The USDA To Limit Potatoes For Kids?

A picture of a very sad potato.

The USDA hate me? But I'm full of vitamins and minerals! Just ask the USDA!

Sometimes the things that come out of Washington DC sound a little crazy and make a person scratch their head.  Last month, the Feds announced they want to limit serving potatoes to children and keep them from school lunches.   This news, coupled with the fact the WIC program prohibits buying spuds with government aid, seem to qualify for both as head scratchers.

Seriously – potatoes are so unhealthy for people the Women Infants and Children program won’t allow them, and now the same is going for public schools? Really?

Obviously, being chipping potato growers, we’re biased.   We like potatoes and feel they’re a healthy option to have on a dinner plate, assuming you simply don’t load it down with bacon, cheese, sour cream and salt (which sounds terribly delicious right now!).  With that in mind, let’s turn to an un-biased source for nutritional information –

Though potato chips and french fries are popular, we focused on another popular way people eat potatoes: baked, with the skin on and not salted.  Looking at Self’s potato nutrition guide, this large, baked potato, offers the following daily nutritional values (based on a 2,000 calorie diet):

  • 48% of Vitamin C
  • 47% of potassium
  • 4% of calcium
  • 18% of iron
  • 7 grams (26%) of dietary fiber

And if you eat that same potato raw, the amount of Vitamin C (121%) and dietary fiber (32%) you get shoots through the roof!  The above represents a quick snap-shot of the various vitamins and minerals you get from potatoes.

You may have noticed the amount of Vitamin C and potassium in a potato is pretty impressive.  So, how does a spud stack up against tomatoes and oranges (two well-known sources of Vitamin C) and bananas (regarded for its contribution of potassium to a diet)?  Let’s find out.

First, oranges.  A large, orange gives you the following recommended daily dietary allowances:

  • 163% of Vitamin C (wow!)
  • 10% of potassium
  • 7% of calcium
  • 1% iron
  • 4 grams (18%) of dietary fiber.

Next, a large tomato’s daily values:

  • 39% of Vitamin C
  • 12% of potassium
  • 2% of calcium
  • 3% of iron
  • 2 grams (9%) of dietary fiber

Now, how about the daily values of a banana?

  • 20% of Vitamin C
  • 14% of potassium
  • 1% of calcium
  • 2% of iron
  • 4 grams (14%) of dietary fiber

To be fair, a potato does have quite a few more calories than the fruit it’s been compared to, as well as quite a few more carbohydrates.  However, overall, a baked potato looks like a healthy option to have on your plate.  And if you cover that spud with broccoli, chicken and tiny bit of alfredo sauce, you have a delicious, well-balanced dinner.

Should you replace oranges, bananas and tomatoes with potatoes?  Of course not.  You should strive to eat a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.  However, when taking a look at the above stats, a potato may not be as unhealthy as the Federal government may be making them out to be.  Certainly healthy enough, and delicious enough, to get important nutrients into the diets of children and their mothers.

By the way, if you look closely at the bottom of the pages on we took this information from, they got their information from the USDA itself. And if you’re curious about the nutritional values of potato chips, be sure to read our post about how healthy potato chips are!

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