If anyone is considering some serious potato hacking for the new year, here’s some inspiration: Seven different variations of the original potato hack. Whether your goal is weight loss, maintenance, or healing a troublesome gut, these variations might help you stick to the potato hack.
Aside from all these variations, the potatoes themselves are another source of variety. Don’t just buy the cheapest bag you can find, try all the different types. Each potato cultivar has its own unique tastes and texture. Maybe just using a different type of potato each day is all the variety you’ll need.
The seven rules of the potato hack work extremely well as written. Once you’ve done a round, evaluate how it worked. Did you see any weight loss or other benefits? There is no disgrace in hating the potato hack. Admittedly, it’s not for everyone. That’s where these variations come in.
Over the years, as people try to bribe and coerce me into allowing other foods on the “potato” hack, there have been some unique variations proposed. I’ve personally tried all of these. Some work great, some not so great for me. Some folks swear by their favorite variation. These variations take into account the unique nature of the human being, our need for control, and a desire to continually tweak everything we do. Consider these variations as “hacks on the hack.” You may even come up with your own hack.
Spice it up
I believe the potato hack derives much of its power from the blandness. There is no “party in your mouth” when you are eating potatoes, although, as you’ll see, plain potatoes can be very tasty. Salt is allowed in the basic version of the hack. I don’t know of anyone who found the potato hack did not work as advertised simply due to the extra salt. If anything, salt makes it work a bit better at reducing inflammation and burning fat. Therefore, the first variation I’ll describe is a spiced-up version of the 1849 potato hack.
The spices used in this variation are the typical dried spices you normally cook with. A sprinkle of seasoned salt makes potatoes much more enjoyable. There are a couple of spices that just seem to go with potatoes. Black pepper, paprika, and rosemary are the accoutrement of choice by professional chefs. If you’d like to take a trip down memory lane (way, way down), in the Andes Mountains where potatoes originate you’ll find a couple of spices native to the region that were most certainly used on potatoes. Cilantro, mint, oregano, basil, and hot pepper are all native to the area where potatoes originated.
Though not technically spices, lemon juice and vinegar also make potatoes very flavorful without adding calorically to the meal. Vinegar also has a great quality that, when added to a starchy meal, it will reduce the post-prandial glucose spike. Dieters have long been told to add vinegar to starchy meals. Vinegar and potatoes are a unique flavor combination popular in different parts of the world. Some swear by salt and vinegar for potatoes, anything else being overkill. Additionally, if you buy a spice mix, look for artificial ingredients and flavors…choose only 100% pure and natural spices. No Bacon and Chive concoctions, please. Just this:
|Get organic if possible!|
My only qualm with “spicing it up” is that I feel it’s cheating. Please, get to know the potato first. Try it plain, at least for a full day. People who have told me that potatoes “suck” are quite surprised when they first try a Yukon Gold or a German Butterball. Potatoes are tasty. The big ugly baking potatoes you find in the supermarket are not known for flavor. Try out some other varieties, make a game of it, you will not regret it.
Potatoes by Day
This is quite possibly my favorite variation. It’s a riff on Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before 6:00 (VB6) diet plan. “Potatoes by Day” or “PBD”is just as it sounds, from sunup ‘til sundown, you just eat potatoes. In other words, potatoes for breakfast, lunch, and snacks and then a dinner of whatever you’d like.
Nutrition-wise, this is much easier than VB6. The VB6 book has an extensive collection of recipes, unlike The Potato Hack. Eating a great vegan diet is hard to do, which is why Bittman allows a normal dinner. Unless the practitioners of vegan diets do some reading, they can fall into vegan traps which make a vegan diet possibly worse than a diet of fast food and candy. For instance, let’s say your version of VB6, or any vegan diet, involves a vegan muffin for breakfast, made with trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Then lunch is a trip to McDonald’s where you pick up a small salad and a large order of fries. Add a couple power bars or Reese’s peanut butter cups for snacks. Vegan for sure, but healthy? Not on your life.
Furthermore, I had no interest in becoming an isolated vegan in a world of omnivores…(Bittman, Vegan Before 6:00, 2013).
PBD takes away the uncertainty of an unhealthy vegan diet. There are no choices, other than maybe to use salt or not. Many people, including me, simply do not do well in a world of plenty. Maybe our ancestors were constantly starved and the lucky off-spring who continually sought food survived. Potatoes by Day takes away the choices and bad decisions you make; and it’s highly nutritious. Some Irish peasants survived their entire life on a diet of oatmeal, potatoes, and milk. These three foods led to a population explosion and one of the healthiest populations the world had seen. Just imagine how healthy our world would be today if everyone ate potatoes from morning ‘til night and a well-balanced dinner.
