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updated: 9/9/2013 10:23 AM

Potatoes: Delicious and, yes, also nutritious

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  • Potatoes get a bad rap for being fattening, but they're actually a nutritional powerhouse. These scalloped potatoes prove that, when prepared correctly, potatoes can be part of a healthy eating plan.

      Potatoes get a bad rap for being fattening, but they're actually a nutritional powerhouse. These scalloped potatoes prove that, when prepared correctly, potatoes can be part of a healthy eating plan.


Potatoes sometimes get a bad rap.

A favorite on American dinner plates, potatoes, which have been cultivated for 10,000 years, often get associated with weight gain. You can blame that reputation on the ever popular french fries cooked in fat and on low-carb diets that shun potatoes and other starchy foods.

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In fact, potatoes are a nutritional powerhouse. I bet you didn't know they're high in vitamin C and good source of potassium and fiber. A medium-sized potato (5.3 ounce) boasts 45 percent of your recommended daily value (27 milligrams) of vitamin C, 18 percent (620 mg) potassium and 8 percent (2 grams) of fiber. That same potato delivers 110 calories, 26 grams carbohydrates and zero fat, cholesterol and sodium. Plus, potatoes can increase your satiety levels -- and when you're watching your weight, feeling satisfied after eating is a good thing.

Studies have shown that eating boiled potatoes, for instance, curbs your appetite since you feel full both physiologically and psychologically. Still, keep in mind that the bottom line to weight loss lies not with a particular food, but with total calories consumed versus calories burned.

Potatoes are versatile when it comes to how they can be prepped (chopped, diced, julienne, sliced, cubed or whole), and how they can be served (hot or cold). There are also a wide variety of spuds that can change the look and texture of your favorite potato dish.

Here are the seven main types of potatoes and their best use in a recipe:

Russets are best for classic baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, french fries or chips.

Purple or blues add an unexpected burst of color with purple to lavender skin and flesh. These small potatoes can be tossed into salad or roasted for a side dish.

Reds are best used in soups or stews, as they stay firmer during cooking and absorb flavors. Reds also work well in a potato salad recipe.

Fingerlings are small and shaped like fingers. You can find this variety with red, orange, purple, yellow and white skins. Fingerlings also can be served as a side dish by roasting or pan frying or used in salads.

Yellows, which are most popular in Europe, have golden skin and flesh. This type works well for grilling, baking or roasting.

Whites, with a white flesh and white skin, provide perfect qualities for a delicious mashed potato. They have creamy texture and slightly sweet flavor.

Petites are small versions of the larger varieties of potatoes. These bite-sized, very flavorful potatoes also come in a variety of colors (red, white, yellow, brown or purple) and can be used for potato salad or roasted as a side dish.

Try this recipe: Keep in mind that potatoes can be fattening just as any food can be fattening depending on the preparation. These scalloped potatoes prove that you can include potatoes in a healthy eating plan.

• Toby Smithson, a registered dietitian, works for the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center and is a national spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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