How to Make a Healthier Potato Salad

Build a better side dish by ditching mayo and giving your ingredients a night in the fridge.

potato salad with pickled cucumbers

Don’t panic, spud lovers. Turns out, with a few smart strategies, “healthy" and "potato salad" can go hand in hand.

Unfortunately, everyone's favorite summer side dish can wreak havoc on your blood-sugar levels, thanks to all the high-carb starch in potatoes. But there's a way to fix that: Boil the potatoes ahead of time and refrigerate them overnight. The next day, make a dressing with vinegar, lemon juice and/or olive oil—not mayo—and mix it with the potatoes. Both chilling your spuds and using these kinds of dressing ingredients can limit the starch's blood-sugar effects.

Potatoes—along with doughnuts, ice cream, white bread and many other starchy carbohydrates and highly processed foods—have what's called a high glycemic index (GI). What's that? It's a measure of a specific food's effect on blood-sugar levels.

Generally, you want your blood-sugar levels to remain stable, not dip and spike. But high-glycemic carbs can send blood sugar (glucose) surging. Your body reacts by pumping out lots of insulin, which lowers sugar levels. Regularly eating a lot of high GI foods can lead to chronically high insulin levels. That, in turn, can lead to things you definitely don't want: heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

So nip the process in the bud. Focus on low GI foods, which are generally good for you. These include:

  • Fruits and veggies
  • Whole-grain breads, pasta and cereals
  • Lentils, beans and other legumes
  • Nuts
  • Low-fat dairy foods

And don't forget: If you're whipping up potato salad, make it the day before, hold the mayo, give it a good chill overnight and serve it cool.

Article sources open article sources

M Leeman, E Ostman, I Björck. “Vinegar dressing and cold storage of potatoes lowers postprandial glycaemic and insulinaemic responses in healthy subjects.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2005 Nov;59(11):1266-71.
Patrick J. Skerrett. “Use glycemic index to help control blood sugar.” Harvard Health Blog. August 13, 2012.
MA Paterson, JN Fong, et al. “Chilled Potatoes Decrease Postprandial Glucose, Insulin, and Glucose-dependent Insulinotropic Peptide Compared to Boiled Potatoes in Females with Elevated Fasting Glucose and Insulin.” Nutrients. 2019, 11(9), 2066.
G Livesey, R Taylor, et al. “Dietary Glycemic Index and Load and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Updated Meta-Analyses of Prospective Cohort Studies.” Nutrients. 2019, 11(6), 1280.
G Livesey, R Taylor, et al. “Dietary Glycemic Index and Load and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Assessment of Causal Relations.” Nutrients. 2019, 11(6), 1436.
MI Zafar, KE Mills, et al. “Low-glycemic index diets as an intervention for diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Volume 110, Issue 4, October 2019, Pages 891–902,

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