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Potato diet makes point deliciously

Published on December 10, 2010 3:01AM

Last changed on January 7, 2011 8:38AM


There are many ways to prove a point. One is to turn red-faced and bang your fist on the table. This may create a spectacle, but it rarely changes minds.

Another is to turn on the earnestness and make like your issue is the most important thing in the world.

But sometimes the most effective way to make your point is with creativity and a healthy sense of humor.

Chris Voigt mastered that last technique with his all-potato diet.

As executive director of the Washington Potato Commission, Voigt took up the challenge of proving the healthfulness of potatoes. He did it by eating 20 potatoes a day and nothing else -- for two months.

The USDA's Women, Infants and Children nutrition program has excluded potatoes from its list of approved foods. Policy wonks in Washington, D.C., decided that Americans already ate enough potatoes.

Voigt's diet proved that the WIC folks have it backward. Potatoes in any amount are good for you. In fact, he showed that potatoes are so healthful that a person can eat them exclusively. In the process, his cholesterol levels improved and he lost weight, giving the lie to WIC wonks' concerns that potatoes make Americans fat.

In short, Voigt proved that if you want nutrition and health, this spud's for you.

Instead of portraying himself as a martyr, Voigt had fun with the diet. He made videos that he posted on YouTube and www.20potatoesaday.com to promote the diet. In one video, he toured the grocery store sampling all of the foods he'd miss while on his "tubertarian" diet.

Then he did a week's worth of shopping. It took him 21/2 minutes and cost a total of $7.50 for 50 pounds of potatoes. Even a penny-pinching WIC bureaucrat would have to love that.

Voigt also made a "Tur-tato" of mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving and, in another episode, challenged a life-size cutout of Olympian Apolo Ohno to a speed-skating race. The cutout won.

What Voigt might have lacked in television production skills he made up for with enthusiasm, good humor and likeability.

He made his point in a way that generated thousands of followers on the Internet, and he was featured in radio, television and newspaper stories around the world.

Anyone who followed Voigt's diet now knows that potatoes are healthful.

Now if only the folks at USDA's WIC program could figure that out.


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