Monday, November 26, 2007

Fear No Potato

Whew! It’s been a busy few days of eating, and like many I contemplated the lemon juice fast by the time Saturday came around. Alas, just as soon as we think we will never want to eat again after Thanksgiving, what we discover is that we have created a way to actually desire and consume more food than we ever thought possible. There’s nothing like cool weather, a long weekend, great company, a kitchen full of homemade comfort foods, and some down time to show us how much we really like to eat.

It’s Sunday afternoon now, and after finally hitting my saturation point with turkey and stuffing sandwiches, and being forced to reckon with the fact that fasting is no solution to all these leftovers (anyway - as if!), I root around in the fridge and try to come up with a simple meal that will not take up the final hours of my weekend, will minimize my fat intake, and maximize nutritional density.

I know, I know. It sounds like I’m trying to get Santa Clause to come over for lunch. In truth though, Thanksgiving is probably one of the few times a year the average American household consumes actual food for several days in a row, so it’s not as hard as it sounds to get creative with the left-overs if you have a few veggie staples in the produce drawer.

Here’s what I came up with today:

Potato Stir-Fry with Carrots, Peppers, and Onion

1 cup boiled, peeled potato (we left a few cups out before mashing them)

2 teaspoons of olive oil

1 medium red bell pepper

1/2 small red onion

1 medium carrot

1 garlic clove

In a frying pan heat up the olive oil and add the potatoes, garlic and carrot. (Tip - carrot takes longer to cook than the other ingredients, so slicing them in small julienne pieces will help them cook at the right pace). As the potatoes begin to warm up add the onion and bell pepper. Stir occasionally and to desired softness. Salt and pepper to taste.

Here’s what I got nutritionally from the concoction:

Calories: 319 (119 are from the olive oil, so feel free to steam your dish in water)

Protein: 7.5g

Fat: 14.5g (1.8g saturated fat)

Carbohydrates: 45.5g

Fiber: 4g

Calcium: 117.5 mg

Phosphorous: 176.6 mg

Sodium: 71.6*

Potassium: 965 mg

Magnesium: 30mg

Vitamin A: 15,084 iu (international units)

Vitamin C: 206.5 mg

Folic Acid: 36mcg

*If you are sodium sensitive you will want to pay particular attention to natural occurring amounts of sodium in raw foods, and adjust your intake of added salts or pre-packaged and processed foods accordingly. You’ll notice too that in whole foods there is always a naturally occurring ratio of electrolytes - where sodium will be present in relation to potassium, magnesium and calcium. You can get a sense of what these ratios should look like when you see how much more potassium is naturally present in foods. Some studies indicate that hypertension may be have elements of a sodium sensitivity that develops when these ratios are chronically out of balance.

It’s clear this meal is not a significant source of fiber, B vitamins, or iron, but it can be easily be classified as a healthy meal, low in saturated fat and high in key nutrients like potassium, vitamin A - often lacking in the standard American diet. Hopefully it will also succeed in making you feel better about the greatly misunderstood potato. (FYI - If you leave the skin on the potato you increase the fiber, potassium, and niacin). In recent years the quintessential comfort food and nutritional staple for people around world has been vilified in a characterization known previously only to the egg.

The adaptable spud. The food that can please any palette in any culture, the root that lends itself to dozens of dishes, and can be eaten at any meal, need not be crossed off the shopping list of healthy eating. Pass on the wonder bread, forgo chips, and resist french fries, but fear not the potato.

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