doesn’t like tasty potato side dishes?
Speaking of, do you have a favorite, healthy way to prepare potatoes? Let us know in the comments below!
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