Mashed Potatoes, Lightened Up

by in Meal Makeovers, April 1, 2009

Mashed Potatoes
I love mashed potatoes — garlic-flavored, sweet potatoes, chunky, skin-left-in or just the plain old creamy ones. Alas, most recipes call for tons of butter and that means loads of calories and fat. Thankfully, there are workarounds.

It All Adds Up
First, the bad news: a serving of traditional mashed potatoes can have up to 400 calories. Many calories come from the added butter and heavy cream. One tablespoon of stick butter contains 102 calories — 64% of the calories are from fat. Many recipes use a whole stick for just 6 servings. Do the math — you’re really weighing down that side!

As for heavy cream, a tablespoon is 50 calories; 94% of those calories coming from fat. Traditional recipes call for about 1/2 cup of heavy cream — that’s around 200 extra fat calories on top of the butter.

Easy Swaps
There are several routes to take to lower those calories and keep your potatoes moist. First, use less butter or a butter substitute. Try using half the amount of butter and choose whipped butter instead of stick. There are many low or no-calorie butter alternatives in your market.

You can also use low-sodium chicken (or veggie) broth. Not sure the ratio to try? Check out this Ellie Krieger recipe.

For the heavy cream, even moving to regular (whole) milk will cut the fat significantly. A 1/2 cup of whole milk contains 75 calories — that’s a savings of 125 calories! Try going for the 1% milk and you will save even more — each cup has around 105 calories.

You might also want to experiment with reduced-fat sour cream or cottage cheese to replace the milk. The ratios differ depending on how starchy your potatoes are and your texture preference, so follow recipes or test variations.

Bring On The Flavor
Add some personality to your potatoes with low-calorie herbs, spices and veggies. Chives, basil, onion and garlic really add a fresh kick (I’m making myself hungry!). Or sprinkle a touch of a strongly flavored cheese such as Parmesan or tangy goat cheese.

You can also swap the traditional russet potato for a Yukon gold or sweet potato (that’s my favorite). Keep the potato skins on for some extra fiber. Doctor up mashed sweet potatoes with cinnamon and nutmeg or with a touch of orange zest. Replace some of the potato with root veggies. Or be adventurous and go for mashed cauliflower (yeah, yeah, we know, that’s not mashed potatoes).

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Comments (17)

  1. Ann Reed says:

    I've never even heard of using heavy cream or half and half in mashed potatoes, and certainly not as much butter as was mentioned in the article… perhaps because my mother was a nurse, we were raised not eating a lot of the fattening, unhealthy southern cooking that my grandmothers always fed us when we went to visit (not that I didn't LOVE their cooking, mind you!)… I usually use skim milk (although I have been known to use 2% for those who think using skim is akin to being an atheist), and a little margarine – just enough margarine to give them some flavor, along with a little sea salt and lots of black pepper… I've never had any complaints about my mashed taters, nor any comparisons made to how much better "mom/grandmom/anyone else" makes them.

  2. Betty says:

    I use peeled, cut-up and boiled baking potatoes when making my mashed potates. I add one 8-ounce package of softned cream cheese and Greek seasoning. No need to add milk, cream or butter. Just add pepper and Greek seasoning while mixing with the mixer to taste. This recipe was given to me by my neighbor. They are really YUMMY and my husband likes them so much, he doesn't like them fixed any other way.

  3. 261524hy6xh says:

    your marshmellows are perfect! i tried to make them last year and it was a gooey disaster!

  4. 261524hy6xh says:

    your marshmellows are perfect! i tried to make them last year and it was a gooey disaster!

  5. Edna Dippre says:

    I agree with you. I have NEVER heard of heavy cream or sour cream used in mashed potatoes either. Now I use Lactade for milk due to health problems but it tastes like milk in my cereal so it works for potatoes too. When I used to use skimmed milk, my husband would say he wanted to use "real" milk in them.
    Hey, as kids we also learned that you ate what was served to you. No special dishes for each person. People are spoiled today. My brother-in-law will NOT eat leftovers of any kind! And if there are not waffles made with the turkey dinner he won't eat. Too bad baby! When in my house you eat what I make. He is just rude.
    I always use some kind of milk & a little margarine too. I now use sea salt a lot & ground pepper. Sometimes I will add some parsley flakes but they are still pretty basic mashed potatoes. Spices are one of the best ways to add flavor without a ton of calories & fat to any dish. Lets get back to basics here…It's a traditional holiday meal.
    No matter what you do or how you like your potaotes made, enjoy your family & have a wonderful Thanksgiving! That's what it's really all about…

  6. EDNA says:

    Now that sounds easy enough & energy efficient too!

  7. Martha says:

    I also use buttermilk (which is low fat) and omit the butter/margerine for creamy mashed potatoes. Sometimes I'll roast garlic cloves for a great garlic mashed. I leave the skins on.

    Also, rather than boiling, I'll bake in a covered roasting pan on rack with about a cup of water in the bottom of the pan. I do this with sweet potatoes also and it keeps the skins moist.

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