How do most American children eat potatoes? (as french fries)
Do french fries count as a vegetable? (No.)
Do kids- typically- eat french fries in moderation? (not usually)
If given the choice between french fries and spinach, which will a kid choose? (french fries)
Should potatoes count as a vegetable? (In my opinion, no)
Well, the humble potato is the subject of a debate going on in Washington as of late. The Obama administration was trying to set regulations that would limit the amount of potatoes served to our kids in the national school lunch program to one cup per week.
One cup per week. That's not too strict of a limitation. But it is a limitation. So why all this fuss about potatoes?
Well its that in the school lunch program potatoes, and their derivatives (tater tots, french fries), count as a vegetable.
Let me be clear. There is nothing wrong with potatoes. I love them, and eat them frequently as my carbohydrate since I'm not able to eat wheat. But did you notice the subtle difference there? I said I eat them as a carbohydrate, not as a vegetable.
The number one component of a potato is starch, aka. white-fluffy, digested-extremely-quickly carbohydrate. Sure potatoes are also a source of some vitamins and minerals, but are certainly not a nutritional powerhouse like kale or spinach. They are a carbohydrate, and should be treated just like rice or pasta when planning a meal.
A highly quoted figure in this debate came from Senator Susan Collins from Maine saying that one potato has as much vitamin C as an entire head of iceberg lettuce.
|Photo: wikimedia commons@Liftarn|
Which presents a conundrum to this potato debate that I haven't quite thought through yet. No kid is going to choose kale over tater tots. So if we want to get kids to eat more vegetables, do we indeed have to get rid of the more attractive option, the potatoes?
|Photo: wikimedia commons @Shirimasen|
Unfortunately it looks like this whole debate, which has focused on the potato but is in reality is a jumping off point to discuss the larger important issue of vegetables in school lunch, is off the table. According to last weeks New York Times article on the subject:
"The Senate on Tuesday moved to block the proposal by adopting an amendment to the 2012 spending bill for the Agriculture Department. The amendment, approved by unanimous consent, prohibits the department from setting “any maximum limits on the serving of vegetables in school meal programs.”While I agree that setting a maximum on vegetable servings would be silly, potatoes should not be in the same category as kale and salad. End of discussion.