Dietribes / Flavour of the Week

Food Fight! Holiday Potatoes


Food Fight logoA holiday dinner plate has limited space, so which do you give more real estate – savoury mashed potatoes and gravy or candied sweet potatoes? Is one “healthier” than the other? Not that all of your eating decisions are necessarily dictated by health this time of year, but for curiosity’s sake… is one better than the other?

This year’s annual holiday Food Fight! is a battle of the tuber side dishes. Who will take the win this year? Will it be buttery and creamy mashed potatoes and gravy or sweet potatoes glazed with butter and brown sugar?

Both dishes originated in cookbooks authored by women but a century and an ocean apart. The first documented recipe for mashed potatoes appeared in Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery published in England in 1747, while a recipe for glazed sweet potatoes was published in Fannie Farmer’s 1893 Boston Cooking School Cookbook.

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
(170 g)
  VS* Candied Sweet Potatoes
(150 g)
18th century England Origin  19th century United States
 140 kcal Calories  226 kcal
5.4 g Total Fat  5.1 g
3.1 g Saturated Fat  2.1 g
2.9 g Protein  1.4 g
20.2 g Carbohydrate  43.9 g
1.8 g Fibre  3.8 g
10 μg β-carotene  3958 μg
348 mg Potassium  297 mg
522 mg Sodium  111 mg

No Baloney’s results? This was a sort of surprising one given gravy’s reputation and the health halo around sweet potatoes, but we award the win to mashed potatoes and gravy based on calories and carbohydrates. While sweet potatoes are best for fibre and carotenoids, chief ingredients in the dish are still butter and brown sugar. With 60% more calories, similar total fat and over double the carbohydrates, candied sweet potatoes are more dessert than side dish!

Keep in mind, the nutrition information above is based on a measly 1/2 cup portion of mashed potatoes with 2 tbsp of gravy and candied sweet potatoes about the size of a hockey puck. These are also based on pretty plain Jane recipes and are not representative of the souped-up options laden with cheese, bacon, sour cream or marshmallows and nuts.

What if you use “yams” in the recipe? For the most beta-carotene and fibre, we suggest opting for the orange-hued “yams” in the grocery store. But unless you are getting your tubers at a specialty market, those are not actually yams… despite what the grocery store label might say. What we have in North American grocery stores are two different varieties of sweet potatoes. The ones with orange flesh are labelled as “yams” simply to distinguish them from their creamy pale-fleshed brethren.

Happy Holidays from No Baloney!

*Nutrition information from the Canadian Nutrient File: “Potato, mashed, homemade, prepared with whole milk and butter” AND “Gravy, turkey, canned” and “Sweet potato, cooked, candied, homemade”. According to both the CNF and USDA databases, no one apparently makes homemade gravy!

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