Health Starts Here – Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes

Hi! I hope your week is off to great start. I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time however for whatever reason there have been a few road blocks in the way so I’m just now getting to it…

That said, a few weeks ago I signed up for a FREE Healthy Eating tour at my local Whole Foods and learned all about a new initiative they started called Health Starts Here. The goal of the program is to promote healthy eating education through easy-to-follow guidelines, in-store signage and support tools. The new program is based on the following simple principles for everyday healthy eating:

  • Plant-Strong – Eat more plants, like raw and cooked vegetables, fruits, legumes and beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains to ensure the best nutrients for the body, which leads to feeling satiated
  • Whole Foods – Choose foods that are real, fresh, natural, organic, local, seasonal and unprocessed. Eliminate refined, highly processed foods and foods containing ingredients void of nutrients, such as artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, sweeteners and hydrogenated fats.
  • Healthy Fats – Get healthy fats from plant sources, such as nuts and avocados. Minimize extracted oils and processed fats. If eating a diet that includes animal products, choose leaner meats and seafood as well as low-fat dairy products.
  • Nutrient Dense – Choose foods that are rich in nutrients when compared to their total caloric content. Build menus around plant-based foods to emphasize nutrient-rich meals containing a variety of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants.

You all know I love Whole Foods, but even if I didn’t I would still give them props (doesn’t anyone even use that word anymore?) for trying to help their employees and customers eat more nutritious foods and live healthier. I know, I know.. they are in the business of selling healthy foods so one might say this is just another marketing campaign. But honestly, I think it’s a pretty darn good one! They’re doing FREE healthy eating education and in my humble opinion, their principles of everyday healthy eating are much healthier than the ones our own government recommends.

One aspect of the program I am not completely sold on is the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) Score, a numeric system used to rate the nutrient density of foods based on a numeric score of 0 to 1000, with 1000 being the most nutrient dense. The ANDI score technique was developed by Dr. Joel Fuhrman and is calculated by evaluating a range of micronutrients including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidant capacities.

The reason I’m not sold is that only whole foods are given scores so packaged foods aren’t compared and the scores are a bit confusing – sure it makes sense that kale scores 1000, the highest possible score, but then arugula gets a 559, butternut squash a 156, an apple scores a 72, nonfat plain yogurt a 30, and quinoa scores a 21. I consider all the foods I mentioned healthy but the foods with low scores seem “unhealthy” when looking at their ANDI score. I think the main point of implementing a healthy eating program should be to make it easier for the consumer to pick healthy options and this scoring system just doesn’t seem to do that.

Despite the ANDI score I still think the mission behind Health Starts Here is great and I’m loving the HSH signage at the WF prepared foods section, salad and hot bar – it’s super helpful when choosing what to eat to know which items meet the healthy eating guidelines. I’m also enjoying the plethora of healthy recipes they now have posted online. I’ve been browsing through the recipes and even tried a variation on their Kale Waldorf Saladlast weekend.

Last but not least, while I was on the healthy eating tour, I was offered a sample of the Quinoa Sweet Potato Cakes from the prepared foods section. One bite of the cooled patty and I was hooked!! The HSH team leader mentioned that the recipes were posted online so I started looking for it right away. It was no where to be found online, but I miraculously managed to score the recipe!! I tweaked it a little, cut it down to an easier amount for home cooking (it still makes a TON) and now I have a delicious recipe to share with you all. ENJOY!

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5.0 from 5 reviews
Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This is a copycat recipe created with the HSH Quinoa Sweet Potato Cakes served in the prepared foods section at my local Whole Foods. I like these quinoa cakes served hot, at room temperature, or even leftover and cold straight out of the fridge. Make them into burger size patties or make smaller cakes and serve them as appetizers! This recipe makes a lot (2.5 lbs of quinoa cake "dough") but the baked patties do freeze well!
Recipe type: Entree
  • 1 lb. sweet potatoes (2 medium sized), peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and cooked according to package directions
  • 1 cup lundburg wild rice blend, cooked according to package directions
  • ½ cup green onions, sliced
  • ½ cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage
  • ½ tablespoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Steam sweet potato chunks for 20-25 minutes. Then puree sweet potatoes in stand mixer. You could also use a food processor or blender.
  3. Combine mashed sweet potatoes, cooked quinoa, cooked rice, green onions, cranberries, sage, salt and pepper.
  4. Form and flatten portions of the “dough” into patties.
  5. Lay the patties onto parchment paper that has been sprayed with cooking spray (or stoneware) and bake for 15-20 minutes until they’re lightly brown and crisp on the outside.
  6. Serve warm, at room temperature, or straight from the fridge.

