When it comes to nutrition, many parents worry that their children are fussy eaters, and wonder how they can maximize the goodness in their food.
For some kids, healthy feels synonymous with foods they don't like — but it doesn’t have to be this way. Luckily, many common fruits, grains, legumes, fish, and vegetables are nutrient-rich enough to earn the title of "superfood." With a little imagination and inspiration, it’s easy to show your tiny diners that food can be both delicious and wholesome.
Strawberries are a classic summer fruit that many kids will eat as soon as they get the chance, but not many people realize they’re a fantastic source of fiber, Vitamin C, manganese, and other nutrients, too. They’re also really easy to grow at home, and having control over the growing process can mean a far more nourishing and tasty treat. Your kids will probably eat them straight from the backyard, just as they are, which means you won't even have to hide the white sugar and thick cream.
Avocados are a great source of healthy monounsaturated fats, which are essential to help reduce inflammation and keep hearts healthy. They also contain up to twenty vitamins and minerals. If your kids are put off by the thought of eating anything green, you may avoid these just to prevent complaints, but there are so many ways to make this cream fruit appeal. Some kids will be happy to treat avocado like a spread for rice cakes and toast, whilst fussier eaters may prefer it blended into a chocolate mousse or smoothie. A little goes a long way: one large avocado provides enough servings for a whole family.
Oats are one of the grains we tend to take for granted, but they’re a brilliant source of fiber, slow-release carbohydrates, B vitamins, zinc, folate, and other essential nutrients. Even if your kids aren’t keen on oatmeal for breakfast, you can find countless other ways to add them to their diet, like replacing wheat flour in recipes like muffins and pancakes. You can also add them to frozen fruit and yogurt to make smoothies. They’re so versatile you’re guaranteed to find at least one recipe your kids will love.
This power-packed seed is from a plant related to spinach and beets. This means it’s not a traditional grass grain and is naturally free from gluten. Its superfood status boils down to its being high in manganese, phosphorous, B vitamins, fiber, and protein. Be warned that your kids might not be thrilled if you simply pile it on their plates — it needs other ingredients to give it some flavor. Its sturdy texture lends itself particularly well to burgers: combine it with ground meat, fish or tofu, onions, and seasoning, and fry them up in a bit of oil.
This fish is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and proteins essential to brain and muscle development respectively, as well as A and B vitamins. To make it more appealing to kids, try cutting it into strips and dipping in beaten eggs, then wholegrain breadcrumbs for nutritious homemade fish sticks. Serve them with sweet potato wedges instead of French fries for added vitamins and slow-release carbohydrates.
They may not be as glamorous as avocado, but unpretentious beans are packed full of antioxidants, protein, and soluble fiber. Some studies have shown they may even help prevent cancer. Some kids love them in tomato sauce or a burrito, but others may need more convincing. A great way to change the way older kids and teens view beans is to turn the canned version into a healthy snack by draining them, adding some olive oil and seasoning, and baking until crisp.
Although they’re commonly referred to as nuts, almonds are the seeds of a stone fruit that is related to apricots, peaches, and cherries. They’re high in good monounsaturated fats, which help heart health, as well as protein. They have a lower glycemic index than some other nuts (an important factor for people with diabetes) but can be a bit bland on their own, so try using ground almonds as a flour substitute in cakes, or stirring them into porridge with honey for hours of slow-release energy in the mornings.
Dark chocolate is an amazing source of antioxidants, iron, copper, manganese, and magnesium. Always choose the low sugar, high cocoa solids variety. Some kids have gotten so used to the sugar-filled, low-nutrition junk that passes for chocolate that it may take a while for their taste buds to adjust to the good stuff. A clever way to win them over is to melt it over low heat, allow it to cool slightly, and let them dip in any kind of fruit they like.
One problem with green leafy vegetables can be the bitter aftertaste that kids can’t seem to get past. This is where Swiss chard comes into its own: it has a mild, nutty flavor and will cook down in sauces, stir-frys, and stews to subtly provide your offspring with iron, fiber, and vitamins A, K, C, and E, along with many other minerals.
If your kids are live wires in the evenings, cherries can help. They’re a valuable source of melatonin, which helps to regulate sleep patterns. They’re also lower in sugar than many other fruits. If you have space for a cherry tree, the nutritional benefits will be maximized, and most children are happy to eat these fruits just as they are.
There are endless possibilities for getting the most out of cherries: you can stone them, puree them and drizzle over frozen yogurt, or dry them on low heat in the oven for a delicious, naturally sweet snack at any time of year.