Potato Salad, Lightened Up

by in Meal Makeovers, August 10, 2009

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I’m starting to see some of the early varieties of potatoes at the farmers’ market, and potato salad recipes are calling out to me! This picnic and barbecue fave is often heavy on the fat and calories (especially when it has gobs of mayo!), but it doesn’t have to be. Here are my favorite ways — plus some recipes — to lighten up this summertime classic.

Nutrition Facts
If you’re looking for a quick fix, pre-made potato salads are often offered at your supermarket’s deli counter, but not so fast! Those versions can have more than 300 calories and 20 grams of fat per serving (and we’d bet most folks don’t stick to a small serving). Homemade recipes, meanwhile, often call for at least one cup of mayonnaise — that’s 920 calories and 80 grams of fat right there! It’s not the potatoes that make that tally go up; though they are a starchy vegetable, a half cup of cooked potato has 65 calories and no fat. Of course, starchy veggies can cause a rapid spike in your blood sugar, but when they’re combined with other fiber-rich foods, blood sugar levels stay more stable and you stay more satisfied.

The Lighter Side of Potato Salad
When making salad, take advantage of sturdy potatoes. They can stand up to lots of extra veggies like green beans, tomatoes, celery, peas, carrots, bell pepper and red onion. The more veggies you add, the heartier your salad and more full of nutrients. Chopped pickles and olives also add a nice bite of vinegar. Also, try keeping the skin on the potatoes — they contain tons of nutrients like hunger-fighting fiber.

For a more substantial meal, you might consider adding a lean protein like crabmeat, tuna or beans — this will make for a hearty salad with less calories.

You can also mix it up with your potato choices. Sweet potatoes are just as delicious in potato salad and come with the added bonus of beta-carotene. Even though sweet potatoes are higher in natural sugars than white potatoes, they contain more soluble fiber so they increase blood sugar less.

As for the dressings, mayo is the old standby, but who needs it? Swap out some or all for a flavorful vinaigrette, pesto sauce, sundried tomatoes, Dijon mustard or lots of fresh herbs. When I’m in the mood for a traditional creamy texture, I find a combo of mayonnaise and low-fat yogurt will give me all the flavor with much less fat. If you can’t go without the mayo, here’s a good rule of thumb: stick to no more than 1 tablespoon per serving.

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Comments (33)

  1. Natalie says:

    Thanks for the tip! I also find that "Nayonaise" is a great mayo replacement. While it's not fat-free or anything, it is a much healthier alternative to regular mayo because of it's heart-healthy ingredients and the fact that it's soy based.

  2. Ruthey says:

    I make a potato salad that uses yams, red and yukon gold potatos. To cut the fat of mayo, I mix the mayo 1 to 4 with low fat sour cream. While I have never figured out the nutritional values, my potato salad doesn't weigh so heavy in my stomach as others I have tried at family reunions or bar-be-cues.

  3. Judith says:

    I have always hated the store-bought potato salad as it is a soupy mess of soggy potatoes and too much salt. I make my own with firm potatoes such as baby Bliss or Yukon Gold, celery, red onion, yellow and orange peppers, and use Hellman's/Best Foods olive oil mayo, which has half the calories. I also make it very dry–just enough to bind it a bit. I get raves for this potato salad and am always asked to bring it to friends' all summer! I let folks salt and pepper their own, yet most don't as it is so flavorful the way it is. So this turns out to be low fat, low salt, and full of flavor and crunch.

  4. Peg says:

    for a totally delish, albeit different, flavor try substituting catalina fat-free or lowfat salad dressing for the mayo. i do add a couple of tbls of mayo to to the catalina. i've yet to have a dissatisfied diner!

  5. Joyce says:

    This is exciting…can't wait to try as I am a potato salad lover! I recently made a turkey chili (I used low fat ground turkey that had no hormones/chemicals) and added diced organic carrots…My husband questioned the latter but it turned out delicious, you hardly notice the carrots and the nutritional value was upped….I always appreciate the improvement of basic, classic recipes…Healthier is better!

  6. Connie says:

    Southern style potato salad – Cube potatoes and cook…don't cook until they're soft, they need to be a little firm or else this turns into "mashed" potato salad. If you like onions in your potato salad but don't like them crunchy, cook them in with the potatoes. Boil just enough eggs to complement but not overwhelm the amount of potatoes, peel and cut up into a bowl with the potatoes. Add a tablespoon of mustard, or more to taste, mayo (any flavor you like in the low fat variety…we use the Hellman's Best also. Add sweet salad cube pickles to taste, salt and pepper, and uncooked celery if you like (I prefer using celery seed). Everyone loves this potato salad!

  7. lucy says:

    I have used Itaiian dressing,or mustard, and lots of celery or other fresh vegetables, that way the salad is more crunchy and less potatoes are consumed. It stretches the salad and adds variety to it

  8. Marion says:

    My family has always enjoyed the addition of finely chopped red apple to their potato salad. those who try it for the first time are unsure as to what it is that makes the salad "different", and it always brings compliments. That little touch of sweetness is not something I would have tried if not for sampling it at the home of a friend. My daughter-in-law uses cucumbers for a similar effect.

  9. Tamara says:

    Marion– this weekend I did something similar with blueberries. When the berries go out of season and the apples are the only non-imported fruit left, I'll try your apple idea!

  10. maae says:

    I use a lot of different vegetables , especially in the summer. I have used lots of different vegs. in potato salad and Chilli-usually celery, but have added cabbage (NOT a lot) to chilli; made up a recipe for Taco Cabbage, using anything fromthe garden: brown hamburger, add taco mix, add veges: zucchini, yellow summer sqyash, carrots, green onions or what ever ones you prefer, just add it!! Kids will not notice it in the highly flavored dishes like chilli; i use all colors of "green" peppers in just a bout anything when they are in season and/or on sale.the kids never complained about the taco cabbage as they did about eating "just cabbage"; they liked it so much that they make for their families now-a-days! maae

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