Food Showdown: Battle of the Creamy Side Dishes

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Memorial Day is quickly approaching, which signals the official kick-off of the summer barbecue season. While summer can be a great opportunity to enjoy a variety of fresh, seasonal produce, it can also be a recipe for disaster due to all of the high-calorie picnic fare that comes with it. You may know that grilled chicken breast is a healthier choice than a juicy cheeseburger, but what about the side dishes? Many of the old standards are loaded with mayonnaise and salt, and pack in a crazy amount of calories for a very small portion.

However, if you do choose to indulge in a creamy side dish this Memorial Day, which one would be the better choice for your waistline: macaroni salad or potato salad?
The Winner: Macaroni Salad!

A one-cup serving of potato salad has 358 calories and 20.5 grams of fat; not to mention 18% of your daily value for saturated fat. An equal serving of macaroni salad contains 272 calories and 12 grams of fat. Your best bet is to skip the creamy sides in favor of grilled veggies and fresh fruit salad—you'll get a lot more food on your plate for a lot fewer calories!

What's your favorite picnic side? Do you have a healthy recipe to share?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


TWEETYKC00 6/17/2018
Thanks for sharing the info. Report
They both have so many carbs - how is this a choice? Report
I like macaroni salad....I got to change Report
For Cole-slaw or potato salad, I reduce the calories by mixing 1/2 mayonnaise with 1/2 plain yogurt, it cuts fat and calories.
Another calorie-cutter is to make Cole-slaw "Asian style." Instead of the regular mayonnaise dressing, use a combination of soy sauce, garlic, onion and a little lemon or lime juice. A dash of sesame oil and toasted, black sesame seeds on top, for garnish.
This is quite an absurd comparison since potatoes are more nutritious than macaroni, and on top of that, depending on the brand and ingredients used, either one of these could be more calories than the other. On top of that, potatoes are more dense, so 1 cup of potato salad would be a lot more filling than 1 cup of macaroni salad (which is a HUGE portion btw) Personally I like a dill potato salad without the creaminess factor. I think we all know how to read labels. :P Report
My family doesn't like potato or macaroni salad. I usually cook beef and chicken fajitas and we eat guacamole, salsa and chips on the side. Report
A trick I use is I make mayo out of Tofu, it is creamy less calories higher protein and saver then mayo. Report
I agree with Lillito on this. I love pasta, but I have given up most of it. You can get whole wheat pasta or quinoa pasta. I make decisions based on nutrition so I compare the items I am considering and choose the best nutritional source. Report
I'm with those of you who find this challenge absurd. I would have thought the potato salad would be the better choice, only because boiled potatoes and raw vegetables take less processing than macaroni. But this challenge is about calories, not about nutrition.

In this heat, I'd turn down both options and go for cantaloupe. Summer fruits are HERE! Report
I have learned as a gastric bypass patient and diabetic, that you can eat anything - as long as you just have a little bit of it! I love both those salads, use light Miracle Whip as the dressing with a bit of Sour Lean, lots of veggies, and then I just eat 1/2 cup. If it tastes good to you, all you need is a little bit. Report
I choose potato salad yesterday at the store because the deli macaroni salad that I am used to for the summer holidays is 500 calories a cup. It's very rich and creamy, doesn't look like your picture of salad at all. Report
If I were to make something creamy now I use 1/2 Olive Oil Mayo and 1/2 Fat free greek yogurt... BUT I usually don't :) I make a pasta salad with lots of veggies, Balsamic and EVOO I also make a slaw dressed with lemon, Braggs Organic AppleCider vinegar (if someone wanted to sweeten a bit, go with Agave Nectar) to the slaw not only do I use Cabbage, but broccoli and or cauliflower, red and green bell peppers, carrot, a little fresh ginger and sometimes beets. I will also make this with apple and no oil sometimes if I am detoxing.
Another love I have is to use beans (varies with what I have in hand, and if I have time to cook from scratch or just open cans), to that I add diced and roasted Butternut squash, onion (roasted also adds a great flavor), salt & pepper, I then dress it with Balsamic sweetened with a bit of agave nectar. EVOO is optional, I don't use it. Sorry I don't measure so don't have proportions, I just do it to taste.
Thankful to all of our Military, past, present and future! Report
looks good but may i suggest that some of us..should just stick to the fruit salad this time around! Report
i love baked onions. they are so good. no fat! not necessary to add anything, Report
I don't usually choose either, mainly because most people use sweet pickles in their recipes, or they buy the Reese's brand, both of which I don't like. I normally make my own, but admit to using the 'full calorie' mayo (Best Foods only!) and about a tablespoon of mustard, but I find that the more veggies (celery, onion, pickle) you use, the less mayo is needed. This summer, my hubby and I are trying to loose weight, so I'll be doing a lot of modifying of my normal summer salads. Here's to more healthy eating!!

RamblinMom Report
I don't eat either, so I am good! :-) Report
Have to factor in the factors of resistant starch in potato and pasta: 1/2 cooked and cooled potato has 3.2 grams of resistant starch which acts as a fiber and is non-digestible, whereas cold pasta has 1.9 grams resistant starch. Well, I do each of these maybe once a year anyway. Report
I don't see how you can compare these two creamy sides without comparing what is added to the macaroni or potatoes. "naked", potatoes would outrank macaroni on nutrition. Then the cook adds the other ingredients. Either of these salads can be made more healthful by using better ingredients (such as olive oil and lemon juice to just moisten) Report
I love love potato salad, and pasta salad, but am staying away, from all of those calorie laden foods, this summer. Report
I agree... can we skip ALL creamy salads please!? Report
Do we really need another article like this? Where is thumbs down button? It's just plain silly comparison.

