How to Make your Meals Healthier (and sweeter!)

Sometimes it’s not about making huge changes to your diet. It’s not about the month-long cleanse or scouring your pantry and throwing out everything with a trace of a preservative in it. While those kinds of changes are appealing, smaller changes can actually be more meaningful and more sustainable. You’re more likely to stick with them, and you will likely have more success selling them to your family as well.

One easy change to make is to work more sweet potatoes into your meal plan. Potatoes are delicious, and most people love them, but they’re essentially just starch–a.k.a. empty calories. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are packed with nutrition. They’re a great source of vitamins A, C and B6, not to mention lots of fiber, potassium, and niacin. And the best part? They’re every bit as delicious as normal potatoes, if not more so. Sweet potatoes can go sweet or savory, and they’re a great addition to any meal. Here are some simple ways to work more of these babies into your diet.

Out of the frying pan and into the Oven
It’s not a stretch to say that French fries are delicious (and National French Fry Day is coming up on July 13th!), but they don’t really have much of a place in a healthy diet. Luckily, sweet potatoes are great in this role! Simply cut sweet potatoes into fries, toss with oil and any seasonings you like (cumin and chili powder are great options), and roast at 425℉ until browned and crispy. Now you can really go to town on veggie burger night.

Not your grandma’s potato salad
Potato salad is a quintessential part of the American summer backyard barbecue, but it could use a little updating. Not only is a “salad” composed of soft potatoes bathed in mayonnaise not exactly a healthy choice, it’s often not even vaguely desirable. Especially on a hot summer day when all you want to think about eating is a cool, crisp salad. For a fresh take, try using sweet potatoes instead. Roasted cubes of sweet potatoes, chopped avocado, black beans, green onion, and cilantro all tossed with Hilary’s simple chili-lime vinaigrette.

The toast with the most
Sweet potato toast has become something of an internet sensation, but unlike some internet sensations (unicorn milkshakes, we’re looking at you), sweet potato toast is actually a good thing! There’s no advance prep needed, so it’s perfect for busy mornings. Just cut ½” thick slices of sweet potato (leave the skin on), pop the slices into a toaster oven, and toast like normal. Then, top with anything your heart desires. Take it in a sweet direction with sunflower or almond butter, fresh blueberries, and hemp seeds. Or go for savory with avocado and hot sauce.

Load ‘em up
Loaded baked potatoes are one of those things we’ve all eaten and loved at some point but are now trying to forget. This is basically why sweet potatoes exist. A warm, soft-baked sweet potato is begging to be split open and filled with delicious things. Try lentil chili, coconut yogurt, and chopped green onion for something reminiscent of a good old fashioned chili bowl, or go for steamed kale, black beans, and avocado. You can even turn a baked sweet potato into breakfast by drizzling it with sunflower, almond, or cashew nut butter (or even tahini), then topping with sliced banana and chia seeds.

It’s a mash
Mashed potatoes, for a lot of people, are a side dish standby, usually crowned with a big pat of butter and a bunch of cream or milk mixed in. Because sweet potatoes are nearly magical in their ability to do everything normal potatoes do, but better, they can fill this role too. Mashed sweet potatoes are made by baking sweet potatoes in their jackets (you could boil or steam them, but baking concentrates their flavor), then mash them with a potato masher or just a fork. Add a little coconut milk and maple syrup if you like, or even some virgin coconut oil for richness, and serve them just like you would mashed potatoes. Try them topped with toasted pumpkin seeds or just on their own.

The moral of this post is: never be without sweet potatoes in your pantry. They’re a rock star ingredient in that they can do almost anything, and they’re healthy enough to eat with wild abandon. Even better, they’re family-friendly! Kids love them, and to adults they’re almost like dessert—but dessert that you can enjoy even more because you don’t have to worry about added sugars. So stock up and start experimenting!