These do take a bit of time to prepare because you have to cook your rice and quinoa beforehand and let them cool enough to work with, but they are so worth the extra time. I love that these patties hold together well and get nice and crispy once baked in the oven! In addition, the natural sweetness from the sweet potatoes and cranberries take them over the top. FYI, the “batter” for the quinoa cakes is quite yummy on it’s own so don’t blame me if you want to lick the bowl. 😉

Before baking:

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I promise they are as good as they look!

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So there you have it – my favorite WF prepared foods item as of late and my thoughts on their Health Starts Here program.

What are your thoughts on the program? Have you seen the signage or attended the healthy eating tours/classes? Lastly, what’s your favorite item from the WF prepared foods section? Have you tried to recreate it at home?

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  1. Oh yum!!! I just love how you can use quinoa in so many recipes.

  2. I love Whole Foods… I am going to look into this, it sounds like a great program! 🙂

    I *LOVE* quinoa… these look delicious!

  3. These look AMAZINGGGG

  4. i may just eat those raw, but i’ll take the time to bake ’em.

  5. oh wow these look soo good! I <3 anything sweet potato!

  6. I worry that the ANDI scores will dissuade people from eating healthy foods. As you mentioned, an apple is relatively low but still a healthy, whole food item. I hope people don’t see a low number and assume it’s not worth eating.

    Those cakes look so good!

  7. You know what’s also amazing about that Whole Foods program? It looks like it’s almost totally free from lobbying by the meat, corn, and dairy industries. Plant-based foods –oh, I can’t wait until our country’s schools finally get that ideology shoved into their cafeterias. ANYTHING is better than pizza and chicken nuggets for breakfast.

    Have you heard about Bill Clinton’s vegan diet? He’s on it with a doctor’s full support, has lowered his cholesteral and scaled down his heart issues, and he was (is?) talking about the benefits of a plant-based diet on national television. Popular culture is waking up!

  8. Love the philosophy of the new program! I wish there was a WF nearby… but my wallet does not.

  9. Those look great! Lately I have been loving quinoa! It’s always great finding new uses for it!

  10. Great information. Thanks.

  11. It seems like many companies are taking the scoring technique. Im not really sure where I stand with it all. On one side, it seems like a great way to value your nutritional content without only focusing on the calories/fat. I think too many people only focus on the fat grams and nothing else. But then, I also see it as another way for people to constantly judge themselves based on a number. I hate that everything in life has to have a number associated with it in order to determine its value. I’m kind of indifferent on this one.

    But something I am completely and 100% for are these quinoa cakes!!!!! Holy yum!!

  12. The pictures are awesome! They sound really good too.

  13. These look so good – definitely just got starred in my google reader! The photos are beautiful too.

  14. These look delish! As if we needed another reason to love Whole Foods. I’ll look for signage the next time I’m there :}

  15. Those quinoa cakes are so adorable.

    To be honest I think scoring systems like that are just confusing. I too find it odd that some of the foods you listed had a low score — I think by categorizing foods that way leads to “good” foods and “bad” foods. And I don’t think an apple should be considered “bad”!

  16. those cakes look so good! And I love the addition of cranberries – so fun for a fall dish 🙂

    I think the program as a whole sounds good, but the scoring does sound like it could be very confusing. But…I don’t have a WF here to worry about it 🙁 Maybe some day!

  17. Those are the most adorable little cakes! I’ve had a great run so far with trying out your recipes, so I think this is definitely going to be on my list to make asap;)

  18. These look really great! I just added them to my To-Make recipes folder. Do you think the cranberries could be replaced with another ingredient?

  19. I agree that the scoring system seems completely confusing. I do appreciate that Whole Foods is taking this initiative though.

  20. these sound absolutely amazing and I am going to have to try them! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

    The basic idea of the WF’s program sounds great. I hope they’re able to give it the support it needs in store to really reach people and help them. I haven’t checked out the scoring system but I know it won’t help if it confuses people. Maybe they’ll revamp it if they realize that people are’t using it.

  21. This sound and look so yummy…I have some left over baked sweet potatoes that I might just have to give this a whirl….thanks for sharing…

  22. I’m totally making these 😉

  23. I really love these points on healthy eating. They articulate my aims very well. And this recipe looks great. I bookmarked it to make soon!

  24. Recipe looks awesome.

    The ANDI system seems a bit weird. It’s like NUVAL except seems harder to interpret because the range is so high. Is a squash really 600 points less healthy than Kale? I agree that it is misleading, but still it’s great that somebody is trying to help consumers be more aware of their food choices!

