If we were making a dream team of ingredients for your baby’s first food menu, sweet potatoes would probably top the list. Sweet potato recipes for babies are delicious, nutritious, and easy to prepare. Want to know more about this starchy superstar? Here’s what you need to know about feeding sweet potatoes to your baby or toddler.
WHAT ARE SWEET POTATOES?
Sweet potatoes are a tuberous (try saying that to your kid without giggling) root vegetable that grow from a flowering plant. The skin color varies from white, yellow, red, purple, or brown, while the insides range from white to orange-red. While they are often termed “yams” in American grocery stores, truthfully very few U.S. stores carry real yams. (Fun fact: True yams are native to Africa and Asia and are starchier and drier than sweet potatoes―and they’re typically only available in specialty markets.) So what’s the difference between “yams” and “sweet potatoes” on your grocery store shelf? Soft sweet potatoes (with a deep orange flesh―think what your nana serves at Thanksgiving) are typically labeled yams while firm sweet potatoes (with golden skin and lighter flesh) are dubbed sweet potatoes. No matter which you pick, though, they’re packed with health benefits―and pretty delicious.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF SWEET POTATOES?
A healthier gut
Sweet potatoes are a great way to add both soluble (the kind that absorbs water and softens stools) and insoluble fiber (the kind that helps you feel fuller without too many extra calories) to mealtime. Studies have shown that extra fiber supports colon health.
Purple sweet potatoes in particular contain anthocyanins, antioxidants that slow the growth of certain types of diseases. Now that’s some purple power.
Boost brain function
Those same anthocyanins can also play protector to your noodle. The antioxidants reduce inflammation and prevent free radical damage in the brain, which some studies have shown can help improve learning and memory. No promises that it will help your toddler remember to pick up their toys, though.
Strengthening developing eyes
Ready for a tasty one-two punch? Sweet potatoes are great sources of both Vitamin A, which gives growing eyes a needed nutrient boost, and beta-carotene, which Vitamin A needs to synthesize in the body. This dynamic duo is especially helpful for developing eyes.
CAN BABIES EAT SWEET POTATOES?
Babies and sweet potatoes are totally tuber-lier, dude. Not only do these potatoes contain the perfect pairing of nutrients to help your baby’s eyes grow and develop, but they also contain vitamins and minerals those tiny growing bodies need to hit their milestones on time. Plus, thanks to that sweet flavor, sweet potatoes are a popular pick for baby’s first food.
SWEET POTATO RECIPES FOR BABIES
Sweet potatoes’ texture lends itself to a variety of serving options. It’s a great option for homemade baby food, especially since it tends to loose nutritional value in store bought baby food pouches and jars. For first solids, you can introduce sweet potatoes as puree blended with other superfoods, healthy fats, and spices for a balanced meal. The sweet taste tends to mask more bitter vegetables, so it can be a great companion when introducing a new flavor your tiny human might otherwise spit out. This will help shape your baby for adventurous eating later in life. It’s also a great base for introducing fresh spices. Some examples of meal combinations your baby will love are sweet potato + mango + coconut butter + lucuma powder + chia seeds or sweet potato + beets + dates, cinnamon + coconut butter. As your baby gets bigger, try serving the same meal combinations as finger food. Just be sure to bake or steam long enough so that the flesh is soft enough to mash between gums or newly budding teeth.