When it comes to healthy eating, it’s hard to know where potatoes fit in. Many people, nutrition experts included, think you should avoid them if you want to stay slim. They’re high on the glycemic index (GI), which means they’re digested quickly, so you may feel hungry shortly after eating them. But potatoes are rich in fiber, vitamin C, and potassium—and a medium spud has just 110 calories. What everyone agrees on: Potatoes are one of our favorite comfort foods—each of us eats 130 pounds of them per year! Fortunately, potatoes (fries and chips excluded; sorry) can make a satisfying snack or side dish. The trick is to eat them in moderation and prepare them in a healthy way. Try these four tips for turning potatoes into diet-friendly food.
> Watch your toppings One of the main reasons potatoes are considered fattening is that we load them up with cheese, sour cream, butter, and gravy (just a tablespoon of butter adds 100 calories to your spud). Some lower-calorie toppings include a few squirts of lemon juice, salsa, chopped vegetables, or beans. If you need a little creaminess, use buttermilk or a sprinkling of shredded sharp cheddar or Parmesan.
> Build a better baked potato Baking potatoes rank higher on the GI than red potatoes, fingerlings, and creamers. But that doesn’t mean you should cut them out of your diet; just choose smaller ones and use one of the toppings listed above. Or try this lower-calorie take on the barfood favorite, potato skins: Scoop out a baked russet potato, leaving about a half-inch rim (save the potato insides for a simple soup; see below). Fill with leftover cooked vegetables and top with a little cheese and paprika; broil until the cheese melts.
> Make your spud “souper” Blending potatoes with other vegetables can up their nutritional impact. This soup makes a quick lunch for one: Place the insides from a baked russet potato in a blender with enough vegetable broth to cover. (Don’t use other types of potatoes; they’ll turn gluey.) Add 1 cup cooked chopped spinach or broccoli and purée until smooth (add more broth as needed), then heat on the stove or in the microwave. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and minced chives. You can also mash the insides from two russets and use them to make my potato-broccoli cakes (find the recipe at shape.com/healthykitchen).
> Reinvent the chip Instead of ripping open a bag of potato chips, snack on four roasted fingerlings. Preheat the oven to 450°F and line a baking sheet with foil. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Lightly coat the foil with olive oil, then place potatoes on it, cut side down. Roast for five to 10 minutes, or until golden and fork-tender; top with a little sea salt. The high temperature will give the potatoes a fantastic flavor and crisp surface.