Learn how to build a healthy baked potato bar for an affordable family meal or celebration. This post includes topping ideas, side dish recommendations, and info on how to bake potatoes three ways.
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Let’s face it, we all get a little stuck with meal planning and staying creative in the kitchen sometimes. If you have a big family to feed, coming up with ideas for easy, affordable, and healthy meals can be especially challenging.
One way to ease the stress that comes with planning dinner for your family is working in theme nights, like Taco Tuesday or Friday pizza night. Personally, I always looked forward to having pizza on Friday as a kid, and I’m sure it was helpful for my parents to have that weekly plan set in stone.
Sticking with the theme idea, setting up a baked potato bar is a great option. Potatoes are affordable, long-lasting, and super customizable. If you provide a variety of toppings, there’s a high chance that everyone will leave the table happy. Plus, it makes dinner more fun and gives kids more freedom over their food choices.
But I know what you may be wondering…
Are baked potatoes good for you?
Potatoes have a bad reputation, mainly because they’re often fried and coated with salt. But in reality, they’re loaded with nutrients and can be a healthy addition to balanced meals when they are baked, steamed, or boiled.
White potatoes are actually comparable to sweet potatoes in terms of nutrition, though most people assume that sweet potatoes are more nutritious. If you want to learn more about that, I wrote all about the nutritional breakdown of white vs. sweet potatoes in this post on Healthline.
So if you think baked potatoes are unhealthy, think again! But like most foods, the nutritional value of potatoes depends on how they are prepared. And in the case of baked potatoes, how they are stuffed! If you add nutritious toppings to a potato, you can transform a regular spud into a flavorful, nutrient dense meal.
How to Plan a Baked Potato Bar
Building a nutritious baked potato is a simple way to implement the practice of creating balanced meals. Balanced meals contain four components: protein, fat, non-starchy vegetables, and complex carbohydrates. Eating all of these nutrients together can help you feel satisfied, energized, and overall healthier.
As you plan your baked potato bar, keep these four components in mind and choose toppings that fit. Here are some examples:
- Complex carbohydrates: A baked potato checks the “carb” box, with approximately 37 grams in 1 medium potato including 4 grams of fiber.
- Non-starchy veggies: The more, the merrier! Broccoli, scallions, and peppers are classic additions to a healthy baked potato, but you can also think outside the box. What about cauliflower? Carrots? Maybe even spinach? By the way, salsa totally counts too.
- Protein: If you eat a plant-based diet, go for fibrous beans, tofu, or edamame. If not, you can incorporate diced chicken, lean ground beef or bison, or even fried or scrambled eggs.
- Fat: If you love sour cream on your baked potatoes, how about Greek yogurt instead? You can also add avocado or shredded cheese. Yum!
What toppings go on a baked potato bar?
Here are some of my favorite topping combinations for baked potatoes:
- Salsa + black beans or shredded chicken + shredded cheese and guacamole
- Sautéed garlic and spinach + chickpeas + feta cheese and Greek yogurt
- Marinara sauce + white beans + shredded mozzarella
- Chopped celery and carrots + buffalo chicken + blue cheese
- Veggie and bean curry (like my Cauliflower Curry) + yogurt
- Broccoli + chicken + cheddar cheese
- Scallions + fried or scrambled eggs + avocado
Three Ways to Bake Potatoes
Of course, before you get to the toppings, you have to bake the potatoes. I recommend using russet potatoes, but Yukon gold or sweet potatoes also work. These three cooking options yield perfect baked potatoes.
- Oven: Scrub the potatoes, poke a few holes in them with a fork, rub with oil, and bake for 45-60 minutes on a baking sheet or piece of foil at 425 degrees F.
- Crockpot or Slow Cooker: Scrub the potatoes, poke a few holes in them with a fork, rub them with oil, and wrap each one in a sheet of aluminum foil. Place the potatoes in the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours.
- Microwave: Scrub the potatoes, poke a few holes in them with a fork, place on a microwave-safe plate, and cook on high in the microwave for 4 to 5 minutes. Turn over and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes on high until soft. See my post on how to make a Microwave Sweet Potato for more info.
Pierce the potatoes with a fork to ensure that the flesh and skin are tender before eating.
What Side Dishes to Serve with a Baked Potato Bar
As I noted, a loaded baked potato can be a complete meal all in one. But if you want to serve them with sides, I recommend a simple vegetable dish or salad. Here are a few options:
- Tarragon Roasted Summer Vegetables
- Coconut Braised Vegan Collard Greens
- Healthy BBQ Green Beans
- Roasted Frozen Broccoli
If you make a baked potato bar based on this post, I’d love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments below! You may also want to check out the Healthy Sweet Potato Skins with Barbecue Beans while you’re here.
Baked Potato Bar with Toppings
- 6 russet potatoes
- 2 15-ounce cans black beans - drained and rinsed
- 2 cups shredded chicken
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese
- 1 15-ounce jar salsa
- 1 cup sour cream - or plain Greek yogurt
- 4 scallions - thinly sliced
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Scrub and dry the potatoes, poke a few holes in their skin with a fork, rub them with olive oil, and place them on a baking sheet or piece of foil on the center rack of the oven. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes until fork-tender.
- While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the toppings in serving bowls. Set up a platter for the potatoes to complete your baked potato bar.
- Have everyone build a potato with their desired toppings (more ideas in the notes), and enjoy!
- Sliced carrots and celery + buffalo chicken or chickpeas + blue cheese and ranch
- Sautéed garlic and spinach + chickpeas + feta cheese and Greek yogurt
- Tomato sauce or pesto + white beans + mozzarella
- Scallions + scrambled or fried eggs + avocado
- Slow cooker: Scrub clean, poke holes in the skin, rub them with olive oil, and wrap each potato in aluminum foil. Cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or high for 3 to 4 hours.
- Microwave: Scrub clean, poke holes in the skin, place on a plate, and cook on high for 4 to 5 minutes on each side.
This post was originally published in November 2018. It was updated with more text and tips in April 2020.
Have a great weekend!
My favorite combo is spicy queso and homemade pics de gallo!
Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN
That sounds absolutely delicious!!!
Thanks for a great post! I’m so glad to see potatos back on the healthy list. My family is plant based and potatos are a big part of our diet. I usually top them with mushroom gravy but I love the idea of broccoli. My kids would love that.
I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! And mushroom gravy sounds like a fantastic topping. I’ll have to try. Have a good weekend – Lizzie
Jenny Shea Rawn
Great ideas for a satisfying meal! Love stuffed baked potatoes.
Aren’t they the best?! I need to add them to my dinner rotation.
Great tips here! I need to do more stuffed potatoes for dinner.
Thank you! They are so tasty!