You say Potato, I say French Fries

Here’s another example of the utter silliness around food policy in the US.

Tens of millions of kids receive government subsidized lunch every day in school. Sometimes breakfast too. The USDA sets nutrition criteria for the foods being served to kids. For example, there needs to be a certain amount of vegetable in every meal. The USDA is heavily lobbied by interest groups and, as a result, many meals are greasy, salty, and in many cases barely edible by the kids. And vegetable is usually … a french fry. All this is not new.

What is new, is that earlier this year, the USDA decided to make some improvements. One of them was the removal of potatoes from school meals, almost completely. Instead, dark leafy vegetables and The reasoning was that potatoes are usually served dripping in fat, either as fries or tater tots. Since these are fattening and almost totally devoid of nutritional value, better to get them off the menu, right?

Fast forward to earlier this week. The Senate voted to block any such limitation on potatoes being served in school. The move was led by Senators from, as you would guess, potato growing states. Millions of kids can breath a sigh of relief as the #1 Vegetable in the US will continue to be served…

What you need to know:

Potatoes are actually a very healthy food. It’s the processing into fries that tuns them into a nutrition disaster. But a baked or roasted potato can be not only tasty but also very healthy.

Potatoes have more potassium in them than bananas. They are a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and other nutrients. And they are low in calories.

And most importantly for school lunch, potatoes are VERY CHEAP.

In a system where funding resources are very lean, getting rid of potatoes seems silly. Instead of saying no to potatoes, how about guidelines that limit greasy potato products from being served in schools?

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  • J in VA

    I know potatoes have a lot of vitamins but what about the glycemic index of white potatoes? I understand that it is higher than sweet potatoes and will spike and plunge your bloodsugar very rapidly.

    • carol

      Unless you are eating a bare naked potato and nothing else for a meal, this is not an issue. Just by putting some sour cream or olive oil on the potato or eating a piece of meat or fish with it will totally change the glycemic index (as in lower it significantly). The whole GI thing is immaterial in the real world of how we eat (i.e., more than one food ingredient at a time).

  • Monica

    Can we also get rid of those disgusting styrofoam trays that last for bazillions of years in our landfills? How about real plates and silverware?

  • AC

    The other day on the news one women held up a potato and said that it had so much more vitamin C than the head of iceberg lettuce in her other hand.  Yes, that may factually true with a raw potato that has not been deep fried in grease.  They also did not show anyone question her on the news to show the statement and justify that deep fried potatoes are defiantly more healthy than iceberg lettuce. 

  • AC

    The other day on the news one women held up a potato and said that it had so much more vitamin C than the head of iceberg lettuce in her other hand.  Yes, that may factually true with a raw potato that has not been deep fried in grease.  They also did not show anyone question her on the news to show the statement and justify that deep fried potatoes are defiantly more healthy than iceberg lettuce. 

  • Ed Bruske

    That’s not right. In fact, a recent Harvard study looking at data collected over 20 years from 120,000 men and women found potatoes more than any other food associated with excess weight gain, regardless of whether they are processed or fried. Although they do contain a number of nutrtients, potatoes are primarily starch with a high glycemic value, higher even that table sugar.