Sweet on Sweet Potatoes
As February is the second month of the year and we are following our “Eat Your Rainbow” theme for our Healthy Eating Lessons in Newark, Jersey City, and East Orange, we featured orange produce this month. February also marks the start of our educational lessons at Essex County College Child Development Center in Newark. The young children there were eager to use their five senses and explore different orange fruits and veggies, including our featured vegetable: sweet potatoes!
Orange produce is full of lycopene, potassium, vitamin C, and beta-carotene (also known as vitamin A). Most people know that eating carrots is good for your vision because of the high levels of carotene, but eating a variety of orange produce can also lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of some cancers, and help your body build healthy bones. The vitamin C in orange fruits and vegetables also helps your immune system.
To help spread the word about how amazing orange fruits and vegetables are, our February Healthy Eating Lessons were “sponsored by” the sweet potato. A food that is often described as a funny-looking and funny-tasting cousin of the potato, the sweet potato is not botanically related to the potato at all. The part of the sweet potato that we eat is the root, just like the potato, but sweet potatoes are part of the morning glory family while potatoes are part of the perennial nightshade family.
Some studies show that the amount of beta-carotene in sweet potatoes is unsurpassed among other natural foods. Sweet potatoes also contain large amounts of vitamin C and manganese and are a great source of fiber. To celebrate the sweet potato, we made a salad with baked sweet potatoes on top and a dressing with applesauce and honey to enhance the potatoes’ sweetness. The students loved it!
The children from the Essex County College Child Development Center who participate in our Healthy Eating Lessons range in age from a few months to six years old, so we modified our lessons to help them explore the rainbow colors of food. This month they used their five senses to explore orange fruits and vegetables: orange bell peppers, clementines, carrots, orange tomatoes, and of course sweet potatoes! The children loved how bright, sweet smelling and tasting, soft, and mushy the sweet potatoes were when they took a bite.
Of the 280 children we worked with this month, only one-third of the students had tried sweet potatoes before our lessons. We are excited to introduce a yellow piece of produce in March. Here’s a hint: it’s silly and stringy and scrumptious. Stay tuned…