There is a new kid on the block

Or rather in the paddock, with a recent addition to the potato family. These “new” spuds, Lotatoes, were introduced to New Zealand in 2017 and are now available country wide. This is a product driven by an awareness of the Low-Carb way of eating – and its effects on potato growers. Top nutritionist, Abbie O’Rourke, says, “Recent trends have put potatoes out of favour with many, often replaced with lower carbohydrate or lower calorie alternatives. Lotatoes puts them back at the top of the shopping list.”.

As consumer trends move toward a more balanced approach to nutrition and diet, choosing foods that elicit a lower glycemic response, is important. Basically, we eat low-carb diets to keep our blood sugar stable and Lotatoes have significantly less carbohydrates than ordinary potatoes.

These new potatoes have been produced by cross-breeding different varieties from Holland, and then have been grown sustainably in NZ. These are naturally grown and not genetically modified (GM) products as are some other varieties of potatoes obtainable from overseas. Lotatoes contain 40% less carbs, are low calorie and have a “melt in your mouth taste”. They can be used just like your common potato variety and can be enjoyed boiled, mashed or baked. They are described as perfect for healthy meal options that fit into all active lifestyles.  According to Fresh.co (an export representative group for NZ Growers and cheer leader for the fresh food industry),   these will  get “health fanatics worldwide, who lambast the humble potato, to eat their words and our new potato”.

Interestingly the Lotatoes web site goes on to explain that Lotatoes are also more environmentally friendly than your usual spud as they have a growing cycle that is 25% shorter than other varieties which means less water requirements. They are also a lot smaller than other varities.

Although this is a new low-carb brand launched in NZ, it is not the only one available. SpudSmart of Canada reports that other brands derived from the Netherlands low-carb strain of  Carisma were launched Australia in 2011 along with the Carbsmart variety in Ontario, Canada in 2016.

So how do the nutritional claims stack up?

Potatoes basically do not contain fat. However the way potatoes are cooked can alter their basic nutritional value. For example roasted potatoes have 5g of added fat, a potato baked in the jacket with added sour cream has 7g, and deep fried chips contain 10 – 14g of fat. Nonetheless our plain old potato’s Protein/Fat/Carbohydrate (PFC) count is 2.1 (P), 0.2 (F) and 18.2 (C) per 100g, while Lotatoes NZ producers report a count of 1.4 (P),  < 1 (F)  and  9.8 (C) per 100g for the new brand. An interesting alternate choice, if you like mashed spuds, is the instant kind. These are quite popular (just look at the Colonel’s famous “hot and creamy” mashed potato side) and a commercial product available at the supermarket, Mashed Plain, which are 83% Potato with added Milk, Butter, Salt, and Spices, show a PFC of 2.3 (P),  4.5 (F) and 17.3 (C) per 100g. As a result we can see that there is a significant difference in the carb content between Lotatoes, regular varieties and the instant brand.

Sounds great!? Is it worth it?

Generally you would expect a financial impost for innovations such as this, but surprisingly the price compared positively. Checking out this week’s prices at Countdown (May 2018), shows that the Lotatoes are priced at $3.50 a kg, which is the same as the loose fresh White Washed potatoes. If your budget only stretches to the common Countdown White Washed Potatoes though, at $1.75 per kilo, you will be paying twice as much. When compared to the more up market pre-packed spud, Fresh Produce Lucky Sod Potatoes Baby Boilers (at $4.99 per Kilo), you find that the low carb alternative are more economical!  In the weekly shop you could also get a 1kg of Select Potatoes Mashed Plain for $3.50 as well. Again the same as the Lotatoes !

Do we really need these types of innovations though?

The development behind these products has been driven by the popularity of the LCHF trend and a greater awareness of what healthy eating is, along with maintaining the potato growers market share. “Potandons”, producer of the Carbsmart LC variety, director of Product Marketing,  Carter Bray, said they are confident these products can appeal to both millennials and baby boomers. Though they both think of health differently, millennials will be looking for healthier options as they begin having families and start cooking for children, while baby boomers may start to keep a closer on eye on health as they age.

Healthy Food Guide nutritionist Claire Turnbull agrees eating too much of the wrong types of starchy foods can contribute to weight problems but  believes the tendency with low-carb potatoes is that people will just eat more because they  have less carbs. She goes on to say that if you are eating the normal every day spud, the easy answer is to just eat less of them!

It’s not that potatoes are bad. No food is good or bad. Mindful eating is as important as being non-obsessive. It comes down to how you prepare your spuds and how much you have of them. Enjoy these new varieties, as much as you would enjoy any other potato, but remember portion size and what you add to them will make a difference to how good they are for you. There is no need to stop eating your regular potato! Lotatoes may sound tempting when it comes to weight loss, but the risk of buying manufactured ‘low carb foods’ is that people could end up eating more than a recommended portion, and in so, negating the benefits, to get the same feeling of satiety.

A final word.  An online survey run by Stuff following the initial article that peaked my interest, asked the following question:  “Would you buy low-carb potatoes to help trim your waistline?”

The results: 44% answered that they would “as I need every little bit of help I can get.”; 32% answered that they probably would depending on the texture and taste; but only 24% would not “because they felt having self control eating normal potatoes is the key”. It is a bit sad to see that only 1 in 4 feels that self control is the significant answer to our obesity and health issues.