Oh potatoes, I can't stay mad at you! No matter how many people want to badmouth you for your carbs, your habit of sopping up oil as French fries, your high ranking on the glycemic index (which measures how quickly different foods raise your blood sugar), I keep coming back.
And who can blame me? Despite peoples' knee-jerk reactions to this tasty tuber, it actually fits perfectly into a healthy eating plan. It offers plenty of immunity-boosting vitamin C, blood pressure-lowering potassium and fiber. And unless you're eating an absolutely plain potato all by itself, its GI value doesn't matter. (It's also worth noting that the glycemic index is an imperfect and controversial scale.) A high-GI potato becomes a low-GI meal if you simply add a little olive oil, because the added fat helps slow the absorption of the potato's carbohydrates.
The other thing I love about potatoes is how many ways there are to prepare them. Not sure what to make for dinner? Here are 5 easy ways to enjoy some smashing spuds.
1. Baked Potatoes-What could be easier than baking a potato? To bake a potato: scrub 1 medium russet potato per person and pierce in several places with a fork. Place the potatoes in the microwave and cook on Medium, turning once or twice, until soft, about 20 minutes. (Or use the "potato setting" on your microwave and cook according to the manufacturer's directions.) Alternatively, bake potatoes directly on the center rack in a 400°F oven until tender, 45 to 60 minutes. Baked potatoes are the perfect weeknight dinner and as long as you're not loading your tater up with high-calorie toppings, they're pretty healthy too. Try our Low-Cal Loaded Twice-Baked Potatoes and More Skinny Potato Recipes.
2. Mashed Potatoes-Although often made with tons of butter, cream and salt, mashed potatoes can be a relatively healthy addition to your meal if you know how to make them right. With the right recipes and healthy substitutes, like buttermilk, you can forgo all that butter and cream and make a side that's still delicious. Try these delectable, comforting Bacon Mashed Potatoes and More Healthy Mashed Potato Recipes.
3. Scalloped Potatoes-Scalloped potatoes (AKA "potatoes gratin") look like a dish that just has to be bad for you: take thin-sliced potatoes, smother them in a heavy cream sauce and then top with crispy buttered breadcrumbs. Yum! But also: yikes! Still, it's possible to make this comfort-food favorite without wrecking your diet. For our healthier version of scalloped potatoes, we cut 160 calories and 12 grams of saturated fat compared to traditional recipes by making a lighter cream sauce and choosing cooking techniques that maximize flavor but don't add extra calories. Try our lighter recipe for Scalloped Potatoes and learn how to replicate our three tricks for making them healthier.
4. Oven-Fried Potatoes-Next time you have a craving for French fries, don't hit the drive-thru at McDonald's, just head to your kitchen. Oven "fries" are an easy way to get the delicious, crispy taste of deep-fried potatoes without all the grease. Here's what you do: toss potatoes (or sweet potatoes!) cut in thin wedges in olive or canola oil and then roast them in the oven at 450°. The results are great: crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. And the nutrition savings are through the roof: a healthy serving of our Oven "Fries" has less than half the calories of a small serving of McDonald's French fries. Get the recipe: Oven "Fries" and More Low-Fat Potato Recipes.
5. Roasted Potatoes-Few things seem as comforting to me as roasted potatoes. They're great on their own but even better as part of a mélange of veggies. Try mixing different varieties-waxy fingerlings and thin-skinned baby reds-with carrots, sweet potatoes and chunks of onion. Since the skin stays on, you get a good dose of fiber when you cook this way. Want to give it a try? Try our recipe for Roasted New Potatoes & Green Beans and More Healthy Ideas for Potatoes.
What's your favorite way to cook potatoes?
Matthew Thompson is the associate food editor for EatingWell Magazine.
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