The classic American side dish, mashed potatoes are synonymous with hearty steak dinners, picnic buffets and Thanksgiving--in other words, high-fat eating. Though traditional cooks might make mashed potatoes with whole milk or cream, melted butter and plenty of salt, you can maintain your heart-healthy diet by replacing the less-nutritious ingredients with items higher in vitamins and minerals. You'll lose fat and calories without sacrificing flavor.
Use Fat-Free Milk
Replace whole, 2 percent or 1 percent milk with fat-free skim milk. You'll eliminate 7.91 grams of fat per cup of whole milk but still enjoy 8.26 grams of protein with fat-free milk. You'll also have 299 milligrams of calcium, representing 23 percent of the recommended daily intake of calcium, according to the USDA's Food Guide, based on a diet of 2,000 calories per day.
Choose Healthy Spreads
The federal government's "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005" recommends limiting your intake of saturated and trans fats. Delete the artery-clogging animal-based saturated fat from mashed potatoes by using healthy tub spreads instead of butter. Make sure to choose olive oil-based spreads that have no trans fats, which may raise one's level of low-density lipoprotein, or "bad," cholesterol and lower the amount of high-density lipoprotein, or "good," cholesterol.
Replace Dairy Ingredients
Eliminate the milk and butter altogether and replace them with low-sodium vegetable broth and trans fat-free olive oil spread. Dairy-free mashed potatoes are suitable for vegans, people who are lactose-intolerant or those allergic to dairy products. For added flavor, sprinkle in some garlic powder or salt-free spice blend.
Flavor plain mashed potatoes with fresh herbs or vegetables and add nutrients at the same time. Chop fresh basil, parsley, oregano or even mint and toss in while mashing. Or, sautee chopped fresh arugula, Swiss chard, spinach or kale and mix into the potatoes with a clove or two of roasted garlic. Adding leafy greens to mashed potatoes is a convenient way to get more vegetables into your daily diet. The USDA recommends consuming 2.5 cups of vegetables per day.
If you're trying to limit your intake of starch, the Mayo Clinic suggests making mashed "potatoes" with cauliflower instead. Chop up a head of cauliflower, steam thoroughly with the white part of a leek and a clove of garlic, then puree with a hand mixer until smooth. Add healthy olive oil spread for flavor and a little vegetable stock if the mash seems dry. One head of cauliflower contains about 6 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, 71 milligrams of calcium and 155 milligrams of vitamin C.