The Sweet Potato Manifesto

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a sweet potato evangelist. If you catch me between classes, driving to work, or exiting a yoga class, you’re likely to find me munching on a sweet potato.

When I fly, TSA always stops me and sends me to the bomb detector specialist. They open my backpack and stare in bewilderment at the missile shaped sweet potatoes wrapped in tin foil.

“What are these things?”

“Oh those, they’re sweet potatoes.”

After swabbing them and running them through the Explosives Trace Detection machine, they give me one last awkward look, and I continue on my way.

What do sweet potatoes have to do with philosophy? Almost nothing. But, becoming a sweet potato enthusiast has definitely enhanced my life. It’s even changed the habits of others. My wife now eats sweet potatoes for breakfast. And some of my other friends have started to eat them throughout the day. So if philosophy is about living well, then I suppose my reflections on the sweet potato count.

What’s the sweet potato solution?

Let’s start with the problem: most of us live chaotic lives. We’re in such a rush that it’s easy to skip meals or snack on Snicker’s bars, donuts, and other foods in the junk family. Sure, it would be nice to have a healthy snack on hand throughout the day. But who has time?

One solution is to stock up on Luna, Lara, Power, Cliff, Balance, or whatever other kind of bar you like. But if you read the nutrition facts on these things closely, you’ll find they’re pretty much the same as a candy bar.

Don’t believe me? Here are the nutrition facts for a Snickers bar: Calories 271, Sugars 29g, Protein 4g. Now here are the same stats for a “Spiced Pumpkin Pie” Cliff Bar: Calories 240, Sugars 25g, Protein 9g.

So you get a smidge fewer calories and sugar with the Cliff Bar and a smidge more protein. But they’re basically the same thing.

The Solution: Enter the sweet potato. An average sweet potato has the following stats: Calories 200, Sugars 13g, Protein 4g. It’s got almost half the sugar and consists of more complex carbs, which give you longer, more consistent, fuel throughout the day. They’re also a lot cheaper than energy bars.

Snacking on sweet potatoes does, however, raise a few practical problems. One problem is portability. You can easily slide a Cliff Bar into your pocket or purse. Sweet potatoes are more cumbersome. The other problem is preparation. If you decide to eat a raw sweet potato with no preparation, one of two things is likely to happen. First, you might shatter your front teeth biting into it. Second, you might get sick from fungal contamination.

Here’s my solution. Every couple of days, I take out three to four sweet potatoes. I wash them thoroughly and cut out all the nasty spots. I then put the tin foil sheet with the potatoes in the oven at 400 for an hour.

Once they’ve cooked, I use the tin foil that I cooked them on to wrap each of them individually. And because they can get juicy, I will often throw them into a Ziplock bag when traveling.

The Deluxe Solution: On days when I’m looking for more than just fuel, I bring in the following twist. To make the snack more like dessert, I cut the potato in half, melt some butter on it, and then sprinkle cinnamon on top. My wife, who is more calorie-conscious than I, does it without butter and claims it tastes just as delicious.

They may not fit in the back pocket of your Jeans and they may incite the mockery of friends and family for a while. But if you are looking for a cheap, healthy, and tasty way to refuel, give the sweet potato solution a try.


  1. Margaret says:

    Nice thoughts! In New Zealand they are called “kumara” and were a staple food for Maori before Europeans arrived. They would cook them in an earth oven called a “hangi”. Here they come in different colours, purple, orange and gold. I love them with a little lemon juice. You can also cook them quickly in the micowave but pierce with a fork so they don’t explode. Don’t over cook as they become very rubbery.

    • Nate says:

      Wow! I would love to try out a purple sweet potato!
      I’ve never tried them with lemon juice but will do so today. I have some in the oven right now so I’m excited to see how that might change the sweet potato experience.

  2. Istvan says:

    Margaret, you would not want to lose all the nutritional value of the stuff by ” cooking them quickly in the microwave”, would you?
    We just started to enjoy them here in Budapest because it just was not available before. Not too cheap either. We cut them in half (not so easy because they are tough!), then put it into the oven and when soft, take it out, put some butter on them and it is a delicious meal.
    Eggplant can be prepared similarly, just you should put some salt and pepper on them before with a little olive oil, and for the 5 minutes we put some cheese, olive oil mixed with garlic and parsley on them. Delicious, though maybe not quite as nutritious as sweet potatoes are!

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