Potatoes: This Humble Spud Is Not Your Guiltiest Pleasure — Here’s Why

Tubers have a lot more than comfort to bring

Baked potato

Do you love potatoes? They often represent guilty pleasures, golden and oil-kissed. We see them crispy, crunchy, delectably salty, or sitting in their own skin under a creamy mess of sour cream, bacon and chives.

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If you do this to a potato — fry it or add unnecessary fats — it does more than add a lot of empty calories. You’re tipping the scales from naturally healthy to unnaturally unhealthy.

So let’s look deeper into the eyes of this humble spud. A naked potato (meaning baked with nothing on top) has a lot of good things to offer your body.

Many people don’t realize that these tasty tubers are 100 percent whole grain. Or that one medium-sized russet potato baked with skin offers:

  • 35 percent of your daily recommended vitamin C
  • 16 percent of your dietary fiber
  • 5 grams of protein
  • 50 percent of your daily vitamin B-6

How to set your potatoes free

Potatoes are often drowning in butter, cheese and fat, but they can stand on their own as a fat-free, nutritious vegetable.

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They are so accommodating to added flavors that you can experiment with toppings. Try salsa, hot peppers, a dab of ketchup, fat-free yogurt or other flavorful seasonings that don’t weigh your poor potato down.

Try these guilt-free recipes

These delicious potato and zucchini pancakes are topped with walnuts. They’ll break easily under your fork and satisfy your comfort-food cravings — yet they are tempered by healthier ingredients.

Recipe: Walnut Zucchini and Potato Pancakes

Stuff these baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese. They make an easy side dish or a light meal with a cup of soup. Use skim milk and light cheddar cheese to keep fats low without sacrificing flavor.

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Recipe: Low-Fat Broccoli and Cheese Baked Potatoes

Try this protein-packed vegetarian meal for days when you don’t have time to cook. Bake the potato in the microwave, serve with frozen steamed vegetables, and you will have a meal ready in 10 minutes or less.

Recipe: Loaded Baked Potato With Black Beans

These twice-baked potatoes are so delicious – don’t tell anyone that they are healthy. The trick is using low-fat cream cheese, skim milk, and cheddar with a dash or two of horseradish. Make ahead a day or two, and bake when ready.

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Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD

Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian and Outpatient Nutrition Manager in the Center for Human Nutrition.
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