I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a family where no meal was complete without its starchy side dish. Mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, roasted potatoes, scalloped potatoes (OK any and ALL the kinds of potatoes) white rice, or some sort of pasta or egg noodle. I am still a firm believer in the importance of keeping carbs in a well-rounded diet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make choices to get those carbs into your diet by choosing healthier more nutrient dense foods with higher fiber content, lower sugar and sometimes even more protein than these basic staples.
I love a potato, and yes- I said LOVE. But if you are going to eat regular old potatoes, make sure you leave those skins on because that is where you get most of the nutritional value from. Did you know they even have about 3 times the potassium as a banana? But with those vitamins and minerals, you also get about 110 calories per small potato and most of those calories come straight from carbs, so if you are watching your macros what do you do? Is there a good alternative?
YES!! There are several.
Most people choose to use a sweet potato as a healthy swap for a regular russet potato, these have a lower glycemic index so you won’t see quite as much of a blood sugar pop with them, but they still are just as high in calories and carbs and actually contain more sugars than your basic potato, so I propose a few different alternatives instead.
These are one of my secret swap outs. I like to chop them up and intermix them with baby potatoes when I roast them. They act just like a potato when chopped and roasted or sautéed in some coconut or olive oil with your favorite seasonings. Roasting them takes out the bite they have when sliced or eaten raw and they add a new depth to your meal when used as the starchy side- double bonus is that they have significantly less calories and carb count as their friend the potato, and even have some protein in their too!
This is like the new magical vegetable of the millennium. I feel like people my age went from crying because mom dropped some soggy flavorless pile of mushy torture onto our dinner plates in the 80’s to using cauliflower to make everything from the best mashed potato swap out in the world, to soup bases, vegetarian steaks, pizza crust, flourless bread alternatives…you name it and you can probably find someone on Pinterest who has figured out how to do it with cauliflower! If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon- give it a shot!
Turnips or Rutabagas
Now these babies are pretty much the easiest to swap out for the potato in pretty much any way you like them. You can cut them into fries, slice them, roast them, dice them into soups and stews- all the texture and yumminess of a potato with less than half of the calories and carbs as the same amount of potato. The two roots act pretty much the same and you can use them in similar ways however the rutabaga is just a little higher in natural sugars than the turnip.
In my opinion, this works best as a puree. It’s a weird looking root vegetable that I discovered while I was working at a grocery store in high school and wanted to know why on earth someone would buy such a sad looking thing and what the heck would you make with it. Turns out it’s quite delicious with a nice delicate flavor that when served to someone without their knowledge they will have trouble placing what makes your dish taste just a little bit better than the other (fill in the blank) that they have had. It’s like a secret ingredient! It’s great to use in place of potatoes in things like chowders and thick soups or as a puree served under a slice of well grilled meat.
So the next time you sit down to write your menu and find you are struggling to choose a side that will please everyone but not crush your caloric or macros goals, give one of these options a try and see what you think!