Tonight’s dinner was baked potatoes. Though that doesn’t sound super exciting, baked potatoes are actually quite versatile. You can top them with any number of ingredients, make them vegetarian or meat-heavy, load them up with calories or keep them light and lean. Baked potatoes are a blank canvas – you get to choose what to paint them with.

The Benefits of Potatoes

Starchy potatoes, such as Russets, are a great ingredient to stock up on because they will keep well for one to two weeks if stored properly (a cook, dark, dry, and well-ventilated place). (i) In addition to being featured as the main event, potatoes can also be used to bulk up other dishes to make them more filling (think: Shepherd’s Pie or, my favorite, a potato chickpea curry). And if you don’t use your potatoes up in time, they can be repurposed for art projects for you or your kiddos. (Because let’s face it, we all need things to occupy our time when we’re stuck at home!)

As for the potatoes themselves, they really are a nutritious addition to your diet. Potatoes have gotten a bad rap lately, being that they are starchy and white. But potatoes are actually a brain-healthy food with anti-inflammatory properties. They may improve concentration, cognitive function, and memory. (ii) A medium potato has more potassium than a banana and is a good source of vitamin C. Being a vegetable, potatoes are also naturally low in calories. And if you eat the potato with the skin on, you also get the benefit of extra fiber. (i)

Baked Potato Prep

The method I use to bake potatoes comes from “The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook.” (iii) You can find their recipe here. This recipe adds two extra steps that make all the difference: 

  • Rinsing the potatoes in salt water prior to cooking (you can skip this step if you are watching your sodium intake)
  • Brushing the potatoes with oil 10 minutes before pulling them out of the oven

These two extra steps make for a potato with crispy and delicious skin – game changer.

Baked Potato Toppers

As for what to top them with, here are a few suggestions using foods you may already have on hand. Note that some items I’ve listed as “pantry” are refrigerated items with a long expiration date, like salad dressing or Parmesan cheese.

Vegetables

  • Fresh – broccoli, spinach, squash, or scallions
  • Frozen – broccoli, spinach, or a pepper mix
  • Pantry – roasted red peppers, black olives

Dairy

  • Fresh – shredded cheese, feta, etc.; Kraft Singles (not normally my first choice, but these melt really well and have a long expiration date)
  • Pantry – Cheez Whiz or other jarred cheese (also not normally my first choice, but it is shelf stable and will definitely add some flavor if you haven’t got other options)

Protein

  • Fresh – cubed or sliced cooked chicken, cooked ground beef, really any kind of cooked meat you have on hand
  • Pantry – black or pinto beans, lentils, canned chili

Dressings/Garnish

  • Fresh – butter, margarine, guacamole, or sour cream/Greek yogurt
  • Pantry – salad dressings, salsa, olive oil, dried scallions or chives, Parmesan cheese

Put-Together Baked Potato Ideas

To help get your creative juices flowing, here are a few sample combos for you:

  • The Standard Veggie Baked Potato – butter, defrosted frozen broccoli, shredded cheese, a dollop of Greek yogurt, and dried chives
  • The Greek Veggie Baked Potato – Greek dressing, black olives, roasted red peppers, feta cheese
  • The All-Pantry Baked Potato – canned chili, Cheez Whiz, dried chives
  • The Loaded Tex-Mex Potato – ground beef (seasoned with taco seasoning if you’ve got it), canned black beans, defrosted frozen corn, shredded cheese, fresh scallions, black olives, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole

How do you like your baked potatoes? Do you have any other ideas for topping not listed here? Share them below in the comments section.


Yours in good health,

Helena Ramadan, MS, RDN

While Helena is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), she is not providing Medical Nutrition Therapy on this website. Anything found here, including downloads and other content, should not be construed as medical advice. The information provided by her is general nutrition/health/fitness information, and is not individualized to your specific medical condition. Helena is not liable for any losses or damages related to any actions you take (or fail to take) as a result of the content presented herein. Please note that the information presented here is not intended to diagnosis or treat any health conditions. Talk to a qualified health professional, such as a doctor or a registered dietitian, about your specific health questions or concerns. 


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Sources
  1. Retelny, V. and Milivojevic, J., 2011. The Essential Guide To Healthy Healing Foods. New York: Alpha Books, pp.85-87.[][]
  2. Stillman Linja, S. and Safaii-Waite, S., 2017. The Alzheimer’s Prevention Food Guide. Berkley: Rockridge Press, p.64.[]
  3. America’s Test Kitchen Editors., 2016. Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2017 : Every Recipe From The Hit TV Show With Product Ratings And A Look Behind The Scenes. Penguin Random House Publisher Services.[]