Potatoes are a comfort food that many of us have been enjoying our whole lives. Whether it’s the satisfying salty crunch of French fries or a smooth creamy mouthful of mashed potatoes, this vegetable is a popular side dish to many meals.
If you’re following the Keto diet you may wonder where potatoes fit it. The short answer is, as tasty as you may have found them in the past, potatoes are not Keto-friendly. The following article will explain why this comfort food is off limits as well as some great substitutions when you need to get your potato fix.
Overview of Keto
The Keto diet is an ultra-low carb diet that asks you to eat a large number of healthy fats and a moderate amount of protein. The macronutrient ratio for Keto typically looks like 70-75% fat, 20-25% protein and 5-10% carbohydrates.
The goal of Keto is to switch up the way your body metabolizes food for energy. Typical diets are high in carbs and they provide your body with the fuel it needs to create glucose. Glucose is formed in your liver from the carbs your body ingests. It’s quick to create and just a quick to burn through. This can cause spikes and drops in blood sugar levels as the glucose enters and exits your body.
The Keto diet seeks to switch your body’s primary metabolic state to one known as ketosis. Ketosis occurs when your body switches to using ketones as its primary energy source. Ketones are created in your liver from fat cells. This is why the consumption of healthy fats on Keto is so important. You need to provide your body with the fuel it requires to produce ketones.
Ketones are a steadier form of energy than glucose. There is a consistent supply of body fat for you to make ketones from and they’re a longer, slower burning fuel than glucose. This means that you don’t have to deal with the energy highs and lows that you may have experienced on a high carb diet.
In addition to providing your body with a steady supply of energy, ketones also help you burn through your stored body fat which many people find contributes to them losing stubborn weight. You might find yourself sleeping better at night and having increased mental clarity after a switch to Keto.
What can you eat on Keto?
The Keto diet focuses on healthy fats. This means that you should eat a variety of healthy oils such as extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil. Nuts such as walnuts, pecans, almonds and brazil nuts are also great sources of the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats that Keto requires. You can also find these healthy fats in some fruits such as olives and avocados.
Meat features into the Keto diet because it’s a good source of protein. You should keep your red meat consumption to a moderate amount in order to limit saturated fats; however, poultry such as chicken and turkey is a great option. Fish is also a good addition to any Keto diet since it’s high in both healthy fats and protein.
Leafy green veggies such as kale, spinach and swiss chard are great sources of important vitamins and minerals on Keto without being too high in carbs. Fruits that are lower in sugar, such as avocados, blackberries and lemons also offer vitamins and minerals without the high amounts of carbs.
On Keto you should steer clear of trans fats and processed foods. Sugar isn’t allowed on Keto. You should avoid any grains, breads, pasta and cereals as they are too high in carbs. Sugary fruits and starchy vegetables are also not allowed on Keto.
What are potatoes?
The potato is a root vegetable that originated in South America and is now grown in many parts of the world. The potato is a tuber, the edible part of the roots of a plant that actually belongs to the nightshade family. While I wouldn’t recommend eating the green tops of this plant, the tuber produces a satisfying, crunchy food that is loved for its versatility. Potatoes can be mashed, boiled, fried or baked and they feature in snacks, dinners, breakfasts and lunches.
When potatoes are eaten with the skin on, they retain a lot more nutrients than when they’ve been peeled. They’re a good source of many vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate and potassium. Potatoes are low in calories with only 87cal in a 2/3 cup serving. They have practically no fat and very little protein.
The skin of the potato contain fibre while the fresh flesh of a potato is a mixture of carbohydrates and water. In a 2/3 cup serving, you can be sure to find 20g of carbs with 1g of sugar and 1.8g of fibre. The carbs in potatoes take the form of starches. Some potatoes are higher than carbs than others and cooking potatoes removes some of those starches, thereby lowering their effect on your blood sugar levels.
Are potatoes Keto-friendly?
If you’ve been following along, you probably already know the answer to this. No, potatoes are not Keto friendly. They consist almost 100% of carbohydrates and a single serving of potatoes has 20g of carbohydrates. Your goal on Keto is to stick to 20-25g of net carbs a day. Even when you subtract the fibre from the carbs in a potato, you’re still left with 18.2g of net carbs. This is almost your entire daily net carb budget! Yes, you could have a serving of potato on Keto and still be okay, but the rest of your diet that day would have to be foods that have absolutely no carbs. This would make meeting your nutrition requirements difficult so it’s best to just steer clear of this starchy veggie.
What can you eat in place of potatoes on Keto?
Don’t let the fact that you can’t eat potatoes on Keto steer you away from all the health benefits you could get by sticking with it. There are plenty of Keto-friendly potato substitutions that you can eat that are just as tasty (if not more) than the humble potato. The following are some suggestions for Keto-friendly potato options that you can sub into your diet when the mood for spuds strikes you.
The first substitution on this list is…a potato! Carisma potatoes might be difficult to find, but they’re a potato that’s being grown in the United States that has far fewer carbs than a regular potato. A single potato has 15g of carbohydrates with 3g of fibre. Once you do the math you can see that this brings your net carbs down to only 12g. This is still high, and probably much higher than many people would want to include on their Keto, but if you’re craving the starchy goodness of a potato and nothing else will do it’s nice to know that you could have half of one of these at 6g of net carbs and still feel good about sticking to your Keto
This might be the furthest thing from a potato in your mind, but cauliflower is a great substitution on Keto for all sorts of high carb dishes. If you’re missing your mashed potatoes then boil up some cauliflower, drain and mash it the way you would a potato and add in some of your favorite herbs, spices and a drizzle of heart-healthy oil for a side that’s both nutritious and delicious.
Rutabaga or Turnip:
These make a great addition to soups and stews. They offer the same filling mouthful of flavor with a lot fewer carbs. You can also boil and mash them the same way you would a potato. With the addition of some healthy oil and spices you’ve got a great side dish.
Zucchini and Kale:
These vegetables are slightly limited in their use as a potato substitute, but they can replace one important potato snack that many people munch on daily. I’m talking about potato chips! Not only are potato chips high in carbs, but they’re also loaded with trans-fats. If you slice up a zucchini thinly or wash and dry some kale leaves you have the makings of a healthy satisfying veggie chip. Make sure your veggie is dry, then dip it in some of your favorite spices such as chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika. Spritz on some healthy oil and bake in the oven for a nutritious chip that has the same satisfying crunch of potato chips.
Of all the substitutions on this list, this is the one that’s most like a potato in terms of texture, taste and versatility (except of course for the Carisma potato). Jicama is a root veggie, like a potato; however, unlike the potato, it’s not high in carbohydrates. A 100g serving contains 38 calories and only 3.8g of net carbs! Jicama is loaded with fibre, which helps lower its carb count, and it’s also a great source of vitamins and minerals. In order to cook it, you first need to peel off the skin. The options after that point are practically endless. Missing French fries? Slice your jicama into strips, cover in your favorite oil and spice and bake for a crunchy, low carb option. Craving mashed potatoes? Peel, boil and mash your jicama the same way you would potatoes. Need a filler to your stews and soups? Dice up some jicama and plop it into your favorite boiling broth.
Potatoes are not Keto-friendly. They’re too high in carbs to fit into anyone’s Keto budget and they don’t offer any of the healthy fats and protein that Keto requires. However, there are plenty of easy, healthy Keto-friendly substitutions for mashed, baked and fried potato products.