When you’re looking to get lean, exercise is only half the equation. You can do all the crunches in the world, but the foods you eat are every bit as important. As part of our Cook to Get cut series, we’ll show you how to use some of the healthiest eats to sculpt your physique without sacrificing flavor. Getting fit never tasted so good.
It’s time to get over your carb phobia. Though this food group is usually the first to go when people want to slim down, that move could be a big mistake. Foods like white bread and pasta don’t bring much nutrition to the table, but some complex carboydrates could actually be the key ingredient to getting lean. Sweet potatoes are a great example. Don’t let the sugary name fool you, these spuds work overtime when it comes to health. Men’s Fitness likes the ingredient for its high levels of carotenoids to help you recover from tough workouts, vitamin E to protect your heart, and quercetin to help you breathe more easily. They’re also surprisingly light, with just over 100 calories per medium sweet potato. Cook your way toward a fit you with these five recipes, and welcome carbs back into your diet with open arms.
1. Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Oatmeal
Sweet potatoes show up in breakfast goods like pancakes and waffles all the time. While those morning pastries taste great, they’re usually full of butter and doused with maple syrup, making for a pretty high-calorie meal. Get all the sweet flavor you love in a healthier package with this slow cooker oatmeal from Skinny Ms. With just a hint of sweetness and some warming spices, it tastes remarkably like pumpkin pie while giving you plenty of fiber, vitamins, and a bit of protein from the milk.
This low-maintenance recipe is simple, but it takes some time. We suggest making a full batch on the weekend. You can store it in the fridge, and reheat leftovers for quick breakfasts all week.
- 1 cup steel-cut oats
- 2 cups low-fat milk
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup grated sweet potato
- 2 tablespoons sweetener of choice, like maple syrup or honey
- Pinch kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- Chopped nuts
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover, and cook on low 2 to 2½ hours, or until thickened to desired consistency. Top with nuts or raisins, if desired.
2. Sweet Potato, Corn, and Feta Salad
Potato salad makes a great accompaniment to just about any meal. With so much mayo and so little redeeming nutritional value, it’s kind of hard to justify eating more than a spoonful. Give the classic a healthy update with this sweet potato and corn version from What’s Gaby Cooking. Filled with salty feta, a zesty dressing, and the crunch of grilled corn, it might taste even better than your usual recipe.
Though corn doesn’t usually get much love from health nuts, it’s a lot more nutritious than you might think. According to Eating Well, the veggie has less sugar than many fruits and contains plenty of antioxidants that actually get a boost from cooking. That means sending the cobs to the grill is just as healthy as it is delicious.
- 4 sweet potatoes, peeled, and cut into ¾-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 ears of corn
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- Fresh dill
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- Kosher salt
Directions: Preheat grill to medium-high heat. In a medium bowl, combine cubed sweet potatoes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.
Tear four large sheets of aluminum foil, at least 16 inches long. Divide sweet potatoes evenly among sheets, and fold into packets. Set packets on grill, and cook 7 to 8 minutes on each side, using tongs to flip.
Once sweet potatoes are fully cooked, remove from grill, and transfer to a bowl.
Brush corn cobs with olive oil, and grill until charred. Cut kernels from cob, and add to sweet potatoes. Add feta, and some dill. Toss to combine.
Whisk together dressing ingredients, and drizzle over sweet potato mixture. Toss, and adjust seasoning. Serve.
3. Sweet Potato and Caramelized Onion Hash with Baked Eggs
Give this classic potato dish a makeover with The Kitchn Cookbook’s sweet potato hash topped with eggs, featured on Epicurious. After cooking the onions on the stove, the rest of the dish comes together in the oven, reducing the amount of time you have to spend watching and stirring. Though this dish is pretty healthy already, you can add even more fiber and vitamins by tossing some greens into the potato mixture near the end of cooking. You can also increase the protein by mixing in some cooked chicken or beans.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 to 3 large yellow onions, halved, thinly sliced, and halved again
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 large sweet potatoes, chopped into ¼- to ½-inch cubes
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary or oregano
- 4 to 6 large eggs
- Shaved Parmesan cheese
Directions: Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment. Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When foaming, add onions, and season with salt and pepper. Lower heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender and caramelized, 20 to 30 minutes. You may have to lower the heat as you go.
Meanwhile, toss sweet potatoes, oil, 1½ teaspoons salt, smoked paprika, generous amount of black pepper, and herbs in a large bowl. Add onions, and toss to combine. Spread mixture onto prepared baking sheet. Roast 25 to 40 minutes, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, until sweet potatoes are soft and browned.
Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Divide potato mixture among individual ramekins, or spread into one 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Make wells, then crack eggs into wells. Sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper. Bake 10 to 20 minutes, until hash is hot, and eggs are cooked to your preference. Serve topped with Parmesan.
4. Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Cherry Salsa
If you’re firing up the grill to cook some chicken or pork, you might as well use it to make some tasty sides as well. The First Mess’ Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Cherry Salsa is an unexpected, but great-tasting recipe to add to your repertoire. Though this recipe takes a mild route with the cherry topping, you can add some kick by tossing in minced serrano or jalapeño.
If you can’t find cherries, don’t sweat it. This recipe is a cinch to adapt for whatever fruit is in season. It’ll work just as well with berries, melon, or stone fruit. You can even grill larger fruits before chopping to get a double dose of smoky flavor.
- 3 small-medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed, and cut into wedges
- 1½ tablespoons olive oil
- Zest and juice of 1 lime
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground chipotle powder
- Pinch red chile flakes
- Salt and pepper
- 1 heaping cup pitted black cherries
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 inch ginger, peeled, and grated
- Zest and Juice of 1 lime
- Black pepper
- Handful pecans, roughly chopped
Directions: Place a large pot with 2 inches of water over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, and steam sweet potatoes with a steamer basket 5 to 7 minutes, until just tender. Remove wedges, and place in a large plastic container. Add oil, zest of 1 lime, juice of 1 lime, cumin, chipotle, chili flakes, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat, and set aside.
Chop cherries, and place in a medium bowl. Add green onion, ginger, zest of 1 lime, juice of 1 lime, and black pepper. Stir to combine, and set aside.
Heat grill to medium-high. Cook sweet potatoes, cut-side down, on grill, Cook 2 to 3 minutes, flip, and cook another 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter, top with salsa, pecans, and season with salt. Serve.
5. Tuna Sweet Potato Jackets
Loaded baked potatoes have to be one of the most delicious foods out there. Often topped with butter, sour cream, cheese, and bacon, they’re also a diet disaster. Give the classic a healthier spin with BBC Good Food’s tuna-filled sweet potatoes. This dish is spicy, sweet, creamy, and hearty enough to satisfy your appetite.
Sweet potatoes are pretty stellar in the nutrition department, but tuna’s no slouch either. U.S News & World Report picked the fish as one of the best foods for men thanks to high levels of omega-3s, which could help ward off heart disease. While fresh tuna is pretty pricey, this recipe uses the less expensive, and equally healthy, canned version.
- 4 small sweet potatoes
- 1 (6.5-ounce) can tuna in water, drained
- ½ red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 small red chile, seeded, and finely chopped
- Juice of 1 lime
- 6 tablespoons Greek yogurt
- Handful cilantro
Directions: Scrub sweet potatoes clean, and prick all over with tines of a fork. Place on a microwaveable plate, and microwave on high 18 to 20 minutes, until tender. Split in half, and place halves on serving plates.
Flake drained tuna and divide among potatoes. Top with onion and chile, then squeeze lime juice over top. Dollop with yogurt, and scatter cilantro over top. Serve.