Potato Wars

Is the potato a major contributor to the American obesity epidemic? The United States Department of Agriculture seems to think it is, and is taking steps to almost completely eliminate it from the nation’s school lunch programs next year, according to the “Sacramento Bee.” Potatoes aren’t the only staple food that the USDA is declaring war on; corn, peas, and lima beans join them on the list of starchy vegetables that they want Americans to start cutting out of their diet.

So what is bad about these foods? They contain way more calories than other vegetables, while providing far fewer vitamins and minerals in the process. Potatoes, corn, peas and lima beans more closely resemble foods like bread and pasta, so to be fair, they need to be compared with them, and not vegetables. The problem is that while their calories are similar to that of bread and pasta, they still contain fewer vitamins and minerals than whole grains, so they don’t stack up favorably in this category either. Basically, the USDA is saying there is always a better choice to make than potatoes, corn, peas, and lima beans for the American consumer.

The problem that I see is that Americans like to eat potatoes, corn, and peas (maybe not lima beans). They also prefer white bread to whole grain bread, and white pasta to whole grain pasta. I agree with the USDA that there are perhaps more nutritious foods out there, but I’m not sure that these American staple foods, by themselves, are a major contributor to our obesity epidemic. Obesity is our nation’s largest problem (no pun intended), and deserves to be the USDA’s top priority, but I feel their new crusade should be against fried potatoes like French fries, “tator tots,” and hash browns, and not on potatoes in general.

In my humble opinion, the two major contributors to obesity in America are: 1) Lack of physical activity, 2) Excessive fat in our diet. “Eating too many potatoes” would be a bit further down on my list. Let’s give our nation’s potato farmers a break, and go after fried potatoes instead of all potatoes!