A complete and balanced menu should include a protein source, like meat, a source of carbohydrates, like rice, and a source of vitamins and minerals, like vegetables.
You plan your lunch menu with this in mind, and it turns out great… you serve yourself 3 ounces of grilled chicken, ½ cup of steamed rice, and ½ cup of your favorite potato salad; your meal is complete and balanced: the meat, the cereal, and the vegetables are there. It’s perfect, right? Wrong, it is not perfect.
Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and cassava are considered starchy vegetables.However, if you decide to include them as part of a complete, balanced diet, potatoes and starchy vegetables are not considered vegetables, and this is very important if you’re planning a healthy menu.
Vegetables have little or no starch (carbohydrates) and low caloric content — around 25 calories per serving. Unlike vegetables, potatoes and other starchy vegetables provide 15 grams of carbohydrates and 80 calories per serving. Therefore, the exchange list of foods considers potatoes and starchy vegetables as cereals,in order to provide a complete, balanced diet. Within the group of cereals we also find rice, pasta, bread, and tortillas.
A serving of potatoes in a balanced diet is
equivalent to any of the following options:
¼ of a large potato (3 ounces), baked with skin
½ cup of boiled or steamed potatoes
½ medium-size potato, boiled or steamed
½ cup of mashed potatoes
Next time you’re planning your lunch or dinner menu, remember to consider potatoes as a serving of cereal. Choose potatoes instead of rice or pasta and remember to include vegetables in your meal, like a fresh salad with lettuce, tomato, broccoli, peppers, carrots, and mushrooms. Also, remember to include a good source of protein: chicken, beef, pork, fish, shellfish, eggs, or cheese.
American Dietetic Association and American Diabetes Association (2003). Exchange Lists for Meal Planning. Retrieved on April, 2009.
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