Debunking Myths about the Sweet Potato, Potato and Pumpkin as First Foods for Your Baby
Once babies get big enough and starts wanting more solid foods, many mothers turn to root vegetables like potato, sweet potato, and pumpkin. Sound familiar? These foods are a great transition between stages or from rice-based baby cereals and solid foods with a lot of fiber. If you’ve read any of our other blogs, you know we like to get granular. So, our nutritionist studied the difference in nutrients and vitamins between each common baby root vegetable and they were so surprising, that we decided to share.
If you like the more “sciencey speak”, just check out the table at the bottom of this blog that compares sweet potato, potato and pumpkin. If you’re just trying to get a quick grasp on what each root vegetable brings for your baby, we highlight the differences below in less “sciencey” speak. Just what are these root veggies providing for baby? Is there a best one? Let’s find out.
Babies need a lot of calories to grow, which one reason why potatoes and sweet potatoes are so favored as the first foods for your baby. Potatoes are often one of the first foods introduced to babies in Europe and with the right potato varieties, even a grown adult can live off of potatoes as their primary meal because of their caloric content. For every 100 grams, there are 86 calories in potatoes and 76 in sweet potato.
On the other hand, pumpkin is part of the squash family, and while it has more calories than, say, a green vegetable, there are only 20 calories in 100 grams of pumpkin. Thus, a baby would have to eat more pumpkin to get the same number of calories. So if you’re focusing on purely getting calories in for your baby (energy), potatoes come in first with sweet potato following close behind.
What about other macronutrients? Sweet Potato, Potato and pumpkin all basically have the same amount of protein, with potatoes edging out by a gram. The fat content in all three is very low. It’s carbs where the difference lies. Potatoes have the most carbs at 20 grams per 100 gram serving. Sweet potato has 17-18 grams, and pumpkin has just shy of five, which is why it’s so low-calorie.
So if you’re looking for carbs or calories for your baby, sweet potato and potato are your best bet. So - let’s talk about the difference between sweet potato and potato.
One important difference between sweet potato and potato is that sweet potatoes have more natural sugar content and more fiber than potatoes. The carbs in potato are locked up in starch. Pumpkin also gets its sweetness from natural sugars, but doesn’t have as much as sweet potato.
Does this mean we should stick with potato since it has high calories and low sugars? There’s more to the picture.
Vitamins And Minerals
Where sweet potatoes really shine are in their vitamin and mineral content. Those sugars in sweet potato are accompanied by a lot of good things. Sweet potato beats the other two (pumpkin and potato) in calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin D, and iron.
But straight potatoes also have their nutritional secrets. They have the most magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, niacin, folate, and Vitamin K. And, our famous Halloween Pumpkin, has a high amount of Vitamin A as well. Did you know that in order for your digestion to best absorb Vitamin A it needs some fat. In other words, add some butter or organic oil to your dish - it will help your digestion take full advantage of all that Vitamin A!
So, which one should I choose for my baby?
It is clear from the nutritional analysis that potatoes and sweet potatoes roundly defeat pumpkins. Pumpkin may be good for its flavor, and it does have high Vitamin A, but if we are comparing, it doesn’t have anything that sweet potatoes or potatoes don’t have except it does win in riboflavin content! That being said, it’s a great savory vegetable for your baby and it’s slightly sweet taste makes it a popular first for baby food. It's also great combined with minced meat or fish for a healthy nutritious meal for your baby.
Potatoes and sweet potatoes complement each other nicely. Both give the calories that babies need and give tremendous amounts of nutrition. Each fills the other one’s gaps. And both can be made into purees after cooking them. They are both popular first foods for your baby and now you know the facts more in depth.
We know, sometimes there is just all the best intentions but no time to make homemade baby food. Enter Amara. If you’re looking for a high calorie, healthy meal for your baby - Amara’s vegetable flavors are a great start. Amara has a wonderful Potato and Kale puree that would be a great start for baby’s foray into more fibrous vegetables. We also have a Pumpkin baby food that is a smooth, nutritious introduction to solids for your baby. Add a little mashed sweet potato to it over time and your baby will get a highly-nutritious meal and make their way quickly to solid foods.