cauliflower

In Defense of White Potatoes

In Defense of White Potatoes by Leanne Ray Nutrition

Eat the Rainbow (but also include white)

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, how many times have you heard that you should "eat the rainbow"?

This is nutrition advice at the most elementary level and something that most of us have probably heard since we were children (and for good reason!). I appreciate this advice because it might be the simplest, most practical way to promote variety in one’s diet. Just as there is no one perfect type of exercise, there is no one perfect food - our bodies require several nutrients to function optimally. 

Something that tends to get left out of this discussion is white or neutral colored fruits and vegetables, and a question I have heart often from clients in the past is some variation of, "are white potatoes bad?" or "which foods are nutritionally devoid or a 'waste' of calories?"

My response: stop blaming the vegetables for being a bland color!

I remember way back in the day, I fell for the whole "iceberg lettuce is lame" thing. But now I take a different stance. Sure, it might not pack the same nutritional punch as arugula, but it's still a delicious addition to Mexican food or sandwiches when it's shredded. It's hydrating, crunchy, and adds freshness to a wedge salad. It's also a great vehicle for lettuce wraps with that perfect bowl shape. Essentially, it has redeeming qualities just like almost every other food.

In addition to just iceberg lettuce, think about all of the other pale colored foods that could fit in to this category, yet are awesome in their own way:

  • Cabbage & Cauliflower - cruciferous vegetables are hugely trendy right now and are known for boosting our liver's detoxifying enzymes. This is the legit way to detox by the way, no cayenne cleanses necessary. They also provide a strong dose of antioxidants which can aid in cancer prevention!

  • Mushrooms - a great plant-based meat replacement that also contain hard-to-come-by vitamin D along with selenium.

  • Garlic - garlic adds so much flavor and depth to just about any dish and as a bonus, contains immune boosting compounds.

Shortfall Nutrients

I found a really great article that goes into more detail on the benefits that certain pale and colorless vegetables provide, and here’s one quote I found to be particularly noteworthy:

Potassium and magnesium are both present in white vegetables and were explored in detail because potassium, as previously mentioned, has been identified as a shortfall nutrient, and widespread magnesium underconsumption may be related to increased chronic disease, suggesting that this mineral is an emerging nutrient of concern.

A "shortfall nutrient" as the article describes, is one that Americans tend not to consume in sufficient amounts. Data which shows eating patterns in the U.S. (such as tidbits like this) is a key reason for certain policy changes such as fortification laws and school lunch guidelines. These are not just arbitrary out-of-the-blue changes.

Another review that I came across called out potatoes more specifically for their powerful doses of vitamin C, fiber and potassium (fiber also being a nutrient of concern in the United States).

Potatoes are often maligned in nutrition circles because of their suspected link to obesity, and popular potato foods often contain more fat calories than carbohydrate calories... All white vegetables, including white potatoes, provide nutrients needed in the diet and deserve a prominent position in food guides.

This is a valid point in relation to the fact that potatoes are most-often associated with french fries and potato chips, but they can be enjoyed in so many other ways including baked, mashed, roasted, sautéed, in latkes or pancake form and as a hearty soup ingredient. Two totally different scenarios here!

To Summarize

As with anything, it’s important not to overeat potatoes, but they are certainly a nutritious food item to include. Potatoes are delicious, inexpensive, versatile and just plain satisfying. So unless you dislike the taste or texture, or have some other specific reason to avoid potatoes, there is really no need to stress about enjoying them as part of a balanced meal.

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Roasted Cauliflower Tostadas with Creamy Cilantro Lime Slaw

So this happened last weekend.

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This, my friends, is the most delicious plant-based tostada you will ever taste! Ok, I might be a little biased. 

Food & Nutrition Magazine started this fun new sweepstakes every month called the Test Kitchen. It basically entails testing a recipe they provide (either as is, or with modifications as you choose) and then providing feedback and a photo for a chance to win a prize. This was my submission for the January Test Kitchen: Roasted Walnut and Cauliflower Taco "Meat". How cool is that? 

You all know that I'm super into plant-based cooking lately so this was perfect timing. I've actually made a cauliflower taco recipe before from the Thug Kitchen cookbook and it's one of my favorites, but a little time-intensive since you have to simmer the cauliflower in beer before roasting it (as you can imagine, it adds really good flavor). I liked this take a little bit better, and the walnuts and added a really nice crunch. Per the original instructions, you can pulse the cauliflower filling in a food processor to get it smaller and more "meat" like, but I left the cauliflower as is and served it on top of a tostada shell for presentation. Since I made the recipe my own, I'll share what I did!

First I chopped the cauliflower about the size of a quarter, tossed with grapeseed oil (feel free to use any higher heat oil you have on hand), salt & pepper, smoky paprika (my favorite spice of the moment) and garlic powder before spreading it out on a sheet pan and roasting it up. After giving the cauliflower a head start since it's a little bit heartier, I then added a diced yellow onion to the mix, stirred it all up and put it back in the oven to continue cooking.  

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When there was about five minutes left, I added the walnuts, gave it one more stir, and put it back in the oven to finish getting all roasty and delicious. Pro tip: when a recipe calls for toasting nuts, always do it! This brings out more flavor than you would think and only takes a few extra minutes. This mix should be slightly browned when finished. If not, feel free to cook longer or broil for a couple of minutes. 

Meanwhile, as this is all cooking away in the oven you can get your slaw ready which is about as simple as it gets. Thinly sliced cabbage (green or purple will work) is tossed with greek yogurt mixed with lime juice and cilantro. It's cool, creamy, fresh... just about everything you would want it to be. A lot of times I buy the pre-sliced angel hair slaw for stuff like this but I already had a 1/2 head of green cabbage from a different recipe so I used that. 

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The last step is putting it all together! 

Start with a tostado shell, then top it with avocado slices, followed by the cauliflower mixture and then the slaw. Garnish with more cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice to finish. See below for the full recipe!


Roasted Cauliflower Tostadas with Creamy Cilantro Lime Slaw

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 4 tostadas | Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 30 minutes | Total time: 45 minutes

ingredients

  • 1 head Cauliflower

  • 1 Yellow Onion

  • 1/3 cup Walnuts

  • 1 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil

  • 1/2 tsp Smoky Paprika

  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder

  • 1/2 small head Cabbage

  • 1/4 cup Greek Yogurt

  • 1 Lime

  • 1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped

  • Salt & Pepper to taste

  • 1 Avocado, sliced

  • 4 Tostada Shells

 

instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  2. Chop cauliflower into small (quarter size) florets; dice the onion and set aside.

  3. Add cauliflower florets to a large sheet pan and toss with oil, paprika and garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper to taste and roast for about 30 minutes, adding the diced onion and stirring about halfway through. With about five minutes left, add the walnuts to the sheet pan and give one more stir, then finish roasting (edges should be slightly browned).

  4. Meanwhile, make your slaw. Thinly slice the cabbage and add to a medium bowl. Whisk the yogurt with the lime juice and cilantro in a separate dish, then toss with the cabbage until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  5. Once the cauliflower mixture is done, assemble the tostadas in the following order: tostada shell, avocado slices, cauliflower, slaw. Garnish with extra cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.