  25. I have been really interested in this program. I’ve been seeing the signs everywhere at Whole Foods, and I’ve been curious. Sometimes the scores make sense, but sometimes I see fruits and veggies that I think should be scored higher. Thanks for sharing what you learned. And thank you for sharing those delicious quinoa cakes…they look and sound delicious!

  26. What a creative recipe! Packed with superfoods too.

  27. YES PLEASE! these look amazing, and your photography is GORGEOUS! so excited to meet you in less than two weeks 🙂

  28. Yum! Those look so great! : ) I might have to just try this recipe!

  29. Those cakes look AMAZING! I want to make those next week. And I love the whole idea of the “health starts here” initiative, starting with planting quality produce!

  30. Made these for my co-workers and they loved them. Thanks for the post. : )

  31. Oh those look SO good!!! I will have to make them…perhaps for Halloween as they are slightly orange and black? 😉

  32. These are beautiful, Britt! What a wonderful post and an incredible recipe. Thank you; enjoy your weekend.

  33. Gah- SO GOOD. I can’t wait to try these out. They’re so pretty. 🙂

  34. WOW! These are seriously over the top with goodness. I just found them on the 100 ways to eat sweet potatoes post on endless simmer and they totally stood out to me!!

    love love love these and can’t wait to try them!

  35. OH MY GOODNESS!! Just made these yummy little cakes…. Only change was fresh sage. I topped them with plain nonfat greek yogurt and sprinkled chopped green onion on the top. They look so pretty and taste like something off the gourmet menu! Thank you for the yummy recipe! This will be my appetizer dish for my next party!

    Jill b, rn

  36. Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I actually had these from the Whole Foods hot bar a few months ago and had been trying to figure out the recipe. Will definitely make these this week.

  37. I love this cake. It is perfect for my power breakfast or even a afternoon snack… I am glad that I find a recipe here!

  38. Do you think substituting couscous for quinoa would work?

    • I’m not 100% sure they would hold together as well with cous cous instead of quinoa, but you can definitely try it because even if the cakes fall apart, it would still taste delicious! 🙂

  39. Awesome job on these girl!! YUM!!!

    And the pics are beautiful! Great photography!

  40. Kayla @ Fitter Than Choc says:

    I followed the link on Oh She Glows and ended up here; I’m glad I did. I have been on a quinoa craze lately, and these quinoa cakes look awesome. Will probably be making this some time next week! Thanks for sharing!

  41. CAROLINE says:

    YUM!!! I’m obsessed with both sweet potatoes & quinoa so this looks DELICIOUS!!! Do you happen to know the nutrition stats for these though?

  42. I followed the link on Oh She Glows, too! Great post. I agree that it is confusing when I go to buy a healthy ingredient like quinoa or walnuts in the bulk section and find that it has a low ANDI score, which makes it seem unhealthy. I have found the rating system helpful in certain situations, for example, I was buying a leafy green for salads for the week and found that between butter lettuce, romaine, and green or red leaf, green and leaf had the highest score. I think it works well for comparing like to like, but not so well for things like grains and beans.

  43. I made these last night to use for my lunch this coming week. Not only did *I* love them, but my husband couldn’t wait to try one and loved it too!
    Thanks so much for the recipe!

  44. these look yummy! great photos, i love quinoa =]

  45. Love the clean ingredient list! This will be excellent in the Summer time when burgers are all the rage.

  46. I made these with Yams as opposed to sweet potatoes. They were very good, but they did not get crisp when I baked them. I was wondering if the yam made a difference? The mixture was quite wet. I am going to make them again with sweet potato, and hopefully they will crisp this time. But I love the taste regardless. Thanks for sharing!

  47. I was just looking on the WF website for this very recipe and could not find it; a google search brought me to your blog. Thank you for posting this recipe! I tried these cakes for the first time yesterday and fell in love with them and I will be making this recipe again. Glad they freeze well!

  48. I want to make these and think my toddler would enjoy a dipping sauce with them. Another reviewer used plain yogurt, but I know that will not go over well. Suggestions? Would ketchup or bbq sauce go well?

  49. Hi,
    I was wondering, is the 1 cup of rice the measurement before or after cooking?
    Also, would plain brown rice work instead?

    • The 1 cup of rice measurement is for uncooked rice. i haven’t tried the recipe with brown rice but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. Although I would use long grain brown rice rather than short because that’s more similar to wild rice.

  50. I made these using ingredients I already had in pantry. Didn’t have green onion. Added in toasted pecans for a little savory. Yummy!

  51. Emma Hatch says:

    I just “discovered” your web site, and I love it! However, I have one request, or suggestion: Please include he nutritional information with each recipe. Although I have become a vegeterian, I have to watch my weight VERY carefully. Thank you so much!!

