(November 29, 2010) Denver, Colorado—Pressure is growing for restaurant operators to place nutrition information on their menus from legislators and consumers.  At the same time, while everyone is talking about healthier eating, they still want flavor.  This pressure to create culinary delights that please the label as well as the palette makes the job of the foodservice professional far more challenging.
Fortunately, there are foundational foods, like potatoes, consumers love and associate with comfort and great taste; and when prepared healthfully, they maintain a low calorie, low fat, nutrient dense profile.  In fact, research recently released by the University of California, Davis and the National Center for Food Safety and Technology, Illinois Institute of Technology demonstrated people can include potatoes in their diet and still loses weight.
The Science Behind the Fare
This research, commissioned by the United States Potato Board, was presented at the Obesity Society’s 28th Annual Scientific Meeting October 8-12, 2010.  The study sought to gain a better understanding of the role of potatoes and the glycemic index in weight loss, largely because some have questioned the inclusion of potatoes in a weight loss regimen due to the vegetable’s designation as a high glycemic index (HGI) food.
“The results of this study confirm what health professionals and nutrition experts have said for years; when it comes to weight loss, it is not about eliminating a certain food or food groups, rather, it is reducing calories that count,” said lead researcher Dr. Britt Burton-Freeman, PhD, MS. “There is no evidence that potatoes, when prepared in a healthful manner, contribute to weight gain.  In fact, we are seeing that they can be part of a weight loss program.”
Researchers studied 86 overweight men and women over the course of 12 weeks to measure the effects of a reduced-calorie modified glycemic index diet with the addition of potatoes.  The subjects were randomly assigned to three groups and each had a diet that included five to seven servings of potatoes per week.  The results indicated that all three groups lost weight.
One group was given a list of foods with a low glycemic index (LGI) to include in their diet daily.  The second group was given a list of foods with a HGI to include in their diet daily.  Both groups were to reduce their daily caloric intake by 500 calories while also consuming five to seven servings of potatoes each week.  All participants were guided and monitored for compliance by a dietitian to only eat foods on their lists or like foods along with the provided potatoes.
Participants in the third group —called the “control group” —were allowed to choose their daily meals and caloric intake on their own, but were encouraged to adhere to the U.S. dietary guidelines and the food guide pyramid. The only requirement of the third group was—like the other two groups—they had to include five to seven servings of potatoes each week.
All subjects were provided recipes and counseled accordingly for successful dietary adherence.  The results indicated that all three groups lost weight and there was no significant difference in weight lost between the low and high glycemic index groups.
Potatoes and Good Health Go Together
Year after year, potatoes remain America’s favorite vegetable. Mashed, smashed, roasted, boiled, baked or fried, potatoes have the unique power to sell whatever you serve with them.  When was the last time you took a look at the potato’s nutrition label?  Here’s the skinny:  ounce for ounce, potatoes are a nutritional power pack.   A medium, skin-on 5.3 oz. potato is:
·         Fat-, sodium- and cholesterol-free

·         Rich in vitamin C

·         A good source of potassium

·         110 calories

·         A good source of vitamin B6


The benefits go far beneath the skin—phenomenal versatility, satisfying flavor, unparalleled popularity, proven profitability and a remarkably healthy story to tell.
Healthy Potato Ideas for Your Menu
On their own, potatoes are lean and healthful. And there are plenty of great ways to make them even more flavorful and appealing without tipping that balance.
·         Replace the butter in mashed potatoes with olive oil, broth, yogurt or full-flavored fat free ingredients like wasabi or chilies.

·         Mash potatoes in their jackets, since many nutrients lie just below the skin.

·         Prepare oven-baked “skinny fries” with cooking spray and a sprinkling of course salt.

·         Substitute whipped potatoes for cream and butter in puréed soups for rich texture and flavor without the fat.

·         Offer healthy toppings for baked potatoes, fries or chips, such as salsa, yogurt-based sauces, roasted vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes, olive spread, signature barbecue sauces and fresh herbs.

There are hundreds more healthy (and decadent-sounding) potato recipes on www.potatogoodness.com/foodservice.

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