A study published in the Journal of Nutrition reports that 27% of young children in the U.S. get fewer than one serving of vegetables a day. For the kids who do eat vegetables, the top veggie isn’t carrots or kohlrabi. It’s French fries.
Is that a good thing? Potatoes are nutritious vegetables. But the processing French fries get between the farm and the plate can affect their nutritive value.
Here’s the nutritional value of a baked potato:
161 calories, 0.2 grams of fat, 926 milligrams of potassium, 3.8 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, 4.3 grams of protein, 27% of a day’s vitamin C, 10% of a day’s iron, 25% of vitamin B-6 , and 12% of Magnesium.
How nutritious are processed potatoes?
A serving of French fries provides 365 calories, 17 grams of fat, 677 mg of potassium, 4.4 grams of fiber, 0.4 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein, and 9% of a day’s vitamin C, 4% of iron, 20% of vitamin B-6, and 12% of Magnesium.
That’s a lot of numbers, but they’re basically adding up to a lot less nutrition in a French fry than in a baked potato. For twice as many calories and 17 extra grams of fat, French fries give kids less vitamins and minerals, including just one-third of the vitamin C in a baked potato.
Move on to potato chips, another popular “vegetable” for kids, and you see 10 grams of fat, 1.4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, and far less vitamins and minerals.
This means that kids who like potatoes could get much more nutritional value with a fairly small change: cook potatoes at home instead of relying on highly processed potatoes.
Here are some recipes that do just that!
Smashed Potatoes Suzette
Potatoes Suzette is a classic French lunch dish. Jackie Kennedy made her version famous with lots of butter and cream plus anchovy paste. We’ve made ours kid-friendly, faster and easier to make and eat, and we’ve enriched them with chopped veggies.
This is a classic comfort food, and you can prepare them ahead of time. Add your favorite vegetables and cheese. When you take these from the oven, the egg yolk will be soft, and will make a sauce for the dish.
1 large baking potato
2 T butter
1/4 c. milk
1 c. chopped vegetables (here, tomatoes and spinach)
2 T grated cheese (here, cotija cheese)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cook the potato in the microwave for 8 minutes, piercing it first so it does not explode.
Peel the potato, mash the flesh, and mix in the butter, milk, and vegetables. Divide the mixture between two ramekins (small baking dishes). You can put them in the fridge at this point and finish them 15 minutes before your meal.
Use the back of a spoon to make a well in the potato. Break an egg into each. Divide the cheese over the top of the ramekins. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
Potatoes Jane is a variation of Potatoes au Gratin from a British government pamphlet put out in World War II. It’s a comforting recipe that brings the sweetness of carrots and the savoriness of cheese into a meatless meal or side dish. You can find leeks in the grocery store, or use onion if you prefer.
1.5 lbs. potatoes
2 oz breadcrumbs or oatmeal
1/2 chopped leek
4 oz grated cheese
1 sliced carrot
1 cup of milk
Salt and pepper
Slice the potatoes. Combine the breadcrumbs or oats with the cheese and set half of the mixture aside.
Now, layer the potatoes in a baking dish with the other vegetables and half the crumb mixture. When you finish the layers, pour the milk over the vegetables and sprinkle on the remaining crumb mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for one hour, or till potatoes are cooked and milk is absorbed.
This is another classic recipe that isn’t used very often nowadays. It’s more trouble than the other recipes above, but it will be a hit at Sunday dinner! These potatoes get the delicious flavor of fried potatoes with just a little bit of oil, and chicken broth increases the protein content.
12 small red potatoes
2 T olive oil
1 c. chicken broth
Peel the potatoes and slice horizontally so you have two cylinders from each potato. Cut a small slice from the uncut end of each cylinder so the potatoes will stand up. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Heat the oil in an ovenproof skillet on the stove, and stand the potatoes up in the hot oil. Let them cook for 5 or 6 minutes, till they’re brown. Flip them over and cook the other side in the same way.
Pour the broth into the skillet and put the skillet into the heated oven. Let cook for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are soft inside. Season to taste.