Are you back for more?
First off - if you want the former, this Mashed Butternut Sweet Potatoes recipe is juuust right for your comfort-food eating pleasure. And I don't say that about just anything! Sweet potatoes are simply quintessential fall food, no matter what, but when you mash them up all creamy-like, they can be downright irresistible.
Also, I'm reallly excited to be including them back in my diet!
Still, I imagine that at some point, you have been to a holiday dinner that served lovely, decadent, sweet potatoes, but you either knew better than to indulge too much (not my guess) or you wound up wishing you had passed on second helpings of the (clearly) butter and sugar-laden dish! Or, possibly, you personally witnessed Paula Deen herself come into your Grandmother's kitchen and shush you while she poured an extra stick of melted butter and a cup of brown sugar into the sweet potato casserole. And. You still ate a bowlful without regret.
I don't blame you no matter which one you were. Really. Sweet potatoes are fantastic. By themselves, they are one of the great carbs to choose when you do. But, especially around the holidays, they are also sneaky little vehicles for extra calories, sugar, and fat! It's guys like the traditional mashed sweet potato or sweet potato casserole that will cause your jeans to feel like compression tights by New Year's.
Hold on, now - before you start trying to substitute your sweet potatoes with all the cauliflower and rutabaga in the world (which I actually have since tried and it works!), remember that we don't have to blame our dear sweet potato. Baked, mashed, and totally naked, they are still a nutrient dense, creamy, sweet treat! The natural sugars that come out during baking can be enough to make it delicious with a little cinnamon, salt, and pepper.
In this recipe, though, we can basically re-work the mashed sweet potato with a little added natural sweetener (a bit of applesauce), while actually lowering the carbs and calories of each serving by adding delectable, pureed, butternut squash. At about 40 calories per cup, with 10 g carbs and 4 g fiber, butternut squash is one of the sweetest deals of the season.
Together, it is a match made in heaven - I think I like this recipe quite a bit more than traditional sweet potatoes for two reasons. One - I don't consider a tablespoon a serving size like I do with ordinary holiday sweet potatoes, and two - I actually really like the pure, clean taste of these roasted veggies! And they are so creamy I sometimes wonder if Paula had still come by with her butter.
Butternut Mashed Potatoes
2.5 lb sweet potatoes (2 very large sweet potatoes) scrubbed thoroughly
1 lb butternut squash (the amount you'll need after removing seeds + skin)
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce
3 large cloves garlic
6-8 fresh sage leaves
1/2 tsp. each white pepper + salt
vegetable stock or water as needed
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Stab the butternut squash a few times around the top and the bottom to vent and help to cook evenly. Do the same with the sweet potatoes and place them all on a baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes, rotate the veggies, and repeat twice more for up to a total of about an hour and 20 minutes when they should be soft all the way through. During the last 20 minutes, roast the onion and garlic on the pan as well.
Chop up the sweet potatoes into cubes, including skin, and process in a food processor with the 1/4 c. applesauce. Peel the skin off the butternut squash and remove the seeds. Chop the squash into cubes and measure about 1 lb.
Move some of the sweet potatoes into a large bowl to make room for the butternut squash. Puree the squash with the roasted onion and garlic, sage, salt, and pepper, using vegetable stock as needed, 1/4 cup at a time to make sure it is well blended and creamy.
Transfer all the contents of the food processor into the large bowl and mix everything thoroughly together. Taste test for seasoning. If you need to reheat the mashed potatoes for serving, it is easiest to just put it all in a large pot on the stove and reheat over medium-low heat for a few minutes, stirring slowly.
Makes approximately 16 (1/2 cup) servings
Nutrition per serving: 81 calories; 0 g fat; 19 g carbs; 3 g fiber (for 16 net carbs); 2 g protein (Bonus: 445 mg/ 13% DV potassium; 333% DV vitamin A; 35% DV vitamin C; 4% DV calcium; 4% DV iron)
Part One: Bikini Diet + Thoughts
If you're interested in what my diet actually looked like during the first half of bikini competition preparation, I thought I'd share a basic version of my plan. It looks like what a lot of typical pre-competition diets look like, actually. The carbs are loaded at the beginning of the day, spread evenly throughout the first few meals, and taken away toward the end of the day.
Day in my diet during phase one (Weeks 1-7 of 15):
meal 1: 1/2 c. oatmeal with 1 scoop protein and 1/2 c. berries
meal 2: 1 cup Greek yogurt or cottage cheese + 3 oz sweet potato (recipe here)
meal 3: 3 oz chicken breast, 1 oz avocado, 3 oz spinach
meal 4: 1 scoop protein + about 10 almonds
meal 5: 3-4 oz salmon, 3 oz roasted broccoli
meal 6: 1/2 cup Greek yogurt with 1/2 scoop protein powder or 1/2 cup cottage cheese
The theory behind this kind of diet is that if you spread out your meals evenly, eating every 2-4 hours, your body will come to expect food at those precise times and therefore stop holding on to fat for future use. It also assumes that because calories are burnt during digestion, eating more frequently will burn more calories.
Both of these assumptions have been debated extensively. Counterarguments to the six small meals are: they aren't really very satiating because of the tiny portions - sometimes people super hungry while awaiting their next allotted meal time! Also, do you burn more calories by eating more times in a day? Like... if you ate the same amount of chicken in a day, wouldn't it take just as much energy to digest all of it once?
There are a few more ideas behind this kind of diet, like being able to digest all your food better, using your carbs up during the day by not eating them at night, and so forth. Meh. I've heard opposition to those as well, and many people who do IIFYM (if it fits your macros)style of eating succeed without as much concern to carb and meal timing. Personally, I am still trying to figure out what works best for me where meal timing and structuring is concerned. On a basic level though, I think it looks like an alright kind of diet. If nothing else, it makes things simple, especially if you prefer to get all your cooking done at once and not worry about what to eat all week. Lots of competitors do well on similar plans.
However, I only stuck with this for the first several weeks. It just didn't jive with me.
For one thing, my days can get a little hectic with teaching fitness classes or doing my training at different times. It was hard to know whether to stick with carbs in the morning if I had an intense class or training session in the evening. Also, BIG surprise, I like to cook! I like being whimsical with my food! I like deciding what I'm eating as the mood strikes! So this plan was stressful for me. I kept trying to rearrange each meal to either fit my mood, my workout time (to get carbs closer to my workout, as is often suggested for this plan), or both. Time. Con. Suming.
Besides, I did eventually want to lose the body fat! It seemed to me that by eating so frequently, regardless of my hunger (or lack of), I was eliminating any chance I had of actually using up the excess calories before I stuffed more in. I wasn't (still not) super muscular or big in any other way either, so even with increased strength training, there wasn't a very big calorie deficit for me at this point. (Of course, that was a good thing during this stage, as I needed these carbs and calories to succeed in building any muscle!)
More on how I began manipulating carbs and meal timing for fat loss next time, and a heart-to-heart on supplements for training!