Nutrition Corner: Make fast and easy meals with potatoes

September 23rd, 2016 8:18 pm

Looking for a fast, low cost and easy to make meal? Buy potatoes. Potatoes are just coming in season in the northeast. For some, baking a potato is as easy as boiling water. For others, it’s a new culinary skill that still needs to be acquired.

Potatoes are a vegetable, however in some therapeutic diets, they are considered a starchy vegetable and need to be eaten in moderation. That means an average sized baked or boiled potato fits the recommendation. That is a potato that is 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter or 1 cup diced, however 2 cups of French fries would not.

The neat thing about potatoes are that they last long in the kitchen and are not expensive. They are a nutritious alternative to rice, pasta or breads.

Store potatoes in a cool (45-50 degrees F), dark, dry, well-ventilated area for three to five weeks. This means put them in an area away from the stove, dishwasher or dryer, as they all add heat. If you purchase them in a plastic bag, loosen up the bag so moisture doesn’t collect. For some, this means a dry basement, enclosed back porch, or closet that is well-ventilated. It’s tough to find a vegetable that last this long. This means that you can purchase larger quantities if the price is right and have on hand for easy to make last minute meals.

Potatoes can be purchase by the pound or by the bag. If you are single, buying one or two potatoes may make sense even if they are a bit pricey by the pound. Throwing away food can be expensive, even if it was purchased on sale.

Foodies have found a variety of potatoes on the market now. Purple, sweet and golden are just a few. Their nutritional value does change with their color. Not to say that white isn’t of value, it’s just that color gives an extra nutritional boost.

If you eat the skin, all potatoes are good sources of fiber. Red potatoes are excellent sources of vitamin C. White and golden are high in vitamin C and good sources of potassium. Sweet potatoes add fiber without the skin and also contain Vitamin A and the phytochemical beta carotene. Purple potatoes are the newest and I will write a column on the exciting research recently conducted by the Penn State College of Agriculture at a later date.

Most varieties of potatoes can be cooked the same way except those labeled russet. They have a thicker skin and are best baked or mashed. If the basic white potato doesn’t fit your meal plans, try a new variety.

First, scrub all potatoes with a vegetable brush under running water, as they grow in the ground where bacteria that we can’t see with the naked eye live. Next cut away any green areas. This is caused by not planting the potato deep enough. The sun causes the greening. The other areas of the potatoes are safe to eat. Choose to either bake in oven or microwave, or boil on top of the stove for a quick and easy meal. Add cooked chicken, cooked ground beef or drained canned beans, and leftover or frozen vegetable on top of the potato to complete the meal.

Microwave Baked Potato

Scrub potatoes with vegetable brush and running water. Cut away any green areas. Place on microwave safe dish. Prick with fork several times.

Cook on high for the times listed below. Turn over half way through the cooking time. Let rest 1-3 minutes. Enjoy!

1 potato: 7-8 minutes or until soft

2 potatoes: 10-12 minutes or until soft

4 potatoes: 18 minutes or until soft

Note: some microwaves have a button for baked potatoes!

To complete the meal, add cooked chicken, cooked ground beef or drained and rinsed canned beans.

Next add leftover or frozen chopped broccoli.

Top with your favorite salsa.

Nutrition Corner Mary R. Ehret Corner Mary R. Ehret

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at