Potatoes not as fattening as often believed

October 21, 1997|By Lynn F. Little

Something good that's good for you - the potato. The potato is everybody's favorite vegetable with such a satisfying taste, it's no wonder people think it's fattening. Though considered a starchy vegetable, potatoes are not as fattening as most people think. In fact, a medium-sized potato provides the same number of calories as a medium-sized apple, a small roll or one-half cup of rice. What makes our potato dishes fattening is the "stuff" we dress the potato with. For example, a tablespoon of butter or margarine, or a quarter-cup of cheese or cream sauce, doubles the calorie content of the medium-sized potato.

Preparation also can influence the number of calories per serving. A medium-sized baked or boiled potato contains about 100 calories. Frying the potato as hash browns or French fries will more than double the caloric value.

The potato is a rich source of several essential nutrients. Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, providing between one-third and one-half the Recommended Daily Allowance per serving. Potatoes also are a significant source of thiamin, niacin and iron.


When buying potatoes, look for ones that are well-shaped, firm and free from rot, cracks, sunburn or other damage. Mature potatoes have thick, dry skins and are good for most purposes, depending on the shape. Immature or new potatoes have thin, feathery skins and do not keep well at room temperature. They are better for boiling or creaming. Avoid new potatoes with large blemishes and discolored areas. Don't buy badly sprouted or shriveled potatoes.

Potatoes that have a green color have been exposed to sun or artificial light. Sometimes only the skin is affected, but "greening" can penetrate the flesh, causing a bitter flavor. This greening is an indication of the possible presence of an alkaloid called solanine. Large amounts of solanine can cause illness, so it's best to peel away any green areas. Since greening can occur as potatoes sit in the store, return bags of potatoes with excessive greening. Once home, store your potatoes in a cool, dry, dark area to slow further greening.

Some preparation tips for potatoes include:

* Gently scrub potatoes with a vegetable brush or cellulose sponge to clean.

* Leaving skin on potatoes during cooking is an excellent way to conserve their nutrients.

* If potatoes are peeled before cooking, use a vegetable parer (keeping peelings as thin as possible), since some of the potato's nutrients are found close to the skin.

* Potatoes retain nutrients better if cooked whole; however, they may be halved, sliced or diced before cooking if shorter cooking time is desired.

* Peeled potatoes turn dark if not cooked right away. To protect their whiteness, toss them with ascorbic acid mixture or a little lemon juice. Prolonged soaking potatoes in cold water is not recommended, as it can result in some vitamin loss.

* Enjoy your favorite "plain" potato baked, mashed, boiled or French-fried. If you are looking for something a little out of the ordinary, try one of these satisfying recipes.

Greek stuffed potato

1 large potato, baked

1/2 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed thoroughly dry

1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled

2 teaspoons Parmesan cheese

Dash ground black pepper

Cut a crosswise slit in the top of the potato. Carefully pull back skin and scoop out meat of potato into a small bowl. Add spinach, cheeses and pepper; mix to combine. Fill potato with mixture and bake 10 minutes. Serves 1.

A serving contains 290 calories, 15 grams protein, 8 grams fat, 45 grams carbohydrates and 500 milligrams sodium.

Slim spud slices

1 medium potato, scrubbed

1 teaspoon butter or margarine, melted

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed

1/8 teaspoon salt

Dash ground black pepper

Cut potato into 1/4-inch-thick lengthwise slices. In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Brush potato slices on both sides. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake in 400-degree oven for 15 minutes; turn and bake 10 minutes longer, or until tender. Serves 1.

A serving contains 160 calories, 4 grams protein, 4 grams fat, 29 grams carbohydrate and 330 milligrams sodium.


Carrot-potato casserole

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 medium onion, peeled and sliced

4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced

1 10 3/4-ounce can condensed cream of potato soup

In a nonstick, 8-inch square baking pan, layer potatoes, then onions, then carrots. Combine soup with one soup can of water. Pour over vegetables. Bake, covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes; uncover and bake 30 minutes more or until vegetables are tender.

Maryland Cooperative Extension Service's programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

Lynn F. Little is an extension educator, family and consumer sciences for University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service. Write in care of The Herald-Mail Co., P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, Md. 21741.

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