Sweet potatoes, or yams, are a popular first food for babies because they are soft when cooked, mild, and sweet. This root vegetable is available in a range of colours from white to orange. We often call the softer, orange variety of sweet potatoes “yams”, even though it’s quite rare that grocery stores in Canada or the US will carry actual yams. Real yams are quite different from sweet potatoes, and are usually only found in specialty markets.
There are a few different ways that you can cook a sweet potato. My favourite (and the easiest) way is to bake it. It takes a little while, especially if it’s big, but requires almost no prep work. Just pierce the skin of the potato a few times with a fork, place it on a cookie sheet, and bake in a 400°F oven until it’s soft all the way through. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour, depending on the size of the sweet potato. I like to cover the cookie sheet with aluminum foil before I place the sweet potato on top, as they will sometimes leak a syrupy fluid as they bake. Once the potato is baked, just cut it open and scoop out the flesh from inside the peel.
Alternative methods of cooking the sweet potato include boiling or steaming it. If you choose either of these methods, you’ll need to peel and chop the sweet potato first. Then boil or steam until soft.
A standard disclaimer: I am not a doctor. You should check with your pediatrician before starting solids, and if you have any questions about what foods are appropriate for your baby, your health professional is the best resource. It is recommended that you only introduce new foods to your baby one at a time, and wait at least 3 or 4 days before introducing a new food. Check for allergies after introducing a new food: symptoms like diarrhea, rash, gas, or swelling of the lips should alert you to contact your medical professional right away.
Stage: First foods
Health Benefits: Sweet potatoes, especially the darker orange varieties, are an excellent source of carotene. They are also high in antioxidants, and contain vitamins C and B6, manganese, copper, biotin and fibre. In spite of their sweet taste, they are actually lower on the glycemic index than regular potatoes. Some studies show that sweet potatoes may be able to help stabilize blood sugar levels.
1 sweet potato
1/4 – 1 cup water (depending on the size of your potato)
Steam, boil, or bake the sweet potato until it’s soft (for more information, see above). Add to a food processor or blender, along with the desired amount of water to create the consistency that your baby likes. Blend until smooth.