Mashed Potatoes, Lightened Up

I love mashed potatoes—garlic-flavored, sweet potatoes or just the plain old delicious kind. But with a hefty calorie tag, I tend to only eat my own lightened versions. Find out how you can make healthier versions of this scrumptious side dish.

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I love mashed potatoes -- garlic-flavored, sweet potatoes, chunky, skin-left-in or just the plain old creamy ones. Alas, most recipes call for tons of butter and that means loads of calories and fat. Thankfully, there are workarounds.

It All Adds Up

First, the bad news: a serving of traditional mashed potatoes can have up to 400 calories. Many calories come from the added butter and heavy cream. One tablespoon of stick butter contains 102 calories -- 64% of the calories are from fat. Many recipes use a whole stick for just 6 servings. Do the math -- you're really weighing down that side!

As for heavy cream, a tablespoon is 50 calories; 94% of those calories coming from fat. Traditional recipes call for about 1/2 cup of heavy cream -- that’s around 200 extra fat calories on top of the butter.

Easy Swaps

There are several routes to take to lower those calories and keep your potatoes moist. First, use less butter or a butter substitute. Try using half the amount of butter and choose whipped butter instead of stick. There are many low or no-calorie butter alternatives in your market.

You can also use low-sodium chicken (or veggie) broth. Not sure the ratio to try? Check out this Ellie Krieger recipe.

For the heavy cream, even moving to regular (whole) milk will cut the fat significantly. A 1/2 cup of whole milk contains 75 calories -- that’s a savings of 125 calories! Try going for the 1% milk and you will save even more -- each cup has around 105 calories.

You might also want to experiment with reduced-fat sour cream or cottage cheese to replace the milk. The ratios differ depending on how starchy your potatoes are and your texture preference, so follow recipes or test variations.

Bring On The Flavor

Add some personality to your potatoes with low-calorie herbs, spices and veggies. Chives, basil, onion and garlic really add a fresh kick (I’m making myself hungry!). Or sprinkle a touch of a strongly flavored cheese such as Parmesan or tangy goat cheese.

You can also swap the traditional russet potato for a Yukon gold or sweet potato (that's my favorite). Keep the potato skins on for some extra fiber. Doctor up mashed sweet potatoes with cinnamon and nutmeg or with a touch of orange zest. Replace some of the potato with root veggies. Or be adventurous and go for mashed cauliflower (yeah, yeah, we know, that's not mashed potatoes).

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