Potatoes are a good source of potassium, magnesium and dietary fiber. They contain zero cholesterol and even have some vitamin C. According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), they also have very little fat.
The humble baked potato can be part of a healthy, nutritious diet when eaten plain, topped with fresh herbs, or sprinkled with a dash of seasoning. However, if you add (admittedly delicious) potato toppings such as bacon, butter, sour cream or cheese, that loaded baked potato will pack a lot more calories.
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Here's the bottom line on potato toppings.
Calories in Whole Baked Potatoes
Per the USDA, a large baked potato has 372 calories, a medium baked potato has 265 calories, and a small baked potato has 214 calories. Removing the skin lowers the calorie count — but it also reduces the nutrition.
The baking process itself doesn't add calories if you cook the potato in aluminum foil without oil. There is some variance in calorie count between different types of potatoes, though. A baked russet potato has the most calories (94), while the same-sized purple potato has the least (73).
Calories in Popular Potato Toppings
Putting a tablespoon of butter or margarine on top of your baked potato adds about 100 calories; drizzling it with a tablespoon of olive oil adds even more: 119. Top it with a tablespoon of regular sour cream, and you add about 23 calories.
Crumbled bacon is another popular baked-potato go-to. But according to the USDA, one tablespoon of crumbled cooked bacon has 30 calories and two grams of fat — one gram of which is the saturated variety, aka "bad" fat.
Cheese is also a common baked potato topper. However, sprinkling a baked potato with an ounce of shredded or crumbled full-fat cheese can add 70 to 100 calories, depending on the type and amount of cheese used. For example, 1 ounce of full-fat cheddar packs 114 calories. Cheese sauce — a creamy blend of cheddar cheese, butter, milk and flour, like this version on Allrecipes — is less caloric if used sparingly: One tablespoon contains about 28 calories.
To brainstorm healthier toppings, pretend your baked potato is plain rice. That kind of thinking inspired an Asian-style baked potato from the Washington State Potato Commission. Their nutrient-packed recipe includes eggplant, carrots, onion, ginger, green pepper and lemon peel.
Low-Calorie Baked Potato Toppings
The Mayo Clinic recommends topping baked potatoes with with low-sodium salsa or low-fat yogurt instead of butter as part of a heart-healthy diet.
Steamed vegetables, chopped fresh herbs, scallions and low-fat salad dressing are also great topping choices.
If you absolutely must have cheesy potatoes, opt for some sprinkles of grated Parmesan. According to the American Dairy Association North East, Parmesan cheese contains just 20 calories per tablespoon.
- Washington State Potato Commission: "Asian-Style Vegetable Topping for Baked Potatoes"
- Mayo Clinic: "Heart-Healthy Diet — 8 Steps to Prevent Heart Disease"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Historical Record — Cottage Cheese"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Historical Record — Real Crumbled Bacon"
- American Dairy Association North East: " Cheeses Full of Taste but Low in Calories"
- AllRecipes: "Cheese Sauce for Broccoli and Cauliflower"