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Carb Solutions: The Summer Potato Salad

By Dennis Linden

Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have Diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions annually in both medical and economic resources; not to mention the affect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our own weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to make decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index [GI] and glycemic load [GL].

Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the blood stream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate theses calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for diabetics who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating foods that have low glycemic scores since they also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts have been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.

A Quickie Glycemic Primer:
  • The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low-glycemic-index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
  • The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how much digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, which is defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low.
A picnic table under a large shade tree protecting a bowl of chilled potato salad from the hot August sun, a stack of paper plates close at hand – gingham table cloth optional. This quintessential scene is the very essence of summertime. That is, for those who do not have to watch their carb intake! For this carb-counter, the need to find a “reasonable facsimile” for this dish becomes an annual quest beginning with the first Memorial Weekend picnic and builds to an outright obsession by August.

Let’s be clear here; The object of potato salad is to enjoy the taste sensation of a creamy tuber slathered in mayo, tossed with hard-boiled eggs and seasoned with a mix of salty-vinegary condiments. The potato has always been the traditional delivery tuber of choice, and, depending on the variety, can be very tasty with the aforementioned mayo-egg-seasonings combo. However, it is also the one ingredient in the recipe that must be replaced if the processing of carbohydrates is a concern. Just a ½ cup of Russet potato has 142 net carbs, a GI score of 111, and a whopping 33 glycemic load!

This summer’s spud replacement, after considerable tasty R & D, is the RUTABAGA! Besides being just a great sounding word to roll off the tongue, the tuber pales glycemicly compared to the potato. Additionally, rutabagas have a distinctively rich, savory-sweet flavor over a potato and turn golden when cooked. The tuber is also a good example of why the GL score of a food is actually much more important to take note of than GI in menu planning. While a rutabaga has a medium-high GI score of 72, its GL of only 7 indicates that it will have no impact on one’s blood sugar. Plus, that same ½ cup of rutabaga has just 7.5 net carbs compared to the super-carbed tater!

There are more potato salad recipes on this planet than there are potatoes! Everyone has an opinion on how the dish should be made. So, this feature includes a standard, “army-issue” formula to serve as a guideline that will no doubt be tweaked by personal preferences and traditions. The point is that this iconic dish of summer can be enjoyed by the strictest of carb-counters with an almost undetectable distinction. It’s a win-win … increased flavor/decreased carbs!

Preparation of the rutabaga is very straightforward – peel and cube. The outer skin looks tough and is usually waxed to preserve freshness, though it peels easily with a good (excuse the term) potato peeler. The key is to cook the rutabaga through until just fork tender. To microwave, add a little water to the container and cover with plastic wrap to steam. Allow for the fact that this micro-steaming will continue to cook the cubes during the cooling process; be careful not to overcook, so cubes will maintain shape. Enjoy that shady tree!

Faux Potato Salad
Servings 6

Ingredients for Faux Potato Salad


4 cups rutabaga; peeled, chopped
2/3 cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon brown mustard
4 green onions, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 hard-boiled eggs; 2 chopped, 1 sliced


Peel and cube the rutabagas, then cook in the microwave for about 10 minutes, or until fork tender but still firm.

Peel and cube the rutabagas, then cook in the microwave for about 10 minutes, or until fork tender but still firm. Let cool while preparing the rest of the salad.

In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, pepper and mustard.

In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, pepper and mustard.

In a large bowl, add the rutabaga along with the green onions, celery and chopped egg.

In a large bowl, add the rutabaga along with the green onions, celery and chopped egg. Add in the dressing and mix well. Garnish with the remaining egg slices. Refrigerate until chilled before serving. Find a shady tree.
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