Beth Brink

Beth Brink

In perusing the complete list of national food days, it was discovered that February is National Potato Lover’s Month. Who knew?

Whether or not to eat potatoes is as controversial as how to pronounce them. Potatoes have many great health benefits. However, for many people, they should be eaten in moderation and baked or steamed with limited salt or fats added.

Potatoes are packed with nutrients. They contain vitamins C and B6, potassium, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, folate, niacin and protein, and they are a great source of fiber. To benefit from the fiber, eat the peel. Potatoes also contain antioxidants such as flavonoids, carotenoids and phenolic acids.

For people who are insulin-resistant, or insulin-dependent, it is important to know that potatoes have a high glycemic index. This means that they are quickly digested and absorbed and can spike blood glucose levels quickly. Baked potatoes tend to have a higher glycemic index than boiled potatoes because some of the starch is boiled out of the cooked potato.

For people who have to adhere to a low potassium diet, potatoes can be cut into small pieces and soaked in water. When preparing them, boil for at least 10 minutes to reduce the amount of potassium by half.

Here are a couple of options for a healthier potato side dish.

Crispy Rosemary Potatoes

  • 1 ½ lbs red potatoes, cut into ¾ inch chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the potatoes with the oil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Spread out evenly on a baking sheet. Roast until brown and crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, about 30 minutes.

Nutrition: per 1 serving (makes 4): 150 calories, 3.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 330 mg sodium

This recipe is versatile. You can use sweet potatoes or different spices such as cilantro or chili flakes.

Instead of french fries, try:

Parmesan Potato Wedges

  • 3 large russet potatoes
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut potatoes into wedges. Add to baking sheet and top with olive oil, garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper. Toss until fully coated, then flip skin side down. Top with Parmesan and bake until deeply golden and crispy, 25 to 27 minutes.

However you choose to do it, finding the healthiest way to prepare your potatoes, and eating them in moderation will allow you to celebrate a happy National Potato Lover’s Month.

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Beth Brink, MS, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a licensed dietitian with DeTar Healthcare System.

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