October 1 marked the launch of Chris Voigt's 20 Potatoes a Day Diet, but it was already making news all over the country-and on Facebook. The 6' 2", 195 lb Executive Director of the Washington State Potato Commission aims to prove that he can remain healthy while eating nothing but potatoes and potato products for 60 days. "I want to show the world that the potato is so healthy that you could live off them alone if you had to without any negative impact to your health," says Voigt. To maintain his body weight, he calculated that he needs the equivalent of 20 averaged-sized potatoes a day, baked, boiled, pan fried and steamed, as well as French fries and plain mashed potatoes made from dehydrated flakes. The diet allows oil for cooking, as well as ketchup, hot sauce, herbs and spices, but no sour cream, butter, chili, cheese, gravy or any of the other accessories that dress up the common tater. The website, 20potatoesaday.com, contains facts about potato nutrition, a frequently updated blog and videos of Voigt grocery shopping and surfing in a potato mascot suit, as well as a link to the Facebook page. Responses have ranged from a Seattle diet/health researcher and author, who noted a similar potato diet experiment nearly 100 years ago that lasted almost a year, to a USDA employee who sent a link to a website with 186 grocery coupons. Newspaper and radio coverage has stretched from California to Minnesota so far. Facebook friends applaud his efforts with "Washington Potatoes Rule!" and comments on their own potato experiences. Though some writers have expressed concern over excess potassium or a lack of vitamin A in the diet, all have been supportive. Voigt is quick to correct misconceptions or answer queries about the nutritional value of potatoes. After all, the reason he arrived at the idea of an all-potato diet was the U.S. government's deletion of the vegetable from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, which elicited the editorial comment, "Someone needs to remind WIC that their job is helping growing families gain access to healthful foods" from Capital Press. Oh, and the dieter's last meal? Pizza. And his first one come November 30-a Thanksgiving dinner.
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