Hash browns are made of potatoes, and potatoes are vegetables… That means hash browns are healthy, right? Or are they unhealthy because they’re oily and salty? Well, you might be surprised.
Hash browns can be quite healthy when prepared without oil or butter, and with added vegetables. They can actually be ideal for weight loss. However, the typical preparation of hash browns includes large amounts of unhealthy vegetable oil and salt.
Below, I’ll show how dramatically the nutrition can differ between healthy hash browns and unhealthy hash browns. I’ll share a list of 6 common brands that I would recommend buying. And I’ll share why hash browns are actually great for weight loss if you make them properly!
Hash Brown Ingredients
You might think hash brown ingredients would be a boring topic. Obviously, the main ingredient is potatoes. Duh. But I was shocked when I learned how much the rest varies depending on the specific product.
I’ve got a simple product comparison that will make this point very clear.
There are actually some store-bought hash browns out there that are very simple. For example, here are the three ingredients in Ore-Ida’s shredded hash browns:
Ore-Ida Shredded Hash Brown Potatoes Ingredients: “Potatoes, Dextrose, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate.”
Granted, these ingredients are not incredible—potatoes are one of the less nutrient-rich vegetables, and the dextrose may even add a bit to the glycemic response of the potatoes. But I can appreciate how simple and relatively unprocessed this is.
Now, here’s what’s interesting: Even when you check other products by Ore-Ida, the ingredients can differ a lot. Here are the ingredients for Ore-Ida’s frozen hash brown patties:
Ore-Ida Golden Hash Brown Patties Ingredients: “Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (Canola, Soybean, Cottonseed, Sunflower and/or Corn), Salt, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Dehydrated Onion, Dextrose.”
As you can see, we’ve doubled the number of ingredients when choosing the patties—from three to six.
But what’s more shocking is how much vegetable oil and salt are added. It’s not just a little bit! To prove my point, let’s take a look at the nutrition facts for each of these products.
Hash Brown Nutrition Facts
I was shocked to see how much these two Ore-Ida hash brown products differ—despite being from the same brand. Here are the full nutrition facts—I’ll discuss the differences below:
|Nutrition Facts||Ore-Ida Shredded Hash Browns||Ore-Ida Hash Brown Patties|
|Serving Size||1 1/4 cup (85g)||1 patty (67g)|
|Calories From Fat||0||70|
Here are the big differences I see:
- The patties have double the calories—despite having a smaller serving size (67g vs 85g). This means the patties have a much higher calorie density. This makes them worse for weight loss, as you’ll eat more calories without feeling as full.
- More than half of the calories in the patties come from vegetable oil. The “calories from fat” make up more than half the total calories in the patties. Considering that vegetable oil is really the only fatty ingredient in the patties, this means (in terms of calories) you’re eating over 55% processed vegetable oil.
- The patties have over 10x the sodium. Excess sodium can lead to high blood-pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. The patties are quite salty. Meanwhile, the plain shredded hash browns come nearly free of sodium.
Those are the major differences. But even when you look at other factors, like the dietary fiber—the shredded hash browns continue to win, with 2g rather than only 1g in the patties.
Are Hash Browns Healthier Than Fries?
Hash browns are not necessarily healthier than fries. Both foods are typically made with the same ingredients: Potatoes, oil, and salt. Which one is healthier all depends on the details of the preparation.
Here’s how to determine if your hash browns are actually healthier than most French fries:
- If your hash browns are cooked without oil or butter, then your hash browns are likely much healthier than most fries.
- If your hash browns are made with a healthier oil—like olive oil or avocado oil—then they’re likely healthier than fries.
- If you don’t salt your hash browns, they’re likely healthier than most fries.
- If you add vegetables into your hash browns—like peppers or onions—then your hash browns are likely healthier than fries.
Really, when you look at hash browns or potatoes, the most unhealthy part is typically the oil. It’s processed, high in calories, and usually way too high in omega-6 fats (depending which specific oil is used).
Meanwhile, the healthiest ingredient in fries or hash browns is the potatoes. Sure, white potatoes may not be superfoods—but they are whole foods, they’re very satiating, and they contain gut-healthy resistant starch.
In fact, some people have successful weight loss eating only potatoes. I wrote all about these crazy all-potato diets here.
Anyway, here’s the point: The closer you get your hash browns (or fries) to just plain potatoes, the more they are good for you. The more oil and salt you add, the more they become bad for you.
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Are Hash Browns Good for Weight Loss?
Hash browns are good for weight loss if they’re prepared without oil or butter. This is because potatoes by themselves are very satiating and relatively low in calories. However, when you add oil or dairy, they can become more fattening.
As I mentioned above, many people have successfully lost weight when putting potatoes at the center of their diets. In fact, it’s not just the crazy “potato cleanse” diets that prove this.
Dr. John McDougall’s famous “starch-based diet” is known for relying heavily on potatoes. The cover of his book The Starch Solution includes a picture of a potato. And his diet has led to many success stories, including people I know personally.
One of McDougall’s success stories is Will Kristi, a Canadian guy who went on to start a website called Potato Strong.
Potatoes rank very high on the Satiety Index. In fact, their score is about 3 times that of white bread. This means they keep you much fuller for much longer than most other starchy foods.
But again, the key is to make your potato dishes without oil, butter, and other high-calorie ingredients. You can’t just buy McDonald’s hash browns and expect them to be healthy. You need to learn the art of oil-free cooking.
If you eat hash browns cooked with oil or butter, then really they are no healthier than fries, potato chips, or other processed potato products. You have to get your hash browns closer to whole potatoes by excluding the oil and butter.
Is It Bad to Eat Hash Browns Every Day?
There is nothing wrong with eating hash browns every day. However, to make them as healthy as possible, get them prepared without oil or butter, and with added vegetables. Then it would be a health-promoting meal to eat daily.
Again, the potatoes in hash browns are pretty healthy. It’s the oil and salt that can cause problems when eaten in excess.
If you’re eating oily, salty hash browns, then I would not recommend eating them every day. Or I would at least recommend limiting your portion sizes. But healthy hash browns could be a staple meal to rely on daily.
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Healthy Store-Bought Hash Browns
As I’ve emphasized above, the most important aspect when buying healthy hash browns is choosing a product that doesn’t contain vegetable oil. This isn’t usually too hard to find—but I wanted to make it even easier.
Here are 6 common brands of oil-free hash browns:
- Great Value Shredded Hash Browns
- Cascadian Farm Organic Hash Browns
- Simply Potatoes Shredded Hash Browns
- Golden Grill Russet Hashbrown Potatoes
- Idaho Spuds Premium Hashbrown Potatoes (Dry)
- Hungry Jack Original Hashbrowns (Dry)
I’ll also mention that two of those brands—Cascadian Farm and Great Value—each have only one ingredient: Potatoes! How’s that for a nice, simple, healthy product?
Are Hash Browns Vegan?
Hash browns are usually vegan. They usually only contain potatoes, oil, and salt. However, sometimes hash browns are cooked with butter or animal fat instead of vegetable oil. In that case, they would not be vegan.
At a restaurant, I would probably ask to make sure their hash browns are not made with butter. That said, I’ve made vegan menus for about 100 restaurant chains now, and I’ve found that hash browns are pretty much always vegan at restaurants.
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