Potatoes are a super popular side dish. They’re very versatile, whether it’s through french fries, potato casseroles, hash browns, baked, or mashed. They make an easy side dish or an amazing main dish as well!
When it comes to a side dish, baked potatoes and mashed potatoes are used most often in my house. They’re pretty similar in ingredients, but I’ve been asked before: Which one is healthier?
The short answer: Baked potatoes can be more filling and nutritious IF you eat the skin. Mashed potatoes don’t usually include the skins so you lose some fiber and nutrients.
However, it all depends on everything else you eat WITH the potatoes. I need to give you all of the backstory and details first, and then I’ll share my full opinion at the bottom of the post.
Are potatoes even healthy?
There’s a lot of information out there on whether you should eat potatoes. It seems to be due to the carb content and how potatoes can spike blood sugar.
Potatoes have a high starch content, just like rice, bread, and pasta. Starch is a carbohydrate that brings quick energy to the body.
There’s another type called resistant starch in potatoes. And resistant starch actually helps slow the rise of blood sugars.
It is true that potatoes can affect your blood sugar levels more than other carb-filled foods, like white bread. But that doesn’t mean they’re bad. If you’re a diabetic, then yes, work closely with your doctor and find foods that work for you. But generally, potatoes can be part of a healthy diet!
A medium potato contains the following:
- 161 calories
- 37 grams of carbs
- 4 grams of fiber
- 4 grams of protein
- 0 grams of fat
- 28% daily value of Vitamin C
- 27% daily value of Vitamin B6
- 26% daily value of potassium
It’s important to note that this also includes the skin. Potato skins are where most of the nutrients are, which is why I always recommend leaving them on when cooking!
Best potatoes for baking or mashing
When you go to the grocery store, you probably see all these spuds and wonder which type of potato to use.
Russet potatoes are a good all-around potato for both baking and mashing. These are pretty starchy potatoes, and they soak up liquid and have a good consistency either way you make them.
Same goes for sweet potatoes! They have a bit more fiber than white potatoes and have a sweeter taste. They taste amazing baked or mashed, with melted butter and cinnamon.
I like creamy mashed potatoes; and red potatoes and Yukon gold potatoes / yellow potatoes seem to work really well! These types of potatoes also go well in potato salad, where you really get that creamy texture.
Certain types of potatoes have different nutrients and glycemic index levels, so definitely do your research to see what works best for you.
How to make a baked potato
Baked potatoes are super simple, and this method works for basically any type.
Thoroughly wash and scrub the potatoes, then poke holes on all sides with a fork and lay on a baking sheet.
Rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then bake at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size.
Then you can use your favorite toppings because a plain baked potato can be boring: Shredded cheddar cheese, green onions, bacon bits, etc.
How to make a mashed potato
I’m just using a basic recipe here. You can add all sorts of cream cheese, butter, etc.
Boil a large pot of water. Peel potatoes if desired, then cut into small pieces. Add cubed potatoes to the pot, cooking until fork tender. Drain and add milk or heavy cream, butter, and salt and pepper, then mash with a potato masher until creamy. If you have a mixer, you can put the potatoes in a mixing bowl and mix on low speed instead.
I’ve also used a slow cooker, just cooking the potatoes on low heat for about 6 hours.
So, which is healthier?
The answer really depends on how you cook the potatoes and what you add to them.
The skin is really where it counts, because that’s where most of the fiber and vitamins are. So if you bake the potato, eat the skin. If you mash the potatoes, leave the skin on instead of peeling.
Toppings matter, too. Potatoes are naturally lower in calories, and adding a ton of cheese, butter, and sour cream will up the calories. If weight loss is your goal, then just be mindful of portion sizes.
My personal opinion is that baked potatoes can be more nutritious, if only because we tend to keep the skin on while baking. Eat the skins if you want that nutrition boost!
Jaime is a Nutrition Coach and professional writer. She enjoys cooking easy meals, running, and learning more about food.
Jaime specializes in helping women with ADHD learn to meal plan and cook healthier meals without getting overwhelmed.