I witnessed something tragic happening in the checkout lane in the grocery store. A cart filled with two types of food, cat food and human food. Fancy Feast, advertised to be gourmet, high-end, food for cats, and snack cakes and chips, not so fancy and not so gourmet for the humans. The pets in this household were eating what seemed to be much more nourishing food than the humans. While this may sound absurd, in many cases we take care of others (including pets) much better than we do ourselves. Yet, I understand the dilemma, budgets, flashy, colorful, end-of-the-aisle bargains, wanting to buy foods to make our families happy. So when it comes to finding the most nourishing food for our kitchens, it can be hard.
Try this: Which would you choose? A 10 pound sack of food that will nourish your family for 4-5 meals, providing them with vitamin C, fiber and potassium for about 50 cents a meal OR a 15-ounce snack sack that’s bound to be eaten within several hours of opening, likely only to be filled with calories for $4.00.
Any guesses on what food I am referring to here?
Something nourishing. something that belongs as a staple in our kitchens and in meals on the table. Something that is inexpensive yet so nourishing, versatile and nutritious.
The humble potato.
Mashed, scalloped, au gratin, hash browns, roasted or even cheesy potatoes. Potatoes in soup, potatoes in stew. Baked potatoes. While potatoes are one of those controversial vegetables that we tend to wonder about, there’s a lot of good in the humble potato. And when I’ve counseled clients with high blood pressure (or those that want to prevent it), I definitely recommend to keep them in the kitchen for one reason: potassium.
Potassium is one of those little known nutrients that actually benefit blood pressure, just as the DASH diet has proven, and you find it mostly in fruits and vegetables, like potatoes. (You can also find potassium in dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt.)
But what about the carbs and calories in potatoes?
Potatoes are a pretty low in calories – 110 per medium-size potato. And while carbs are found in the potato, (15 grams per 1/2 cup), it doesn’t mean they need to be avoided. I’ve tackled this concept with my clients with diabetes, as it’s more important to keep the amount of carbs steady at meals rather than avoid carbs altogether.
The most nourishing foods come with a package of nutrients, and that’s precisely the potato. The potato nutrient package includes fiber (when skin is eaten), vitamin C and potassium. (And many of the nutrients are just below the skin so leaving the peel on is a good idea.)
One of my favorite ways to serve potatoes is “bar” style. Baked potato bars or mashed potato bars are super fun and everyone loves the simplicity of adding what toppings they want to their potato.
Fun in three easy steps: Cook the potatoes, put out the toppings and serve the potatoes (bonus points for serving mashed potatoes in a fun martini glass and calling it a mashed potato martini bar!) !
Here’s the scoop on cooking up potatoes, thanks to www.potatogoodness.com.
Baking a potato: With a fork, pierce skin of four medium (5 to 6-ounce) potatoes in several places. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven 40 to 50 minutes, or until tender when tested with fork. The skin will be crispy and the pulp dry and fluffy.
Microwave cooking instructions for baked potatoes: If you need to get dinner on the table in minutes, try baking potatoes in the microwave. Cut a wedge (1/8-inch wide and 1/2-inch deep) out of four medium (5 to 6-ounce) potatoes. This is done so the steam can fully escape from the potato, resulting in a dry and fluffy pulp. Place potatoes in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave on HIGH, uncovered, for 10 to 12 minutes depending on strength of microwave. Use oven mitts to remove dish from microwave.
How to Make Perfect Mashed Potatoes: Leave skin on (my preference) or peel three medium (5 to 6-ounce) potatoes. Cut into 1-inch chunks. Place potato pieces in medium pot and pour over enough water (or reduced sodium broth) to cover. Set pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Boil 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain, then shake potatoes over low heat for 1 minute to dry. Mash with potato masher or fork.
Microwave cooking instructions for mashed potatoes: Place four medium (5 to 6-ounce) whole potatoes (do not poke) into microwave-safe dish. Cover dish. (If covering dish with plastic wrap, poke small hole in plastic.) Microwave on HIGH for 10 to 12 minutes depending on strength of microwave. Use oven mitts to remove dish from microwave; carefully remove cover and mash well. Making mashed potatoes in the microwave not only saves a little time and mess, potatoes actually are more moist!
The mix-ins and the toppings can be nourishing too:
- Light buttery-spreads or a small amount of light butter
- Fresh spinach, salsa, low-fat sour cream or plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- Low-fat Cheddar or sautéed onions,
- Carrots and zucchini (cooked, of course)
- Broccoli, reduced-sodium ham and cheddar cheese
- Taco meat, salsa, plain, non-fat Greek yogurt and cilantro
- Marinara sauce with parmesan cheese
- Roasted/grilled vegetables with fresh herbs
- Replacing the butter in traditional mashed potatoes with a little olive oil, yogurt, broth or even extra-flavorful, fat-free ingredients such as wasabi, chile paste or salsa
Do you want to know what other nourishing foods should be in your kitchen? Are you thinking 2016 is the time to simplify and do better in the meal department? Meal planning for health doesn’t have to hard or complicated. I can help, contact me to schedule a Healthy Kitchen Makeover today! Just two hours to a more nourishing kitchen and a more nourishing life.
Let me know what your favorite way to prepare potatoes is by sharing in the comments!