Potatoes are healthier than people think. Potatoes contain more potassium than a banana, vitamin C, fiber and even protein. The only problem is that many people often prepare potatoes in unhealthy ways. People mostly choose to fry them up, drown them in cheese or mash them with fattening butter and cream and since potatoes don't contain fat or cholesterol, why would you add it to them?

Stuffed Baked Potato: The key is to look for healthy toppers. Filling your baked potato with vegetables is a healthy way to add even more vitamins, without adding fat. Instead of using full-fat sour cream, mozzarella cheese or cheddar use their low-fat or fat-free alternatives to save on half the calories and fat. Use salsa for a bold topper - you'll crank up your metabolism. Capsaicin, the substance that gives kick to peppers and chilis, has a thermogenic effect, meaning it causes the body to burn extra calories for 20 minutes after you eat them.

Baked Fries: A typical serving of French fries - which usually takes a bath in vegetable oil - can contain about 600 calories. Your healthiest bet would be to spray Pam calorie-free, non-stick cooking spray on a roasting pan. Slice your potatoes and add salt and pepper and any seasonings you like. For a metabolism kick try making spicy fries. Studies have shown that spices like cayenne pepper can speed up your heart rate and metabolism. Eating a very spicy meal can actually speed up the metabolism by about 25 percent for up to 3 hours.

Mashed Potatoes: This is one of the most classic comfort foods, however once it is mashed with butter and cream and the gravy is poured on top, you have a creamy bowl or artery clogging fat. Most of the nutrients that are found in potatoes are located in the skin. Therefore to increase the amount of vitamins and minerals, leave the skin on. Use skim milk, roasted garlic and onions, and a little parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter.

Potato Salad: What's a party without a potato salad? One cup of this salad contains as many calories as half your daily requirement. Food for thought, one tablespoon of mayonnaise contains 90 calories and 10 grams of fat. Let's be honest, usually the potatoes are dripping in mayonnaise. For a creamy, rich flavor and an added boost of protein, use non-fat Greek yogurt as the base to save on half the calories and fat. If you must use mayonnaise, switch to low-fat versions. Substitute an artificial sweetener like Splenda in place of sugar. Add chopped veggies for an added boost of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Soups: Instead of opting for a creamy-based potato soup, opt for a broth-based hearty vegetable one. The hearty mix of potatoes and other vegetables will fill you up on few calories. You can also add in some lean meat for a hearty fiber-filled meal that will keep you full without filling you out.

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and founder of

www.Skinnyandthecity.com

. She is also the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto

www.FFactorDiet.com

.

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.

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