I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like. Anyone who knows me has heard me say that at least once, if not dozens of times (per year, that is).
I’m not saying that potatoes are the best vegetable in the world. Okay, yes I am. Look, potatoes are incredibly versatile. You can mash them, smash them, roast them, and fry them. Cut them into fancy hasselback potatoes and smother them in cheese, sour cream, and bacon. Shred them up and turn them into hash browns. The humble potato can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The possibilities are endless!
Can you tell I like potatoes?
Potatoes: An Important Staple Food
Taste and versatility aside, potatoes are also pretty important. These root vegetables have been a staple food for something like 10,000 years. They were first cultivated by the Inca in Peru around 8,000 BCE but didn’t make it to Europe until the 1500s.
It’s easy to see why they were a staple back then and have continued to be a staple to this day. Potatoes don’t spoil quickly, they’re extremely hearty and filling, and their nutritional value is unrivaled. On top of that, they grow in plenty of places, use less water, and don’t require large amounts of fertilizer.
Potatoes might also be more important in the future. That’s because they were the first vegetable grown in space! No, that wasn’t just made up for Matt Damon in The Martian. The technology was created for real, with the goal of feeding astronauts on long voyages – and, potentially, future space colonies!
Potatoes Are Actually Pretty Nutritious
Okay, let’s talk about nutritional value. Potatoes have gotten a bad rap in recent years from low-carb fanatics who are dropping potatoes from their diets in favor of cauliflower. (Hey, I love the versatile cauliflower, too, but we’re talking about potatoes today!) To be fair, potatoes are a carbohydrate-rich food. However, they are considered a healthy carb, thanks to their fiber content. And everything in moderation, right?
Potatoes provide a lot more than just carbohydrates, though. In fact, they contain just about every important vitamin and nutrient you need, except vitamins A and D! The humble potato contains more than a quarter of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C, making them an excellent source. They also contain more potassium than bananas. In addition, you’ll find protein, vitamin B6, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and folate, among other nutrients.
Of course, the health factor depends on the variety of potato and how they have been prepared. Frying potatoes will obviously add a lot more fat than, say, baking or boiling. Adding a ton of butter and sour cream will do the same. And a lot of the nutritional content of potatoes is found in the skin, so a peeled potato isn’t as healthy as one with the skin left on.
Clearly, this leaves favorites like french fries and mashed potatoes teetering into that less-healthy category.
But I, potato lover extraordinaire, am here to remedy this. I can’t live in a world without mashed potatoes, and no one else should have to, either. And no french fries? What’s the point?! So instead of ditching them altogether, we’re going to make them better for us.
First up: mashed potatoes. It’s the ultimate comfort food dish and probably one of the most common holiday sides. It is also one of the less healthy potato dishes when compared to other ways you can prepare the root vegetable. So what can we do to amp up the nutritional benefits of mashed potatoes?
For starters, don’t peel your potatoes before cooking them. Remember, that’s where a lot of a potato’s good stuff is at. I actually prefer to leave the skins, even when making mashed potatoes, because it adds an extra textural element. Just dice the potatoes before cooking, which both makes the potato skin pieces smaller and speeds up the cooking process. But even if you peel the potatoes after cooking, you’re at least letting some of those nutrients stick around.
Another way to make mashed potatoes a little more healthy? Cut back on the mix-ins. Especially when you order mashed potatoes in a restaurant, they’re usually loaded with salt, butter, sour cream, bacon, and heavy cream, among other things. They’re decadent and delicious but also not healthy. It’s okay to indulge sometimes, but it’s not good for anyone to eat like that all the time. Try a few ingredient swaps, like 1% milk instead of whole milk and low-fat sour cream or even Greek yogurt. Cut back on the amount of salt you use while boosting flavor with garlic, fresh herbs, and broth.
Healthier Mashed Potatoes Recipe
Mashed potatoes are definitely a favorite of mine, but they could use a bit of a healthy (ish) upgrade. As I mentioned, keeping the skins on your potatoes is already a great way to make mashed potatoes healthier without any additional changes. For this recipe, though, we are going to use nonfat Greek yogurt and 2% milk. You can even opt for broth instead of milk, too. Russet potatoes are usually the go-to for mashed potatoes, but I really like making these with yellow or red potatoes. Fresh rosemary and thyme will give your potatoes great flavor, but try throwing in some roasted garlic!
Check out the recipe here: Best Healthy Mashed Potatoes
French fries are wildly popular around the world. They are easy to eat, a great pairing with all kinds of dips and toppings, and they’re just plain delicious. Of course, they are fried (strike number one), most don’t include the potato skin (strike number two), and they are really salty (strike number three).
The obvious choice here is to choose fries that have been made without peeling the potatoes first. You might be able to find them frozen at the grocery store, but the best way to get ‘em is to cut your own! Don’t be intimidated. It is really not any harder than cutting any other vegetable. If you really want a shortcut, you might even be able to cut wedges with an apple cutter.
When you cook your fries, baked is the way to go. Whether you toss them in the oven or an air fryer, it will be infinitely healthier than frying them in hot oil.
And again, just like with those mashed potatoes we talked about, you have to pay attention to seasoning. For fries, the main concern is usually heavy salt. Try seasoning your fries with garlic, pepper, and any other herbs you like. It adds flavor without the added sodium.
Recipe for Homemade Baked French Fries
Just like with our other healthier recipes, we’re not going to peel the potatoes before using them to make french fries. It’s going to make your fries more nutritious, and in my opinion, it adds to the texture and flavor of the fries. Skip the salt if you want lower sodium, and experiment with any alternate seasonings you like. The recipe is for baking fries in the oven, but you can also stick them in the air fryer just as well. And if you’re unsure of how to cut fries, the recipe even includes a step-by-step on getting those perfect shapes.
Check out the recipe here: Healthy Oven Baked French Fries
Oh, potato chips. Nothing matches that satisfying crunch you get from them. Unfortunately, that crunch doesn’t come with a lot of nutritional value. Most store-bought varieties are loaded with saturated fats and sodium… and not much else. Even the low-fat varieties are still packing plenty of saturated fats and empty calories.
To get around that, we’re going to make our own potato chips! It’s the best way to control the seasonings, ensure there’s less saturated fat, and ditch those pesky preservatives and additives. And while we are doing our best to make them healthier, leave those potato skins on!
I know it seems a little intimidating to make your own potato chips, but it really only requires a handful of basic ingredients. To get those ultra-thin slices, an inexpensive mandoline slicer will be your best friend. And you don’t even have to fry them in hot oil; you’re just going to toss them in the oven.
Simple Homemade Potato Chips Recipe
This recipe for homemade potato chips is a super easy one. So easy, in fact, you might wonder why you’ve never tried making your own potato chips before! You can definitely slice the potatoes with a knife, but a mandoline slicer will make it easy for anyone who doesn’t have chef-level knife skills. The mandoline will make sure your chips are all the same thickness. The recipe calls for russet potatoes, but other starchy potato varieties can also work if you want to try another kind.
Check out the recipe here: Crispy Homemade Baked Potato Chips