Butter and baked potatoes go together like peanut butter and jelly or peas and carrots. And for many of us, topping our low-cost and highly-accessible baked spuds with posh, decadent, high-brow toppings wouldn’t cross our mind. However, if you are a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills fan, you may have noticed a unique potato topping that one of the cast members served at a luncheon.
Until the latest season of the RHOBH aired, many of us had no idea that caviar—a delicacy oftentimes reserved for cocktail hour and enjoyed in small quantities on top of a cracker or miniature savory pancake—could be used as a filling for our beloved underground-grown, starchy veggie and enjoyed during a casual lunch. Thanks to Kathy Hilton, we now know that eating a baked potato filled with butter, sour cream, and heaping spoonfuls of caviar scooped with a mother-of-pearl spoon (of course) is a thing.
In case you missed it, during season 12, episode 11 of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Kathy Hilton—mother of socialites Paris and Nikki Hilton—hosted an intimate lunch with her sister, Kyle, where she served a single baked potato on a plate. Kathy shared how she enjoys eating her caviar-topped spud, much to the bewilderment of her sister and many viewers.
“I’m doing it like they do at Caviar Kaspia in Paris,” the Hilton family’s matriarch explains to her younger sister Kyle as she carefully loads her baked potato with scoop after scoop of black caviar.
There is no doubt that topping a baked potato with caviar is a lavish and totally Instagram-worthy meal. But for those trying to support a healthy lifestyle, the question of whether this combo is healthy may be raised. As a registered dietitian (and die-hard Kathy Hilton fan), I got to the bottom of whether the infamous caviar potato dish can be a part of a healthy diet. Here is what I found out.
What is caviar?
The basic ingredients for the reality show-famous caviar-potato combo are a plain baked potato, caviar, butter, and sour cream. While not a common potato topping, caviar can be added to various recipes. The most common way to eat this food is over toast points.
So, what exactly are these tiny spheres that can cost a pretty penny and make any dish look extra-fancy when they are added?
Caviar is made from unfertilized fish eggs, traditionally using sturgeon as the fish of choice. The tiny fish eggs are rinsed, sorted, and salted before they are chilled, drained, and packaged.
In a nutshell, when people are eating caviar, they are eating the unfertilized eggs of a sturgeon fish that are rinsed, salted, chilled, and likely aged. In some circles, the term caviar can be used to describe other salted and aged fish eggs besides sturgeon. But for Kathy Hilton’s lunchtime accompaniment, the classic sturgeon caviar is what is used in her baked potato repast.
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Is caviar healthy?
When we think of health foods, a scoop of caviar doesn’t typically come to mind. But these fish eggs are surprisingly packed with good-for-you nutrients that many of us are not getting enough of throughout the day.
According to the USDA, a one-ounce serving of caviar provides:
- 74 calories
- 7 grams of protein
- 1 gram of carbohydrate
- 0 grams of added sugars
Caviar also contains a wide array of micronutrients, as well. Just one ounce of it provides:
- 78 mg calcium
- 3 mg iron
- 85 mg magnesium
- 18.6 micrograms selenium
- 139 mg choline
- 5 micrograms vitamin B12
Caviar also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that support eye health, as well as vitamin D, a key nutrient that supports bone health.
One of the most impressive features of caviar is its quantity and type of fat. Of the 5 grams of total fat that 1 ounce of caviar provides, almost 20% is in the form of DHA omega-3 fatty acid, or healthy fat that plays a key role in brain, eye, and heart health. Caviar provides both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids—also known as the “healthy fats” that many of us need more of in our diets.
The downside of caviar
While caviar does provide an impressive array of nutrients, there are some noteworthy downsides in the nutrition department. With 425 milligrams of sodium per 1-ounce serving of caviar (around 20% DV), this delicacy can have too much sodium for people following a low-sodium diet, depending on how much sodium they include in the rest of their diet.
Additionally, certain varieties of caviar can contain high levels of contaminants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), brominated flame retardants, and potentially toxic metals. For people who are reserving their caviar consumption for a once-in-a-while treat, the quantity of these contaminants that will be consumed will likely not be enough to cause harm. But if you eat caviar by the spoonful multiple times a day, you may want to consider pumping the breaks.
Foodborne illness isn’t typically linked to the consumption of caviar. But since most caviar options are essentially unpasteurized tiny fish eggs, there is a risk of experiencing foodborne illness.
What about the potato and condiments?
It is clear that caviar offers a variety of nutrients that can support our overall health. But what you use as the vessel for the caviar can make or break your healthy eating goals, depending on your choice.
The good news is that a russet baked potato is a natural source of carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and a handful of other nutrients. It is a food that is incredibly easy to cook and is even more enjoyable to eat.
As for the butter and the sour cream, a dollop of each can add some satisfying flavor and creaminess to the potato dish. But overloading your spud with these dairy-packed foods can lead to a meal that is loaded with saturated fat and calories.
The bottom line
Combining one of the most high-brow delicacies and one of the most accessible and low-cost veggies is an intriguing dish. And those who can enjoy the finer things in life can rest assured that this dish that Mrs. Hilton made famous is packed with nutrients and can be a healthy part of a balanced diet. The caviar provides protein, healthy fats, and a slew of micronutrients, and the potato provides energizing carbs and satiating fiber. And as long as the portions of the sour cream and butter are under control, adding these condiments into the mix can add some unique flavor and richness. Enjoying this dish with a side salad and having a piece of fruit for dessert can round out this meal in a delicious way. But if a person wants to simply stick to the caviar-potato combo, that can be satisfying and nutritious on its own as well.
For those of us who don’t live in the 90210 area code and want to experience a potato a la Mrs. “Hunky Dory” Hilton, fortunately for us, caviar is having a moment of accessibility that may be here to stay. While the classic caviar that comes from sturgeon remains costly, there are other fish egg options that can give a similar vibe to dishes without the hefty price tag. From salmon eggs to trout eggs to even whitefish eggs, there is a wide variety of fish egg options—also known as roe—that don’t fall under the sturgeon-egg umbrella, but still taste rich and flavorful.
So, start rubbing your potatoes and prepare your mother-of-pearl oyster spoon, knowing that you can enjoy a caviar spud on occasion and not completely derail your healthy dietary goals. This is a dish that is both Kathy Hilton and dietitian-approved.