Try PBD for your maintenance diet. There is absolutely no harm in doing PBD literally forever. If your dinner has a bit of meat, some whole grains, and fruit and vegetables you will be the most well-nourished kid on your block. Vegan diets have merit, for sure, but also shortfalls. Most vegans take a vitamin B12 supplement because this vital nutrient cannot be had from plants. With PBD, you will not need any supplements. The potatoes will be your multi-vitamin, and you can eat all the meat you like.
If you are a vegan and find yourself overweight, PBD may be just what you need. The Potatoes by Day variation lends itself nicely to many variations of its own. You can try PBD during the work week, on weekends, or for a week or month at any time of your choosing. I think you’ll find you will never get tired of tasty potato dishes, and eating this way makes dinner oh-so-much more enjoyable. Try PBD for a week. You’ll love it.
This is a spin-off of Johnson UpDayDownDay Diet™. Often abbreviated JUDDDD™, this diet is one of the trademarked low carb diets that seems to work exceptionally well for people who enjoy a low carb approach to dieting. With JUDDDD™, one has days of high calories and days of low calories. The book associated with JUDDDD™ is The Alternate Day Diet which promises activation of your “skinny gene.” If you are shopping for a diet plan, take a look, maybe you’ll like it. The Alternate Day Diet is filled with many of the same “alphabet soup” strategies for success that I use here in The Potato Hack.
The Alternate-Day Diet is based on scientific and clinical studies that show how restricting calories only every other day activates a gene called SIRT1, the skinny gene.
With PUDDD, simply eat your normal diet one day, and potato hack the next. With JUDDDD™, you’ll need to go through an extensive “induction” period and use a series of calculations to determine your basal metabolic needs for your down days. The down days of JUDDDD™ are simply calorie reduced days and the up days are eating normally. The danger of this diet is that the user may never really learn to eat properly and simply switch between starving and eating crappy food. With PUDDD, the same trap is there…you’ll need to learn to eat right in your up days. However, the down days of PUDDD are so easy, even a caveman could do it (sorry, Paleo®). Just eat potatoes until you are full on your down days. No counting calories, no tracking nutrients. The potato is the ideal food for an “up day down day” approach to eating.
PUDDD would be great for a long term maintenance plan, or for slow, sustained weight loss. For maintenance, try PUDDD for a week at a time, once every month or even just a couple times a year. For weight loss, try PUDDD for a month and see what happens. The weight loss will be undoubtedly slower than straight potato hacking, but PUDDD shows great promise in keeping people on track. With PUDDD, you can use any of the other variations here on your potato down day. You’ll be able to see what works and switch things up to keep it interesting.
When it comes to your up days, I can’t stress enough that you will need to learn to eat a human-appropriate diet. This is as simple as just avoiding the big 3 industrial foods: Refined sugar, industrially processed oil, and enriched wheat. If a food label lists any of those as the main ingredients, don’t eat it. Ever.
Added Oil or Fat
For some strange reason, the first thing people want to do on an all-potato diet is to cook the potatoes in fat. I’m really not a fan of this variation, and I’ve scratched it off the list several times only to add it back when I ruin yet another frying pan. Using some type of fat does making cooking much easier and imparts a bit of crispy mouthfeel.
What kind and how much? This is the million-dollar question. I’ve experimented with coconut and olive oil with good success. I’d suggest that if you need to use some oil, stay completely away from the industrial seed oils of corn, canola, peanut, and the so-called vegetable oils. Margarine is not a real food and should be avoided. My list of possible potato hack oils is fairly short:
- Coconut Oil
- Palm Oil
- Olive Oil
- Lard (ie. bacon grease)
These are the only cooking fats I recommend for anyone, ever, but if you want to use a different one, it’s up to you. As to a proper amount, let’s say about 1 teaspoon (tsp) per pan. A teaspoon of oil weighs 4.5 grams and has about 40 calories. It does not take much oil to place it in the majority of calories for a meal. To make your oil go further, use a spray type oil, but please stay away from the pressurized “cooking sprays” that are so popular. Read the ingredients; if you see dimethylpolysiloxane, diacetyl, and any type of propellants, do not use. This goes for always, not just potato hacking. Consider that my public service announcement.
