How to Make Healthy Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

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Sweet potatoes are a fantastic food for anyone who aims to eat--and feed their family--a healthy diet. The potatoes are packed with vitamins A, C and numerous B vitamins, as well as fiber, potassium and the antioxidant beta-carotene. Plus, their sweet flavor and creamy texture (both quite elusive among "health foods") tend to make them a hit with even fussy kids, as well as their parents. A sweet potato, even a really big one, isn't a complete meal, but you can easily make it the basis of one by adding stuffing. Choose stuffing ingredients selectively, and you'll not only turn an already tasty sweet potato into a delicious full meal, you can also augment, rather than offset, its health benefits.

The following stuffed sweet potato recipe features lean, protein-rich chicken breast, vitamin-packed spinach and mushrooms, along with beans, which are filling and rich in fiber and iron. A sprinkle of sunflower seeds adds crunch and a decent dose of vitamin E; onions and garlic add tons of flavor; some chopped sun-dried tomatoes give the stuffing an umami boost. Together, these ingredients come together as a healthy stuffing for sweet potatoes that's packed with flavor and covers all the nutritional bases.

Total Time: 20 minutes | Prep Time: 5 minutes | Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced or diced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sun-dried tomatoes, minced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can beans, such as black, kidney, cannellini or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Cook the Sweet Potatoes:

  1. With a sharp knife, pierce the skins of the sweet potatoes in four or five places.
  2. Place the sweet potatoes in a heatproof dish, and microwave them on high for 5 minutes.
  3. Rotate the sweet potatoes, and microwave them on high for another 5 minutes.
  4. Test the sweet potatoes by inserting a sharp knife into the center of the largest one. If it feels very soft, they are cooked. If the knife meets any resistance, continue to microwave the sweet potatoes, 2 to 3 minutes at a time, until they're thoroughly cooked. 
  5. If necessary, cover the dish with foil to keep the sweet potatoes warm until the stuffing is ready.

Make the Stuffing:

  1. In a wide skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, onions, chicken and mushrooms, plus salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken has turned white, approximately 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Turn the heat down to medium, and add the garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. Stirring frequently, continue to cook everything until the mushrooms have released their liquid, then until it has mostly evaporated, approximately 5 to 8 more minutes. At this point, the chicken should be almost cooked.
  3. Add the beans and spinach, and continue to cook for a few more minutes, until the beans have heated through and the spinach has wilted. Turn off the heat.

Stuff the Sweet Potatoes:

  1. Slice about two-thirds of the way down the center of each sweet potato, and open them out to expose the centers. 
  2. Spoon the stuffing over the middle of each sweet potato, dividing it evenly between them.
  3. Sprinkle the sunflower seeds over the top of the stuffed sweet potatoes; then serve.

Tip

  • You can easily substitute, remove or add any of the stuffing ingredients, but try to use similarly healthy ones. For example, you could use salmon instead of chicken, cooked lentils instead of beans, add olives or use different vegetables, such as bell peppers, green peas, zucchini and kale. 
  • Consider a drizzle of a healthy dressing, such as balsamic vinegar, plain yogurt mixed with lemon juice or tahini, as a finishing touch.