Spiced Sweet Potato Muffins – Healthful or Harmful?

15 Mar

Muffins can be deceiving little things. How can something that sounds so nutritious be so horribly unhealthy? Exhibit A: a Tim Horton’s Raisin Bran muffin contains 410 calories, 13 grams of fat, and a whopping 40 grams of sugar—that’s 8 teaspoons to be exact.  To put things into perspective for you non-Canadians, a Starbucks Zucchini Walnut muffin contains 490 calories and 28 grams of fat. Hardly a snack! And not a very healthy breakfast, either.

The Toronto Star’s “The Dish” column recently analyzed an organic, vegan, sweet potato and date muffin from a local restaurant.  Sounds semi-healthy, right?  Far surpassing both Timmy’s and Starbucks, the muffin contains 986 calories and 38 grams of fat. My jaw fell to the floor. How is that even possible?!

Sarah, my friend who sent me “The Dish” article, passed along a similar muffin recipe but with a fraction of the calories and fat.  Being in a baking mood last weekend, I set aside a bit of time to make my first ever sweet potato muffin.  Naturally, a few small substitutions were made: I replaced the all-purpose flour with whole wheat and reduced the sugar a touch.  The muffin was yearning for pecans or raisins for texture but sadly my pantry was devoid of these staple ingredients.  Au natural, they still tasted pretty darn good.  Not a super sweet muffin, but not a bland one either.


Tip: to reduce the number of dirty dishes you end up with, cook the sweet potato in the microwave.  Dampen a paper towel with water and wrap around a sweet potato that has been poked generously with a fork.  Microwave for 7-10 minutes. Remove from microwave and allow to cool slightly. Peel off the skin (which makes a delicious snack) then mash the flesh.


As per Martha: “Preheating the oven at a higher temperature, then lowering the heat when the muffins go in, gives the batter an initial blast of hot air that helps form that beautiful domed top.” It’s true. The muffins had a gorgeous top that I rarely see with my usual muffin recipes.


Spiced Sweet Potato Muffins
(from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food Blog)

Note: these muffins are best if eaten within 3 days.  Any longer and the tops will turn soggy.  Freeze half of the batch if you’re a small household!

1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose whole wheat flour (spooned and leveled)
1/2 cup 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup mashed cooked sweet potato
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners; lightly coat liners with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together sweet potato, buttermilk, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Add flour mixture and fold until just combined.
  3. Divide batter evenly among cups. Reduce heat to 375°. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, 16 to 18 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. (Store in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 3 days.)

Makes 12 muffins.  Per muffin (following the original recipe): 168 kcal, 5 g fat (1 g sat fat), 4 g protein, 28 g carb, 1 g fiber

2 Responses to “Spiced Sweet Potato Muffins – Healthful or Harmful?”

  1. Sarah Leo March 15, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

    I saw the title and had a heart attack thinking you had magically found something really wrong with these muffins!

    • lisa March 15, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

      No way! With the substitution of whole wheat flour, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with them. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

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