For reference, here’s the only spray oil I use. It’s 100% coconut oil with no propellants:
|Spray-type Coconut Oil Details|
The proper amount of oil to use is not measured in teaspoons or grams, it’s the amount that is juuuust enough to allow you to cook a particular potato dish that requires a bit of oil to prevent sticking. The perfect amount is none. If you find that you need a ton of oil with every meal, maybe it’s time for some self-reflection.
The low-fat aspect of the potato diet is one of the keys to its success. This is an extreme low fat diet, not just a “lite” diet. When you start adding fats to your meals, the entire physiology of the meal changes. During the potato hack, every single drop of fat your body needs to fuel itself should come from body fat, not food. Your body needs fat, that’s why it stores it on your thighs and belly. Let’s make our body work for its fat for a change.
Meat & Potatoes
We’ve all heard people described as “meat and potatoes” people. Maybe they are onto something. Intrepid potato-hacker “Marie” invented this variation, and it’s been copied many times with great success. To pull off a Meat & Potatoes hack, you must keep your meat portion small and lean. You’ll also find that a long separation between eating the meat and your all-potato meal will add to the success.
For instance, have an all-potato breakfast of something like oven-baked curly fries, oil-less hash browns, or a cold boiled potato. For lunch, a half of a lean chicken breast or a piece of baked cod. Try to keep it to around 4 ounces, or the size of a deck of cards. Some people seem to really need meat in their diet and a small piece helps keep them on track. Maybe you’d rather have the meat at breakfast or dinner. No problem. Just don’t get in the habit of having a big potato meal, and then scarfing down a pack of bacon. It won’t work.
Potatoes and Gravy
If there ever was a more natural pair, I don’t know what it is. Potatoes and gravy just go together. In this variation, we pair potatoes with a very benign ingredient, broth. Broth, be it chicken broth, “bone” broth, or simply a stock made of vegetables, is very healthy. It’s hardly food, more a drink. Little more than water and some nutrients, it can be quite flavorful, but with hardly any calories, especially when all traces of fat are skimmed from the top. My nutrition calculator shows chicken broth has only 20 calories per cup. That’s quite a deal.
And here’s the best part, what is more “potato” than potato starch? And what is potato starch’s #1 use? Gravy. Here’s the recipe:
For best results, pour ½ cup of cold chicken broth in a glass or bowl and bring the rest to a slow boil. While the broth is heating up, add 1TBS of potato starch to the cold broth in the glass and stir or shake vigorously. When the broth in the pan is boiling, dump the starchy broth in and stir. Within seconds it will gelatinize and become a perfectly thickened gravy that can be used as a sauce on any potato dish.
Yep, that’s it. Two ingredients. Makes enough to last nearly a week. You don’t need much of this wonderful gravy to moisten your spuds. A bit of salt and pepper and you won’t even know this is the potato hack, for good or bad. Not that I want to rain on your parade, but don’t make the potato hack too easy. As Scrooge said to Marley’s ghost:
You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are! (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, 1843).
Ipomoea batatas Hack
Ipomoea batatas is better known as “sweet potato.” For the purpose of this variation, we’ll also throw in yams since most people can’t tell them apart and they are often mislabeled at the store. The nutritional profile of sweet potatoes, yams, and white potatoes is a bit different, for instance, sweet potatoes have much less starch and more sugar.
|Might be yams|
I’ve talked with several people who have successfully used sweet potatoes or yams as a portion of their potatoes on the potato hack. I cannot vouch for the effectiveness or the satiety of yams and sweet potatoes. This variation has not been well-tested and it really a completely different hack, if it works.
This variation is my least favorite, but you might like it. Simply substituting a couple sweet potatoes in a meal, or having a couple sweet potato/yam meals will most likely not be problematic. For people with Nightshade sensitivities, this may be the hack for you. Sweet potatoes and yams are not from the Nightshade family and do not have the solanine and chaconine that causes problems for some people with white potatoes.
The variations are endless but I’m quite pleased with these. You could even mix and match, for instance, meat & potatoes fried in a bit of oil with spices and gravy. Is that taking it too far? It’s a “legal” combination. You’ll have to decide. The intent of these variations is not to create a way to eat even more potatoes, but to break up the monotony and possible unpalatability of potatoes in the hands of amateur cooks. Try hard, dig deep. I’d rather hear from you saying that these variations were not needed, or possibly, that they helped you stick to a mostly true potato hack.
Happy New Year!