The humble baked potato
There are a lot of potatoes in our house. Partly because we’ve always loved them and partly because of our Irishman.
We call them poh-tay-toes in a heavy Irish accent and we even gave Arloe, the puppy, “potato” as a middle name …. that’s because she looked like a little potato when she was born.
When you have kids, funny things like that seem to happen. Remember when we had rabbits called Sugar Bubble and Oreo Pop?
It’s not just my children that name their pets entertaining things – we once met a dog called Cornflakes. This is simply what happens when kids are allowed to do the naming.
And then there are Apple, Sparrow, Reign, Bear Blaze … all the names of celebrity offspring. Anyway, I digress …. back to potatoes (poh-tay-toes)!
Although they get a bad rep for being carb-heavy, potatoes are still very nutritious. Surprisingly, they are a good source of vitamin C, helping sailors to stave off scurvy in the old days.
They are also a good source of potassium and B6. The problems occur only when you eat them in excess, deep fry them or mash them with a mountain of butter (gosh, that last one is delicious though).
Potatoes are also full of resistant starch. This is a type of starch that resists digestion and acts like fibre in the body.
That’s a good thing as it helps to slow the glucose release, especially when combined with vegetables and protein. So, while a bag of chips (fried potatoes by themselves) is not healthy, the reality is that a baked potato can be the base for a delicious warming dinner on a budget.
What’s more, it’s also possible to double the amount of resistant starch in your potatoes by following the 3 Cs: cook, cool and chill.
Through a process called “starch retrogradation”, starch changes from its original form during the cooking process to create more resistant starch as it cools.
Ideally, you will cook, cool and then chill for a minimum of 20 minutes to optimise this process. It works for rice and pasta too.
The resistant starch is maintained even when you reheat the food, which makes bulk cooking and leftovers a really great solution!
Importantly, size does matter. When I was a student in Durham, England, we used to go to a nightclub in Newcastle called The Boat. (It was indeed, on a boat …. with a revolving dancefloor … can you imagine anything more fun, or more vomit-inducing for students who have invariably drunk too much?! What a crazy place that was.)
As we left, we would all be starving and lo and behold, there was a magical van by the exit ramp selling baked potatoes the size of your face. They were so good. So. Good.
But they were also loaded with butter and grated cheese. You can cope with that when you are 18 and have just burnt off 1,000 calories on a sweaty dancefloor, but once you’re a more sedentary adult, face-sized potatoes are no longer advisable.
Ideally, you would pick a baked potato that is approximately the size of your fist. I tend to bake mine at about 400F until tender (about 50 minutes).
You can speed the process up by boiling it for 5 minutes first if you like. Next, if you have time, do cool/chill then reheat your potato.
This can seem like a pain but if you do several at once then you have leftovers ready to go for next time.
Make sure too that you eat the skin (extra fibre and nutrients) as well as serving with a big pile of salad or steamed green vegetables.
It doesn’t have to be complicated, a giant handful of spinach leaves will do.
Finally, top your potato! If you use butter, try just a little but make sure it is grass-fed. If you use a non-dairy alternative, I really only like the Earth Balance organic option.
After that, look for a source of protein: try the slow-baked bolognaise recipe from last week, a beef chilli packed with veggies (to stretch out the cost of the beef) or a mixed bean chilli. (It’s important to use mixed beans vs one type of bean as this increases the amino acid profile of what you eat.)
If you use tuna as a topper, try mixing the tuna with salsa instead of mayonnaise. Of course, you could simply serve grilled fish, chicken or grass-fed steak on the side as your protein option too. Whichever option you choose, enjoy!
• Catherine Burns is a qualified nutritional therapist. For more details: www.natural.bm, 505-4725, Natural Nutrition Bermuda on Facebook and @naturalbda on Instagram
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