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Unwise, Better, Best: Yams & Sweet Potatoes

Thanksgiving is all about the side dishes. Those foods can traditionally be high in calories that come from added fats and sugars, increasing the caloric load. For dishes like candied yams, green bean casserole, and the array of desserts may decorate our plate on Thanksgiving day, we can eat mindfully. Below are unwise, better, best options for your yam or sweet potato dish.


UNWISE:  Candied yams. Included in candied yams are both added fat from butter, typically saturated fat, and added sugar. They may taste good but a 1/2 cup serving has 200 calories plus, depending if you like marshmallows or not, the 5 teaspoons of added sugar. Just with this side, we are almost meeting the maximum intake of added sugar, 6 tsp/day, for women.


BETTER:  Baked sweet potato. A baked potato can act as a vehicle for calorically dense foods like butter, sugar, or cheese. If you decide to have baked sweet potatoes on your Thanksgiving table be mindful of the portion size of the potato and the toppings you choose. Shoot to have a baked potato that is the size of a tennis ball on your plate, the smaller the potato the less “stuff” you can put on it.


BEST: H3’s Whipped Sweet Potatoes. Whipped sweet potatoes made the H3 way! We have a fantastic whipped potato recipe that has only three ingredients (1) sweet potatoes (2) dash of cayenne pepper (3) dash of salt. A 1/2 cup has only 100 calories with no added fat or sugar. Keep the skins on to make a sweet potato mash and increase your fiber intake!


Whipped Sweet Potatoes



4 cups

Sweet potatoes, peeled, baked

1 teaspoon


¼ teaspoon

Cayenne pepper



  • Bake sweet potatoes in oven until fork tender then cool slightly.
  • Peel sweet potatoes. 
  • Using ricer, puree sweet potato then mix well with salt and cayenne.
  • Serve ¼ cup cooked per serving.


Nutrition:  Servings: 16   |   Serving size: ¼ cup   |   Calories: 45   |   Fat: 0 grams   |   Sodium: 140 milligrams   |   Carbohydrates: 10 grams   |   Protein: 1 gram   |   Fiber: 2 grams


Take a look through your Thanksgiving recipe box and see how you can tweak some recipes to save on some calories that come from added sugar and fat. You can shave calories off without compromising taste and tradition!