It's useless article adding no value on our lives. We can check how much calories in certain food by checking calorie handbook, calorie database, like spark related site, or even cellphone apps. Report
As others already said, it's odd to try to compare and declare one or the other to be "better." The calories are totally dependent on your recipe. IMO Macaroni "salad" is absolutely disgusting. If I had to choose between that and potato salad, I'd definitely go for the potato salad. Report
I don't make my choices just on calories and fat. Nutritional content enters into my decisions.

I thought this was kind of a bizarre "choice" as people make potato and macaroni salad differently. Most people I know put high fat chunks of cheese in their macaroni salad. I'm thinking that probably evens out the calorie and fat content. Report
My favorite summer time -picnic dish is an old 1980's Weight Watchers Cauliflower Salad.
5 C. raw cauliflower, chopped
2 C. frozen peas
1/2 C. onion, chopped
1C. celery, chopped
1/2 C. plain yogurt
1 1/2 t. dill weed
5T. reduced (lite) calorie mayonnaise
1 1/2 t.seasoned salt
Salt and Pepper as desired( I do not use )
Mix all ingredients together.
serves 5
WW equals
2 serving Vegables
1 serving Limited Vegetable
1 1/2 T. Milk
1 1/2 servings Fats
It is a great dish to make ahead of the picnic day, as it tastes better the second day. Report
The problem is not the salad but the person who makes it. Most times we can minimize the calories and fat content but there are people out there who just do not care. They think it tastes better when they use the full fat products. So when i make choices one of the considerations for me is who made it. Report
I will just stick to my fruit and veggie trays! :) Report
I agree that creamy dishes tend to risk spoilage faster so I make many tasty salads that would rival a creamy dish any way. And there is no guilt or risk of food poisoning! Report
"Summer...can be a recipe for disaster" is so very true for me. I end up traveling more in the summer, which means less control over both what I eat and interrupts my workouts. I do try to work in exercise whenever I can and eat mindfully to minimize the damage, however I honestly also expect to not lose as much weight over the summer. Report
I just don't know about this one. Don't potatoes have more vitamins than most noodles you would find in a macaroni salad? Also, I would imagine the macaroni salads to be more creamy than the potato salads. I usually get the potatoe salad with mustard and mayo, no celery and pickles. I don't like most macaroni salads. Too sweet. I make a pretty decent kind of baked potato one with cheese, bacon bits (light, of course), light mayo, light sour cream, light ranch, dried onions and it is amazing!!

Happy Sparking,

rumbamel Report
Make your own and it can be healthier. I've made the Garden Potato Salad I found in Spark Recipes (I'd link to the recipe, but it won't let me). One cup has 217 calories, 1 gram fat, and 8.4 grams protein. I took it to a potluck for my son's tennis team and families and got rave reviews. Another strategy some might use is to have a smaller serving. The serving size for the Garden Potato Salad is 1/2 cup (I doubled the nutritional info to get the comparison since the article uses 1 cup to compare the salads). Report
My family loves my spagetti salad. I learned to make it from my "Aunt". The only difference between hers & mine is I use low fat Italian dressing. Cook spag. Chop tomatos, cukes, celery, bell peppers (red,yellow, orange & green), whatever veggies you like. Add two hard boiled eggs, diced.If you have a fave lowfat cheese you like you could add some(shredded). Toss all together gently with dressing. Serve warm or chilled. Enjoy & please message me if you have any questions.
Happy Memorial Day, Thanks to our Troops, God bless you all. Report
surprise! Report
I prefer my salads - whether potato or macaroni - with vinaigrette. But I don't for either that much, so would definitely go for grilled veggies or baked beans (homemade, so I know how much added sugar there is - or isn't!) Report
Will be alone this holiday. Grilled Chicken Breast, Fruit Salad, Macaroni Salad, Vegetable Salad, Potatoe Salad, Tomatoes, Baked Beans, Steak, Lean meat Hamburgers, Chedder Cheese, Hot Dogs, Onions, Lettuse, Stawberry Shortcake,Plate of All Differant Kinds of Fruit, Grilled Vegetables ect For a Big Huge Barbarque 100 % Whole Wheat Rolls. Have a Nice Memerial Day. God Bless You and Have a Wonderful Day and Week. Report
I don't have Memorial day in my neck of the woods. Report
I don't like creamy side dishes so a vinaigrette on pasta suits me much better and it is much lower calorie Report
The Chunky Vegetable Salad from All You Magazine (on MyRecipes) is my favorite summer barbeque season side dish, it's cheap and easy to make, delicious, healthy and so colorful it makes you want to eat your veggies. I cut the amount of onions way back, it's the preferance in my family.
Watch the HBO four part Documentary "The WEIGHT of the Nation" as it is now on YouTube for all to see. Report
I like to make Sour Cream & Chive Potato Salad. 206 calories per serving and 3g fat (if you can limit yourself to just one serving, that is). Instead of mayo, you use equal parts sour cream and plain yogurt. And it tastes way better than traditional potato salad, imho. Report
I like to reduce the amount of creamy components and use the reduced fat variety when possible. Adding red wine vinegar mixed with dry mustard, oregano, basil and olive oil makes a nice, lower fat (yet still tasty) dressing for pasta and potato salads.

The great thing about pasta & potato- they are like a blank canvas, you can do almost anything with them. Report
One of our favorite sides was KFC's Baked Beans, but they have discontinued. So now I pick up their cole slaw occasionally. I need to start making my own!! Then I know exactly what is in it.
even better, leave off the creamy component--especially on these hot days [it's 90+ degrees already by 9 am here!] it's too easy to spoil in this weather. Report
Close email sign up
Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a weekly summary of our diet and fitness advice We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

Magic Link Sent!

A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.