New research reveals power of potatoes on children and vegetables

Their starring role in greasy French fries or buttery mash may have given potatoes a bad reputation as a non-nutritious vegetable. But recently, researchers have looked a little closer at the benefits of simple spit. What else? It’s the butter and milk in those mashed potatoes — not the tubers themselves — that are responsible for increasing the risk of diabetes.

In fact, more and more studies are pointing to the nutritional opportunities that potatoes offer in creating a filling, nutritious plant-based diet. And, it turns out, potatoes can do a lot more.

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In the field of children’s nutrition, a new study shows that potatoes could help solve an age-old dilemma: how to feed children more vegetables.

Published in scientific journal Nutrients This research, led by Jean Ahlborn, PhD, of Brigham Young University, by the Alliance for Potato Research and Education, explores the potential of potatoes to promote vegetable consumption among school-aged children.

“Getting kids to eat their vegetables is always a challenge,” Ahlborn said in a statement. “Potatoes not only add nutrients like potassium directly to the plate, but they can also help encourage children to explore other vegetables that are served alongside them and thus get them closer to their overall nutrition needs. It helps to reach out.”

Potatoes: A gateway vegetable?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests consuming two and a half to three cups of vegetables per day for children ages three to 18, yet the average consumption is worryingly less than one cup. Addressing this gap, Ahlborn’s study sought to understand the impact of school meals on children’s vegetable intake.


The study’s methodology was carefully designed to simulate a school cafeteria environment. In various presentations, children were provided a base meal of 2 percent milk, chicken nuggets, ketchup, and applesauce, as well as an experimental component of mixed peas and carrots (MPAC).

The experimental meal component had five variations: MPAC and a whole-wheat bread roll served separately (a control condition); MPAC and potato-shaped faces served in separate bowls; MPAC and seasoned shredded potatoes served in separate bowls; MPAC and seasoned shredded potatoes served in the same bowl; And MPAC and potato-shaped faces served in the same bowl.

The results showed that children ate more total vegetables when peas and carrots were served with potato-shaped smiley faces, demonstrating how food presentation and familiarity can influence children’s eating habits.

“Presentation matters when serving food to children; If something seems unfamiliar or strange, kids are less likely to try it,” Stephanie McBurnett, RDN, nutrition educator for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, tells VegNews.

“Potato-shaped smiley faces, or Tater Tots, can provide some familiarity in taste along with a friendly presence,” she says, adding that children are exposed to new foods up to 15 times a day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. May need to be introduced to. Or more, before they become receptive to trying them.

More benefits of potatoes for children

Potatoes, beloved at any age, are a versatile base capable of providing a satisfying combination of starch and salt. But can they really be a good starter vegetable for kids?

“Potatoes are starchy vegetables that contain healthy complex carbohydrates, protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants,” says McBurnett. However, she cautions against certain cooking methods.

“When potatoes are fried in oil, the nutritional benefits are reduced, resulting in reduced fiber, vitamins and minerals, while increased fat and sodium content,” she says.


McBurnett also emphasizes the importance of a diverse plant-based diet. “Although potatoes are healthy and a vegetable, it does not mean that they should replace other extremely diverse and nutritious vegetables such as cruciferous, dark green leafy, orange/red and non-starchy vegetables.”

What are some practical ways to include potatoes in school meals that encourage a balanced diet? “Whole potatoes, such as boiled, baked, and roasted, can be a healthy addition to school meals,” says McBurnett, including mashed potatoes with roasted carrots, twice-baked potatoes with broccoli, and corn. We recommend combinations such as hearty potato soup with.

These combinations not only increase the nutritional value of the food but also increase the attractiveness of other vegetables.

serving vegetables at school

The long-term implications of this study’s findings could help shape menus in schools—which are pushing to serve more sustainable, nutritious foods while keeping kids happy.

McBurnett believes that introducing potatoes in a kid-friendly way can lead to positive changes in children’s eating habits over time.


“One way to successfully introduce unfamiliar foods to babies is to pair them with foods they already know and accept,” explains McBurnett. “As long as potatoes don’t crowd out or overpower other vegetables, this is an appropriate way to introduce foods into children’s diets as they age.”

“Offering a few smiley tots on top of other vegetables can increase vegetable consumption,” she says.

However, nutritionists caution against serving potatoes in large quantities, which may cause children to eat potatoes before they can eat other vegetables.

Schools face significant challenges in implementing these findings, primarily due to budget constraints and the need for food acceptance among children.

Recognizing the significant challenges schools face, such as budget constraints, McBurnett sees herself an opportunity to implement strategies that can encourage children to enjoy new and healthy vegetables, thereby improving the quality of school meals. Overall nutritional quality will increase.

“Schools hold an important responsibility for serving children nutritious foods, even if these foods are not the norm in their home lives,” says McBurnett.

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