Fitting Tater Tots onto a CARE Balanced Plate
Extend with tender veggies, watch sodium and keep an eye on nibbling!
Members, I have published three recipes to Modernmeal using a beloved favorite, tater tots. The goal of a therapeutic lifestyle is not to avoid favorite foods. The goal is to learn how to use them modestly, to know “where they fit” on your plate. In CARE, we do this with cheese, sugar, and now tater tots.
First, reduce the number of tater tots you eat by extending them with tender veggies
The first recipe – Tater Tot Hash (Therapeutic White Veggie Skillet) – shows how to extend tater tots using tender veggies like riced cauliflower and powerful nutrient-rich veggies like onion and garlic.
As you learn in CARE Step 3 (Leafy & Tenders) and CARE Step 5 (Fruits, Roots, Grains), the opportunity is to use the bulkiness that leafy and tenders bring (without the caloric density) to our favorite grains and pasta (which are calorically dense).
Here the texture of riced cauliflower pairs incredibly with the diced potato goodness of tater tots. The cauliflower allows us many more bites of tater tot than having them by themselves.
Cauliflower and potato pair extremely well together in many dishes. I find it much more enjoyable to keep a touch of potato in the revised idea rather than just trying to use cauliflower as a full substitute for potato. For example, when making cauliflower mashed potatoes I always add one potato and it has made all the difference with my family. The same applies here mixing tater tots with riced cauliflower.
Second, watch the sodium
The second recipe published to Modernmeal – Sausaage Tater Tot Hash with Avocado – uses leftover Tater Tot Hash to make a lightening fast warm salad for lunch using lean chicken sausage and a bed of greens.
When using packaged foods (like tater tots) and processed meats (like sausage), stay aware of total sodium. Like teaching you how to use sugar and cheese modestly in CARE, this type of meal idea teaches you how to identify all sources of sodium and to plan accordingly. This is a meal higher in sodium (888mg) than average CARE meals (<600mg) (the goal is <2300mg/day or <1500 if you have heart disease).
This meal is OK occasionally, but do be aware of balance and use this as education for watching all sources of sodium in meals. If having this for lunch, plan for breakfast and dinner to be more modest in sodium (<500-600 mg).
Ensuring you eat this meal idea with the bed of greens (lettuce and broccoli slaw) also provides close to 600mg of potassium which helps regulate the ratio of sodium:potassium in the blood (good for blood pressure regulation). So don’t skip the green part – they play a very purposeful role here.
Thirdly, keep an eye on your nibbling!
When using denser foods like tater tots, its especially important to keep an eye on your nibbling as your putting the dish together.
In the third recipe published today – Tater Tot Hash Egg Bake – you use 4 cups of tater tots, starting by quickly microwaving them before adding them to the skillet. How easy, if not automatic, is it to nibble on a few tots here and there as you prepare the recipe.
But… keep in mind that only 1/2 cup of tater tots (only 8 tots) is a full serving of carbohydrate AND fat AND ~300mg of sodium.
Nibbling on them out of the microwave adds up quickly and it is these little bites here and there that can make you stall on weight loss. If you are going to nibble (which let’s face it we all will), just account for it. 1-2 doesn’t matter, but if you have more than 5 or 6, it needs to be counted as another carbohydrate and fat (and sodium) for the meal.
Finally, use these ideas to create your last minute meals
My husband is the one that discovered using tater tots with riced cauliflower while making brunch one weekend. He knew he wanted a little indulgent potato for brunch so started there and then just scanned the crisper for how to bulk it up and make it nutrient-rich and balanced from what he added next. His creation was delicious.
This is what a therapeutic lifestyle is all about. Leading with favorites and finding the value in using them modestly and purposefully.
And a truly valuable part about that brunch was the walk we enjoyed together afterwards, fueled by a nutritious meal. Not weighed down, wanting to nap, loosing motivation by the minute because we chose to only eat a huge plate of tater tots instead.