(ARA) – For parents trying to keep kids on track to develop healthy eating habits, the holidays can be as frustrating as that granddaddy of all bad eating days, Halloween. Sugar-filled chocolate Santas and holiday cookies, starchy stuffing and fat-filled mashed potatoes all can conspire to derail parents’ best efforts and intentions.
“Eliminating sweets and starches from our holiday fare probably isn’t practical for most of us,” says Holly Clegg, cookbook author and spokesperson for the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission. “But it’s easy to prepare healthful, festive holiday meals that will also please your child’s sweet tooth. Turn to the sweet potato for inspiration.”
Yams for the holidays are an American tradition. Native Americans were cultivating yams when Columbus arrived, and sweet potatoes were almost certainly on the menu for the very first Thanksgiving. But when Grandma set that dish of candied sweet potatoes on the holiday table when you were a child, she may not have realized the health benefits she was sharing with her family as well.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest considers sweet potatoes to be one of the most nutritional vegetables out there. Sweet potatoes are packed with beta-carotene (which gives them their yellow or orange color), vitamins A, C, B6, and E, iron, potassium and fiber, and are naturally low in fat. What’s more, says Clegg, yams are among the “good carbs” nutrition experts recommend.
Clegg and the yam experts at the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission offer these tips and recipes for sweetening your holidays:
- Fresh sweet potatoes store well at low temperatures and low humidity, making them available year-round. There’s no need to refrigerate uncooked yams; simply store them at 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Choose fresh yams that are smooth, dry, plump and clean.
- When using canned yams in a recipe, add them at the end of the cooking process since they are already cooked before they are canned.
“Sweet potatoes are so versatile they can play a role in virtually every course of your holiday meals,” Clegg says. “They are great as a side dish or dessert and can even be incorporated into soups and main dishes.”
For more tips and recipes, visit www.sweetpotato.org.
- 1 Fresh sweet potato (yam)
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon raisins
- 2 teaspoons sunflower seeds
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat over to 400 degrees F. Prick potato with fork. Bake on foil-lined baking sheet one hour, or until very tender. Split sweet potato and top with maple syrup, raisins and sunflower seeds. Season to taste.
- Microwave instructions: Pierce potatoes with fork and arrange on paper towels. Microwave on high eight minutes; turn potatoes over after four minutes.
- Makes one serving.