A nutritious and balanced diet is the most important thing to ensure that your child has a head start toward a healthy life. Growing bodies require specific vitamins and minerals for proper development. Unfortunately for parents, getting your kid to eat healthy isn't the easiest thing to accomplish. Luckily there are some great tasting foods that help supply children with everything they need to support their active little lifestyles.
Sweet potatoes have a couple of things going for them. They provide a great source of nutrition and they taste so good, you won't have to twist your kid's arm to eat them. These tasty vegetables contain potassium, vitamin C, fiber, folate, vitamin A, calcium and iron, to name a few. Sweet potatoes rank as one of the most nutritional vegetables on the planet. Treat sweet potatoes just like you would any other potato. They can be mashed, grilled, roasted or made into a delicious sweet casserole. The best bet to get your kids to eat them may be to make oven-baked sweet potato French fries.
Did you know?
Sweet potatoes are a great choice for diabetics because they help stabilize blood sugar.
As we all know, there are good carbs and bad carbs. Broccoli is loaded with fiber, which is one of the good ones, especially for growing children. Broccoli also has plenty of vitamins and minerals, which helps your child's eyesight and helps to ward off cell damage. Eating it raw is the best way to ensure that your child gets all those nutrients, but that may be a tough sell to the little ones. Sneak it into casseroles and stir fry dishes your kids like for best results. Let them add some reduced-fat salad dressing or dip to lightly steamed florets and you just may have a broccoli-loving junior.
Whole grains can be found in bread, cereal and crackers -- all foods kids usually enjoy. They're rich in folic acid, iron, zinc and B vitamins and some are fortified with vitamin D and calcium as well. Start your kids on whole grains early to give them a head start against heart disease. When it comes to buying pre-packaged whole grains, be careful. Especially with crackers, a staple snack item for kids, you'll want to avoid ones that contain unsaturated fats, better known as trans-fats. And don't be fooled by claims made on the front of the box. To get the real skinny, you're going to have to take a close look at the nutritional information on the back.
Cheese is a great superfood kids because kids love to eat it. Little do they know it's also chock full of calcium, protein and vitamin B12. Not only that, but cheese contains phosphorus, a bone-building mineral. And if all of this wasn't enough, studies have shown that eating cheese after a meal can help prevent dental cavities. You probably won't have a very hard time getting your kids to eatcheese. Melt it in grilled cheese sandwiches and serve it with some healthy soup for a double-dose of nutrition. It's also a good topper in salads and on vegetables that your kids may otherwise not want to try.
Like cheese, you'll probably have an easy time getting your kids to eat yogurt. And that's a good thing, because every serving of yogurt contains calcium, protein, carbohydrates, vitamin B, zinc and phosphorus. If you want to really kick it up a notch, buy yogurt with live active cultures to help boost the immune system and promote intestinal health. All-natural yogurt with fresh fruit will add even more nutritional value. For a healthy sweet treat, add some fresh granola and chocolate chips to low-fat vanilla yogurt. You can even freeze yogurt with fresh fruit for an alternative to ice cream.
Good ole canned tuna fish is an excellent way to provide your kid with protein, niacin, B vitamins, iron and zinc. It's low in fat and the fat it does have is the healthier Omega 3 kind. These unsaturated fats help brain development and get your kid on the right track when it comes to heart health. Don't go overboard though, because mercury levels in tuna means it should be eaten sparingly. Your child may love tuna fish salad sandwiches, but if not, try breading it for pan-fried tuna cakes. Melt a little cheese on top for a dose of calcium and serve it with some whole grain rice and broccoli for a complete superfood meal.
For adults and kids alike, berries are some of the most nutritious superfoods for the body. Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are all key to providing potassium, vitamin C, fiber, carbohydrates and free-radical fighting antioxidants. Add the fact that there's very little fat and no cholesterol and it should be clear that fresh berries are a must on every kid's menu. Since berries are sweet, your child will probably enjoy the taste, which is an added bonus. Add berries to oatmeal, yogurt and whole grain cereals to provide an extra vitamin kick. You can also grow your own fresh berries in a small container garden. Get your kids involved in the project so they enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Calcium and phosphorous are two minerals necessary for healthy bone development. Milk has both in spades, plus it's fortified with vitamin D in the United States. Not only that, but milk is stocked with protein, energy fueling carbohydrates, Vitamin A and magnesium, another beneficial-to-your-bones mineral. Full fat milk is OK for kids up to two years of age, then take it down to reduced fat milk. Most kids like the taste of milk because of its association with cookies and cereal, so you can use this to your advantage to get milk into their system. The popular ad slogan says it all -- milk does the body good.
Eggs are definitely a kid superfood, mainly because of the protein content. The protein in eggs is so beneficial that all other foods use it as the gold standard. Aside from protein, eggs are full of more than a dozen necessary vitamins and minerals, and contain a huge concentration of choline -- a nutrient vital for brain development in young children. To boot, eggs are one of the most versatile foods on the planet. You can cook eggs many ways, but chances are your child has a favorite, whether it's scrambled or fried. And what kid doesn't like colorful boiled Easter eggs?
When it comes to protein and B vitamins, beef is a hard meat to beat. The same goes for niacin, zinc and iron, minerals that all growing bodies need. Like eggs, beef is also a great way to get some brain-developing choline into your system, more so than any other meat. That cholesterol and fat that adults try to avoid is actually good for young kids and their developing bodies and brains. Once they grow into pre-teen years you may want to go with leaner cuts of beef. Include beef in casseroles with vegetables for a balanced meal. Hamburgers and small cuts of steak are also an option, but you'll have to do the cutting. Another good way to pair beef with vegetables is by grilling kabobs, a method of preparation your children might enjoy.
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Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Brady, Laura. "Nutritious and Delicious: Sweet Potatoes = Superfood." Associatedcontent.com, August 31, 2007.http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/360515/nutritious_and_delicious_sweet_potatoes.html?cat=22
- Kalnins, Daina and Saab, Joanne. "Top Superfoods for Kids." Food Network, 2009.http://www.foodtv.ca/kids/foodTVsuperFoods.pdf
- Orey, Cal, and Whitaker, Julian. "Doctor's Orders." Kensington Books, 2002. pp.299-300.
- Ward, Elizabeth M. "Healthy Foods, Healthy Kids." Adams Media Corporation, 2002.http://life.familyeducation.com/foods/family/39395.html
- Planck, Nina. "6 Superfoods To Know." Parade Magazine, March 30, 2008.http://www.parade.com/articles/editions/2008/edition_03-30-2008/2Superfoods