When you really think about it, potato skins could be the perfect meal: a vegetable base, a little cheese, and meat on top. Protein, carbs, and fats—that’s a great dinner, right?
Of course, once they’re loaded up with cheese and sour cream and possibly even deep-fried, they’re not exactly all that nutritious. But with a few simple swaps, potato skins can totally transform from a boring sports-bar appetizer into a game–worthy healthy snack.
Upgrade the base
First things first—let’s swap out that starchy (not to mention bland) white potato for something a little more nutritious. It’s not that white potatoes are bad, it’s just that you could do better—with sweet potatoes or yams. Both are full of carotenoids, the antioxidant phytonutrients that give their flesh that beautiful orange or golden color, and they have a few less carbohydrates and calories than regular white spuds.
If they look good at the market, get sweet potatoes with orange flesh. They’re extra high in vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium—plus, they’ve got satisfying fiber and resistant starch to promote healthy digestion. Cook them the same way you would regular potatoes—poke a few holes in the skin with a fork, and pop in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 50 minutes.
Choose your fat wisely
Once you roast and scoop out your potatoes, they’re ready to go back into the oven with toppings. But first, brush the inside of the skins with the cooking fat of your choice. Go with the good stuff here, because fat boosts flavor, and a good swipe also helps with browning and crispiness. Our favorites? Grass-fed butter, ghee, homemade vegan butter, or avocado oil.
With roughly 65 percent of the worldwide population identifying as lactose intolerant, odds are at least one of your guests will have to avoid the queso dip. Make their lives a little cheesier by using aged cheddar cheese atop your potato skins. Aged cheeses are easier to digest because they contain fewer lactose enzymes, and many people who typically steer clear of dairy can usually eat them just fine.
Cheddar ain’t your style? Use a more pungent and flavorful cheese like Parmesan—it’s got such a strong flavor that you won’t need to use much, which ends up saving you a few calories per spud. For those that top with sour cream, switch over to full-fat greek yogurt instead for more protein and healthy fats (not to mention some tummy-friendly probiotics!)
Go heavy on the protein
Here’s where we really get weird—in a good way. The run-of-the-mill version of this appetizer calls for crumbled bacon, but you can make yours more satisfying and more flavorful by strategically adding meat. Choose grass-fed beef or pasture-raised chicken along with bacon. Cooking them together gives both proteins a little more cohesive flavor, but by pairing a leaner meat with fatty bacon. you’ll add heft without sacrificing health.
Nah, a sprinkling of chives here isn’t going to cut it. Fresh ingredients like sliced green onions, chopped cilantro, green jalapenos, and even creamy avocado are ideal final touches. Thanks to their bold flavors, no one will miss the sour cream. Bonus? They look even prettier, too.
What other Game Day favorites are you lightening up this season? We’re dying to know—tell us about your big game snack plans in the comments below!
Photo credit: Paul Delmont