July 7, 2010

Out View: WIC's potato ban
is bad nutrition advice

Pity the potato: Its undeserved reputation for making people fat has dropped it from the list of foods that people can take home with the federal government's help through the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.

click image to enlarge

Potatoes are blamed for the things that people do to them, obscuring the nutritional properties of the tuber itself. What's fair about that?

Staff file photo

This is unfair, because potatoes are blamed for the things that people do to them, obscuring the nutritional properties of the tuber itself.

Sure, deep fry a potato and it will be bad for you. Smother it with butter and cheese and it will be a high-calorie addition to your dinner plate.

But a WIC recipient can receive butter and cheese through the program, but not the potato. Where is the justice in that?

Most food and health experts agree that potatoes can be part of a healthy diet. Jane Brody, author of "The Good Food Book," writes that the potato gets a bad rap:

"The potato itself has fewer calories than many of the foods people eat to lose weight. A medium potato weighing five ounces that has been baked, boiled or steamed has about 100 calories; but a half cup of creamed cottage cheese has 130 calories; a three-ounce hamburger has 270; a cup of plain yogurt has 170; an eight-ounce glass of orange juice has 110 and a lettuce salad with two tablespoons of dressing, 170."

Potatoes are also nutritious. They're a good source of protein, vitamin C and dietary fiber, especially when eaten with their skins.

Potatoes have been targeted by fad diets as fattening, a message that, combined with the most common cooking techniques, has led many to advise avoiding them.

Well, here's a news flash -- sweet potatoes are on WIC's approved list, but when deep fried, they are a high-calorie food. Broccoli is great for dieters, but not if they smother it with cheese sauce.

Maine's congressional delegation is using its clout to pressure the Department of Agriculture to lift the potato ban, and they would have a strong case to make, even if potatoes were not the state's No. 1 agricultural product.

People in this country are literally dying from a lack of education about what makes for good nutrition. They don't need confusing and uninformed stereotypes about what kinds of foods are bad for them to confuse the issue.


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