We know that refined processed sugars can be inflammatory and damaging to the body, so it's natural that we're all looking to cut back a little. While nixing the white stuff might be fairly easy for the already health-conscious, there's still a place in our lives for sweetness. In fact, having naturally sweet-flavored foods can actually help you ditch your gummy bear habit better than going cold turkey.
Sweet potatoes are something of a magic ingredient when cutting back on sugar. They're inexpensive, add a natural (but never overwhelming) sweetness, plus fiber, potassium, and tons of vitamin A. Here are a few ways we've learned to use sweet potato to calm our sweet tooth and make satisfying treats and meals.
I recommend cooking a few sweet potatoes at the beginning of the week and using them in meals and snacks as you go. You can roast or steam your sweet potato. Roasting takes longer but requires almost no prep or maintenance and you can roast a bunch at once. Steaming is quicker, but peeling and chopping are involved and you will likely have to do them in batches.
Roast sweet potatoes whole by poking them with a fork and cooking for 45 to 60 minutes in a 400°F oven. Allow them to cool and you can easily peel off the skin when you're ready to use them. To steam, peel and chop the sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Place in a steamer basket over boiling water. Cover and steam for 8 to 12 minutes, until tender.
Sweet potatoes play well with lots of other smoothie ingredients and they lend an ultra-creamy texture. You can go completely fruit-free in your morning smoothie with the help of sweet potato.
Cinnamon Sweet Potato Smoothie
- 1 heaped cup roasted sweet potato* (about half a large sweet potato)
- 1 scant cup frozen cauliflower florets
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch cardamom
- 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
- 3 to 4 tablespoons coconut yogurt or coconut cream (skimmed from the top of the can)
- ½ cup water, plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon almond butter
- 1 teaspoon maca (optional)
Blend together in a blender until everything is smooth and well-combined. Serve with desired toppings as a smoothie bowl, if desired.
Grain-free porridge bowls
Instead of using oats as the base for your porridge, give mashed sweet potatoes a try. Combine 1 large roasted sweet potato (skin removed and mashed) with 1 cup almond or coconut milk, 2 tablespoons chia seeds, 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, and your favorite nut butter or coconut oil. You can top it as you would porridge. I love it with toasted seeds or homemade granola and a few raspberries sprinkled on top.
Great for adding sweetness, using as a binding agent, and moisture (sorry, had to) in baked goods. They're great in brownies, cakes, and muffins. When combined with nutty flours like buckwheat and almond and caramel-like dates, sweet potatoes take on a whole new identity.
Sweet Potato Date Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
- ½ cup rice flour
- ½ cup almond flour
- ½ cup buckwheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup mashed sweet potato (roasted or steamed)
- 1 mashed banana
- ¼ cup melted coconut oil or avocado oil
- ¾ cup almond or coconut milk
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup pitted and chopped dates
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a muffin pan with coconut oil.
2. Mix dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt) in a medium bowl. In another bowl, mash the banana with the sweet potato, then mix in oil, milk, maple, and vanilla.
3. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until everything is just combined. Fold in dates.
4. Pour batter into the prepared muffin pan. Bake for 30 minutes total, rotating the muffin pan at the 15-minute mark and bake for 15 minutes more.
Loaded breakfast baked sweet potato
Similar to the grain-free porridge, but with even less admin. Warm a whole roasted sweet potato, split it down the middle, drizzle with your favorite nut butter, sprinkle with cinnamon, and top with yogurt (I love coconut, but Greek is great too), low-sugar granola or toasted seeds and coconut flakes. You can also drizzle on some honey or maple if you feel like it needs an extra something—a little goes a long way.
Using sweet potatoes in savory meals can help when you're looking to avoid sugar, too. By getting a little sweetness from your main meals with naturally sweet vegetables like carrots, butternut squash, beets, and sweet potatoes, you're less likely to want to dive headfirst into a bowl of ice cream.
Sweet potatoes are one of my very favorite foods to spiralize and use as noodles. They're more substantial than the popular zucchini noodles and blend well with lots of different flavors. Try them out as part of a noodle stir fry with scallions, ginger, garlic, and tamari, with a creamy cashew sauce, or with an herby pesto made with walnuts, arugula, and basil.