A Tuber Tiff: Potatoes May No Longer Be Considered a Vegetable

New dietary guidelines are roasting potatoes for not living up to expectations.
Health food.
Health food. / Lew Robertston/Stone via Getty Images

When we gorge on potatoes—baked, fried, mashed, or otherwise—we often reassure ourselves that it can’t be too much of an indulgence. Potatoes are vegetables, after all, and vegetables are good for us, right?

This willful self-deception may not be possible for much longer: Potatoes could potentially be reclassified and lose their vegetable status.

Food & Wine reports that the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is flirting with the idea of slotting potatoes into the grain category in its updated 2025 dietary guidelines in an attempt to promote more balanced nutritional profiles for Americans. (The committee recognizes fruits, grains, proteins, vegetables, and dairy.) By eliminating potatoes as vegetables, it may lead people to consume more nutrient-dense, cruciferous options like broccoli.

Potato advocates disagree with the proposal. Representatives from the National Potato Council and other pro-potato groups spoke before the committee in September to defend the starchy carb. NPC CEO Kam Quarles insisted that “potatoes are a vegetable [and] not a grain.” Quarles added that, unlike other starches, potatoes are rich in potassium and vitamins. A reclassification, he added, could confuse consumers and result in a “chaotic outcome.”

Potatoes have long been a source of controversy in nutrition circles. Under a strict definition, potatoes are the edible portion of a plant, and thus a vegetable. But they behave differently in the body. “A potato is not a vegetable from a nutrition point of view,” Harvard’s Lilian Cheung told CNBC. “Potatoes almost behave like a refined carbohydrate. It increases your blood sugar.”

Others regard potatoes as a starchy vegetable, joining the likes of corn and lentils.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines are a joint effort between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. The current version was established in 2020 and is set to expire in 2025. The guidelines for 2025 to 2030 are currently under review. When finished, they’ll help inform nutrition education, nutrition guidance, and meal assistance programs.

As it stands, potatoes are the most-consumed vegetable in the United States. Tomatoes are in second place (despite technically being a fruit).