Maureen Storey
Maureen Storey

With the emphasis on filling plates with brightly colored vegetables loaded with antioxidants, white vegetables such as potatoes and onions often get left behind.

“Some people are not even aware that the potato is a vegetable,” said Maureen Storey, president of the Alliance for Potato Research and Education in McLean, Va.

No matter how you prepare it, Storey said the potato’s white flesh is an excellent source of potassium, a nutrient North Americans don’t get enough of, as well as vitamins C and B6.

“And that nutrition is not just skin deep,” she said.

“Even if you fry the potato, the nutrients are still there.”

Onions are also loaded with important nutrients as well as flavor.

They’re high in vitamin C, a good source of fiber and folic acid, and contain quercetin, an antioxidant that helps fight disease and slow oxidative damage to cells and tissues, according to the National Onion Association.

Storey urged potato packers and shippers to use their packaging materials to spread the word that the potato is a nutrient-rich vegetable and a rich source of potassium and dietary fiber.

“When I worked for Kellogg Co.,” she said, “I learned that the cereal box is the best real estate you can have to get out a nutrition message.

“The same applies to produce packaging. You’ve got a lot of real estate you can use to get out nutrition messages to people who buy potatoes.”

To see what kids are eating in school and what goes in the garbage, the alliance sponsored a study at Texas A&M University that looked at plate waste in elementary schools.

The study found that kids like potatoes, including nutritious oven-baked fries, and eat them without any fuss. That means there’s less food wasted when spuds are on the menu.

“Potatoes have taken a pretty hard hit in the past decade or so,” Storey said, “and I think getting the facts out about potatoes is going to help turn any misconceptions around.”