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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