Year of Wellness: Enjoy your favorite foods, and eat well at the same time

By Jessica Linnell
Assistant Professor of Practice, Family and Community Health, OSU Extension Tillamook County

March is National Nutrition Month, and one of the key messages is to include a variety of your favorite, healthful foods.  This is a good reminder that healthy eating also includes enjoyment of our favorite foods.  In addition to supporting a healthy body, food also plays a central role in family and cultural traditions, social gatherings, and celebrations.  What are some of your favorite healthy foods?  How you can include your favorite healthy foods into your day?
When I think about my favorite foods, I think about potatoes.  These are one of my favorite foods because they are delicious, nutritious, and versatile, and you will always find them in my pantry.  According to studies, most Americans eat potatoes in the form of potato chips and french-fries.  While delicious, these foods also contain many calories, few nutrients, and are better to enjoy only occasionally.  However, potatoes can be a delicious healthy food when they are prepared in other ways.
Did you know that potatoes have more potassium than a banana?
One large russet potato, with the skin, has 1.6 grams of potassium, which is more than 30 percent of your daily needs.  Did you know it also contains more than 25 percent of the vitamin C you need in a day? Potato skins also have a lot of fiber. While large russets are 290 calories, they can be part of a healthy diet because they are an excellent source of these important nutrients.
Explore the rainbow of potatoes!
Potatoes come in a variety of colors and sizes. The potatoes I use most often are Yukon Gold because of their lovely yellow color and buttery flavor. I also really like red potatoes and like to throw them in the bottom of my roasting pan when roasting a chicken. I really love fingerling potatoes. These small, skinny potatoes are excellent when tossed with a little olive oil, sprinkled with salt, and roasted until their papery skins are wonderfully crisp and delicious.  Perhaps my absolute favorite, when I can find them, are the beautiful purple potatoes.  They are delicious and add wonderful color. I love to combine them with red and yellow potatoes to make a rainbow potato salad.
When it comes to my favorite dishes that include potatoes, one at the top of the list is beef stew.  With hearty pieces of beef swimming in a delicious gravy with potatoes, carrots, and sometimes parsnips and other root vegetables. Another favorite is baked potatoes with crispy skin and topped with black beans, green onions, salsa, and cheese. During springtime my favorite potato recipe is potato leek soup, when the leeks are in season. It’s a wonderful side dish for a big meal, or can be a simple lunch or light dinner.

Recipe Source:
Food Hero
Number of servings: 8 cups
3 leeks (about 3 cups diced)
3 potatoes (about 3 cups diced)
2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
4 1⁄2 cups chicken broth
1⁄4 cup 1 percent milk
2 garlic cloves, minced or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Remove root and green tops from leeks.  Slice in half lengthwise and rinse well under running water.  Slice crosswise into ¼ inch slices.
Scrub potatoes well; cut into small cubes.
Melt butter or margarine in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat.
Add garlic and chopped leeks. Cook until softened.
Add potatoes and enough broth to cover.  Cover pan and simmer until potatoes are soft.  Mash with a potato masher or fork until potatoes are fairly smooth.
Add remaining broth, milk and pepper.  Simmer for about 5 minutes.
Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.