Potatoes are getting a bad rap in the dieting wars that stress the necessity to "eat less carbs."
The fact of the matter is that our bodies need a variety of foods for good health and to satisfy our hunger. Most nutritionists believe that carbohydrates are the best source of energy for the body, fueling the muscles as well as the brain.
Glycogen is a carbohydrate stored in muscles and the liver, vitally important for sustaining physical activity over long periods of time. When levels of glycogen are low, an athlete can feel sluggish, weak and tired.
During exercise, carbohydrates (stored as muscle glycogen) are used as a source of energy for the specific muscle in which it is stored. The rate at which muscle glycogen is depleted is dependent upon the type of exercise and the frequency of individual workouts.
The recreational exerciser, whose typical daily activity level ranges from 30 to 60 minutes, should focus on optimizing basic needs in order to enhance performance. Emphasize carbohydrates (50 percent to 65 percent of calories), and choose powerhouse foods that include brightly colored vegetables and fruits, starches like potatoes, low-fat dairy, nuts, seeds and legumes, and soy products. This maximizes the intake of much-needed vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
If it has been more than four hours between meals, a snack may prevent energy levels from falling. A small snack (200 calories to 400 calories) before exercising may help fuel muscles, enhance performance and prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar, with its symptoms of fatigue).
Since most of us are not marathon runners, we should limit our intake of carbohydrates, though not eliminate them entirely.
Low-Fat Idaho Potato Gratin
2-4 large cloves garlic, minced
21/2 to 3 lbs. potatoes, well-scrubbed and very thinly sliced
8 oz. shredded, 75 percent light cheddar cheese
3/4 cup nonfat mayonnaise
3/4 cup nonfat evaporated milk
11/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 zucchini (8 oz. to 10 oz.), washed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or 2 Tbsps. packaged grated Parmesan)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Spray a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
Sprinkle in garlic, and arrange half of the potatoes in the dish. Evenly add one-half of the cheddar.
In a small bowl, mix the nonfat mayonnaise, the evaporated milk, white pepper and thyme.
Spoon half of this mixture over the cheese. Cover with the sliced zucchini. Sprinkle with remaining cheddar cheese, and spoon remaining milk mixture on top of cheese.
Arrange remaining potato slices on top and sprinkle Parmesan over all. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 50 minutes.
Uncover, and broil six inches from the heat source for 4 to 6 minutes or until golden.
Serve hot or at room temperature.
Makes 10 to 12 servings.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 241; cholesterol, 11 mg; sodium, 368 mg; protein, 13 g; carbohydrates, 42 g.
2 lbs. medium potatoes
2 ribs celery washed and finely chopped
2 tsp. sage leaves
2 tsps. thyme
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/2 cup chopped, toasted almonds (optional]
Scrub the potatoes and dice them into one-half-inch cubes.
Boil in enough salted water to cover them by two inches for 5 to 7 minutes, or until crisp-tender.
Add chopped celery to boiling potatoes, then drain everything in a colander.
In a large bowl, mix seasonings. Add well-drained potatoes.
Top with toasted almonds, if desired.
Serve or place in a baking dish, spray with nonstick pareve spray, and brown in the broiler for a few minutes.
Makes 6 one-half-cup servings.
Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 291; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium 61 mg; protein, 11 g; carbohydrates, 50 g.
Courtesy of the Idaho Potato Commission.