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Mashed potatoes can be a part of a healthy diet. Here's how.

Mashed potatoes may not scream "good for you," but they do taste delicious. So, does that mean you need to cut those creamy, whipped spuds from your diet if you’re opting for a more nutritious lifestyle?

The answer is no, according to Yasi Ansari, who is a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified specialist in sports dietetics and national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. “Mashed potatoes can certainly be part of a healthy and well-balanced diet,” she says.

Here’s how to make that possible.

Are mashed potatoes healthy?

Ansari says that in her work with clients, she doesn’t label foods “good” or “bad.” “My mission is to really encourage people to eat the foods they love but to find ways to make them more nourishing and satisfying,” she explains.

That being said, she states that potatoes offer great nutrition. The potato is a starchy vegetable. This means that it’s packed with carbohydrates, which are “the main energy source of the human diet,” says a 1994 article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Potatoes are also a rich source of potassium — an essential mineral that is important for the functioning of cells and for our heart, muscles and nerves—and fiber, which helps with digestion. According to UC Davis Health, they also are a source of the antioxidant vitamin C.

What makes mashed potatoes unhealthy?

Potatoes themselves have all these wonderful nutrients — and those nutrients don’t go away once they’re mashed. Mashed potatoes however often contain additional ingredients that change the nutritional profile of the potatoes, says Ansari. The ingredients we add are often full-fat dairy products like butter, cream and cheese. According to the American Heart Association, these full-fat dairy products are saturated fats, which can cause problems with cholesterol levels and in turn heart disease. It’s important to stress that this doesn’t mean mashed potatoes are “bad,” but rather this is simply something to be mindful of, especially if you have heart disease.

What are some healthy ways to prepare mashed potatoes?

If you are concerned about the fat content of mashed potatoes, Ansari outlines a variety of options. One option is to substitute full-fat dairy products for lower-fat alternatives. Examples include dairy products that are lower in fat, like low-fat milk and Greek yogurt, or chicken and vegetable broths. Another option is to alternate the type of potato dishes you consume throughout the week. Maybe you eat buttery, creamy mashed potatoes one day, roasted potatoes the next day, baked potatoes the following and then bring back mashed potatoes to your plate, says Ansari.

If you are looking for ways to eat healthy, Ansari emphasizes creating a balanced plate. You can increase the nutritional intake of your meal by adding rather than restricting. “If someone wants to eat the mashed potatoes, eat the mashed potatoes,” she says. But she also suggests adding vegetables and lean proteins to your plate. Together, these foods will keep you full longer and help you manage your energy levels so that you can walk away from the meal feeling good.

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This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Are mashed potatoes healthy?