Potatoes May Soon No Longer Be Considered a Vegetable

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, when Americans eat vegetables, they’re mostly eating potatoes and tomatoes. In 2019, the average American downed almost 50 pounds of potatoes over the course of the year, and ate around 31 pounds of tomatoes — and it’s not totally surprising that French fries and pizza sauce significantly contributed to our annual totals. But in the future, when the USDA starts adding up our yearly veggie totals, tomatoes may take the top spot on a technicality. Because there’s a chance that the agency will reclassify potatoes, moving them from starchy vegetables into the same category as grains, rice, and other carbs.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee — made up of representatives from the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services — are putting together their dietary guidelines for 2025, and potatoes may be reshuffled. The dietary guidelines put foods into five familiar categories — dairy, fruit, grains, protein, and vegetables — but the increasing prevalence of different diets and “eating patterns” mean that those categories may be changed. “The panel wants to make sure everyone is getting enough nutrients, whether eating more potatoes, bread, or beans,” the Journal explains.

It should be noted that the trade groups on both sides of the potential new classification neither — the National Potato Council and The Grain Chain — are both opposed to potatoes being defined as anything but a vegetable. Kam Quarles, the CEO of the National Potato Council, testified during a hearing of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and he basically asked them to leave potatoes where they are.

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“While NPC is sensitive to individual needs and cultures, we urge the Committee to recognize [that] a potato is not a grain,” he said. “Potatoes are the most widely produced vegetable in the U.S.Starchy vegetables and grains are two vastly different food groups that play distinctly different roles in contributing nutrients to the diet. Unlike grains, white potatoes are a strong contributor of potassium, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and fiber. Research shows that diets high in vegetable consumption, including potatoes, promote healthy outcomes overall.”

He acknowledged that Americans should consume more vegetables — non-potato vegetables — but he doesn’t think that recategorizing potatoes is the answer. “The suggestion to reclassify potatoes as a non-vegetable is not grounded in any scientific metric,” he continued. “This unsupported notion, if acted upon, will confuse consumers, could result in nutrient gaps and also decreased vegetable consumption. We ask the Committee to avoid this chaotic outcome and continue to acknowledge the fact that potatoes are a vegetable.”

The Grain Chain was equally adamant, telling the committee that putting potatoes in their category “could further exacerbate nutrient shortfalls.” (Both groups agree that potatoes should stay put.)

We’ll see which side wins when the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee releases its 2025 guidelines. Until then, keep eating your vegetables. And your potatoes.

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