  52. Love your website! I found it when I went searching for this very recipe! I notice that this recipe is missing from your Search results and not listed in your recipe list! I almost couldn’t find it again, if you have a few minutes 🙂 would you add it to the list! Thanks for everything that you’re doing!

  53. Oh my, can’t wait to try this recipe. I just found your page thru 2 other vegan sites. At 53 I am now going vegan after many changes in life, bad marriage ending in divorce for one. But it’s never too late to make positive heAlthy changes. Love your website. I’m trying to get back on my feet, and feeling healthier.

  54. These are amazing!! We felt these needed some sort of sauce, and actually tried buffalo wing sauce (hey, it was the only thing we had here that we thought might work). It wasn’t perfect, but did add a little zip that was kind of nice. Wondering if anyone has other ideas for a sauce to accompany these amazing cakes? Also, is this best as an appetizer, side, or main course? What other foods go well with these? Thanks!

    • Maybe try some humus dip with the sweet potato quinoa cakes. I’ve made sweet potato humus before, so thinking it would be a good fit.

  55. Those look great! I love Quinoa Cakes, but your addition of sweet potato is a great idea.

  56. Those look great! I love qunioa!

  57. This recipe looks so good! Can’t wait to try it

  58. Desiree' Lloyd says:

    Just made these, happen to have potato Leek soup on hand so I floated one of these in a bowl. So Good! Feels like Thanksgiving. Great flavor combo.

  59. These cakes look amazing! I’ve been making similar quinoa cakes with pumpkin instead of sweet potato, but being a sweet-potato-lover I will give these a try soon 😉

  60. The cakes look gorgeous. Using sweet potato was a ingenious move. Sweet potatos are rich in ketones which are super good for you.

  61. I recently had the WF ones and fell in love! I found your site when I was searching – this recipe is incredibly delicious! Thank you so much for sharing! I have a batch in the oven right now! 🙂

  62. heather says:

    omg, THANK YOU for this! I just went to whole foods for lunch and decided to try one of these, they are amazing!! they didn’t have the recipe on their website and i was so disappointed until I found your site! sending you healthy love 🙂

  63. I’m on a veggie-burger round up mission… I intend to consume delicious things all summer. This one looks great, looking forward to trying it (or a variation, I’m not so good at perfectly following directions.)

    Thanks for sharing it!

  64. Basil Defreitas says:

    I love sweet potato & quinoa however, I am allergic to black pepper. Is their a substitute I can use?
    I live in San Diego and when I go to the asian markets I get confused with what they called sweet potatoes. Is it the ones when you dig into the skin it’s yellow inside or white?

  65. These look AMAZING!! Any idea how many calories per cake??

  66. Awesome recipe! Can’t wait to try it! Just 1 question, Is the amount of rice and quinoa dry and then cooked which expands and turns into more or 1 cup already cooked quinoa and rice? Thanks

  67. Awesome recipe! I made them for my family and they loved them!! even my 60 year old carnivore father liked them! healthy and fun! could be a nice alternative flavor with dried cherries!

  68. Great recipe! Look easy and nice to eat..I will show this to my auntie and ask her to made for me..:) Thanks

  69. Tried this recipe and although I was out of dried cranberries and Sage, I used Thyme and chopped Raisins instead and I used Tri colored Quinoa but they were still SO good.
    Next time i’ll use cranberries and sage though but i found these a very good substitute anyway.

    Thanks very much for this recipe loved them!
    [img src=”“]

  70. Thank you so much for posting this. I’ve been looking for it everywhere! My hubby and I are new to veganism and I love these but the nearest WF is over an hour away, so I only get there at most once a month. I look forward to trying some of your other recipes.

    Have you tried their kale and avacado salad? Another great one to get the recipe for!!

  71. Lorraine says:

    I have just found your website and it’s wonderful! I am wondering about the sweet potato in the recipe. Is it what is considered yams?? or is it sweet potato. Either way I am anxious to try. Keep it up and thanks for the help.

  72. Has anyone tried this with brown rice instead of wild rice, would it make a difference?

  73. Thank you for posting this recipe! These cakes are my absolute favorite food!! Due to some gall bladder issues, I can’t eat oil or fats, and I also eat a plant-based diet so it is very hard to find something prepared that fits my needs!

  74. Can’t wait to try these!! Question – has anyone tried freezing these?
    I’d love to make a batch and have them on hand…but can’t say I’ve ever froze potatoes!! Any tips are welcomed! Thanks

  75. Love this recipe. I just saw it on Ahalogy. Love the blend of grains and seeds.

  76. These sound amazing! I have been wanting to try a homemade veggie patty for a while and this looks like the perfect recipe. My family would devour these!!! Pinned!

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