Meals on Wheels Nutrition Blog
Provided by Matt Sassee, Dietetic Intern, UT San Antonio
Spuds for your taste buds; Healthy Mashed Potatoes
Turkey, stuffing, ham, pie, green bean casserole; everyone has their favorite holiday food. For me, there’s no food I associate with this time of year more than rich, creamy mashed potatoes. Whether it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas, at Mom’s house, Grandma’s house, or the company holiday party, if mashed potatoes are there, they find their way on to my plate.
It seems potatoes in recent years have been vilified by the much of the health and nutrition community. “They are too high in carbs, their glycemic index is too high, they’re not a real vegetable” are just some of the claims that have been made about potatoes. To make mashed potatoes, people commonly add things like butter, cream and salt, all things that are widely regarded as unhealthy. All these things considered, mashed potatoes seem like an unhealthy food choice. However, if prepared correctly and eaten in moderation, mashed potatoes can be part of a healthy meal for almost anyone.
Potatoes are naturally good sources of nutrients like vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, iron, magnesium and fiber. Fiber and Potassium are some of the nutrients commonly lacking in the average American’s diet. Fiber has been proven to improve digestive health and potassium can lower blood pressure. Vitamin C can improve immune function and is a natural antioxidant. Iron, magnesium and vitamin B6 play important roles in blood, nerve, and brain function. You get all of these beneficial nutrients packed into just 163 calories in your average, medium sized potato.
Mashed potatoes are a different story. Often made with the skins removed, and with butter, salt and cream added, mashed potatoes will lose significant amounts of the beneficial nutrients while increasing fat and sodium to the dish. There are many alternative methods for mashed potato prep that can retain the beneficial nutrients, while minimizing the undesirable ones. For starters, keep the skins on the potatoes. The potato skin contains over 70% of the potato’s fiber and iron, and contributes around 30-40% of the spud’s vitamins B6 and C. Olive oil makes a great substitute for butter in mashed potato recipes and serves as a great source of healthy fats. Low fat or fat free dairy products such as sour cream, Greek yogurt, or buttermilk can be used as alternatives to heavy cream. Additionally, some recipes use chicken broth in place of butter and cream. Salt is often used to contribute much of the flavor to mashed potatoes, but it increases the overall sodium content. One way to lower sodium is by using a potassium based salt substitute, which will in turn increase potassium intake. Like traditional salt, however, the substitutes should be used in moderation. Things like garlic, onions and black pepper can add lots of flavor to foods without adding any salt to the dish, and each of these have several of their own health benefits. Herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme pair well with potatoes. Finally and perhaps most importantly, moderation is key, not only with mashed potatoes, but all of your other holiday foods as well. A serving of mashed potatoes should be about ½ cup, which is less than what you might dish up on your plate.
Eat those mashed potatoes and enjoy them. Try making them in new ways with healthier ingredients. Find what works for you and your taste buds and make it for your holiday feasts and any other time you get a craving for comfort foods. And as always, moderation now will lead to more chances to enjoy these foods for life.
Healthy Mashed Potatoes
Time: Approx. 30 minutes
4 medium potatoes
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ teaspoon rosemary, sage or thyme
1/8 teaspoons salt
1 Cup fat free plain Greek yogurt
Cut potatoes in half and place in a large pot with the garlic cloves. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low boil and cook until potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes)
Once tender, drain and mash potatoes and garlic with a potato masher, an electric beater or the back of a fork.
Stir in remaining ingredients and return to low heat until warm.