Choosing carbs wisely: Energy without the bloat
Cooling temperatures call for nurturing vegetables: warm, soothing and easy to indulge in.
But if mashed potatoes are your go-to comfort food, you’re missing out. You could be getting more healthful antioxidants, more dietary fiber and more robust flavor if you make some simple changes, say health and nutrition experts.
Your goal shouldn’t be to eliminate carbohydrates from your diet.
“But choose the right ones and you would get the energy you need without the unnecessary bloat,” says Christopher Bonati, MD, family medicine physician at the Banner Health Center in Verrado, AZ.
Unfortunately, mashed potatoes with a big pat of butter, a popular public favorite, aren’t at the top of the healthy carbs list.
A study from the Harvard School of Public Health showed a modest link between the frequent consumption of potatoes including french fries and type 2 diabetes in women, especially if they ate white potatoes in place of whole grains.
Sweet on sweet potatoes
Fortunately, you can still find satisfaction in healthier vegetables. To start, add a little color to your plate, preferably orange.
Sweet potatoes, loaded with vitamin A and a lower glycemic index, are better for you than white potatoes
The lower the food’s glycemic index, the less it affects blood sugar and insulin levels.
Sweet potatoes are also richer in dietary fiber and contain more potassium than a banana.
“They pack in a tasty, healthful punch,” says Dr. Bonati.
You can roast and mash sweet potatoes and season with nutmeg, cinnamon or curry powder. Instead of the traditional fries, serve baked sweet potato wedges.
Hard-shell acorn and butternut squash are also good choices for mashed potato alternatives. The deep orange color indicates that the squash is high in beta-carotene and antioxidants, according to Dr. Bonati.
Squash can be baked with a little olive oil as an easy, healthful replacement.
Pureed, baked squash makes a delicious soup. Or, bake and mash the squash flesh, adding spices--not sugar and fat--for flavor.
Spaghetti squash can also be baked, boiled, steamed or microwaved.
“You choose how you like it, and enjoy it,” says Dr. Bonati.
Go green (and white)
As a green replacement for mashed potatoes, try peas with a soft and soothing texture and a relatively low glycemic index.
Cauliflower, a color match for potatoes, is fat-free, an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of folate.
In addition, cauliflower is a lower-carbohydrate vegetable.
Or, go all the way and disguise cauliflower as potatoes.
“Kids may not eat cauliflower if you give it to them whole, but boiling them with potatoes so they’re 50/50 and mashing the two together is a great way to sneak them in,” says Dr. Bonati.
Those with more sophisticated palates could cook with cauliflower and flavor it with a little olive oil and seasonings.
A bevy of beans
Legumes, from speckled beige pinto to red kidney to black beans, are nutrition powerhouses, high in dietary fiber and folate, delivering protein but with a low glycemic index. That means they don’t spike insulin.
Hummus, a combination of pureed garbanzo beans, garlic, lemon juice, oil and seasonings, provides the creamy richness of mashed potatoes. Low-fat versions can help bring down the calorie count.
Switch from white potatoes to beans in salad; toss a cup of beans into vegetable soup in place of spuds or mix beans with salsa for a spicy appetizer.
A salute to spuds
Before you stress about missing out on your beloved potato, know this. There’s no reason to eliminate them from your diet entirely, says Dr. Bonati.
A small baked potato, with skin, contains more potassium than a large banana, for about the same calories. It’s very low in sodium and has almost no fat. The potato skin is also a good source of dietary fiber.
Potatoes get a bad rap when you add extras, such as bacon bits and butter.
“Add spices like garlic, rosemary or pepper to pack in the flavor, and low-fat sour cream or plain yogurt can add the creaminess without the loaded fat,” says Dr. Bonati.
The following recipe starts with roasting to intensify the sweetness in butternut squash and finishes with skillet browning for a delicious, satisfying and healthful side dish.
|Sweet Potato and Squash Hash with Hot-Sweet Tomato Topping|
2 cups sweet potato, diced into ½-inch pieces (1 medium-large sweet potato)
2 cups butternut squash, diced into ½-inch pieces
Olive oil cooking spray
1-1/4 cups chopped red onion (1 medium onion)
1 cup no-salt-added, fire-roasted diced canned tomatoes
1 teaspoon honey
3/8 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon pepper, divided
1/8 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1/8 teaspoon dried, crushed thyme
Place sweet potato and butternut squash on large baking sheet with a rim. Spray with cooking spray. Spread out vegetables on baking sheet. Roast in preheated 400-degree oven for 10 minutes or until almost tender. Remove and set aside.
Spray a small saucepan with cooking spray. Add 1/4 cup onion and cook over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until onion is transparent. Add tomatoes, honey, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and chile powder. Cook over medium heat 10 minutes or until mixture is thick; keep warm.
Spray large, heavy-bottomed skillet with cooking spray. Add remaining 1 cup onion. Cook over medium heat 7 minutes or until onion is transparent. Add roasted vegetables, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper and thyme. Stir gently but well. Press vegetables down into skillet. Cook over medium heat 10 to 15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
To serve, spoon hash onto four plates; top each with 1/4 of the tomato topping.
Makes 4 (3/4-cup) servings.
Per serving: 130 calories / 0.5 grams total fat / 3 grams protein / 30 grams carbohydrates / 270 milligrams sodium / 4.75 grams dietary fiber
To make an appointment with Dr. Christopher Bonati at the Banner Health Center in Verrado, please call (623) 463-5000 or find other Banner Health physicians.