In an effort to combat childhood obesity and provide children with all of the nutrients they need to grow up healthy and strong, it seems like “superfoods”—foods with high phytonutrient content that have added health benefits—are popping up everywhere in the news, on food blogs, and of course, in recipes. To help you find a few new delicious (and very nutritious) ingredients for your family’s repertoire, we asked some of the city’s leading family food and nutrition experts for their favorite picks for kids. Bonus—they’re all delicious, versatile and easy to prepare.
1. Parsnips: Parsnips are high in fiber and potassium, and also provide vitamin C (which is very important this time of year), vitamin K (important for helping blood to clot, especially with all the falls kids can take), folate and manganese.
Prepare It: Add to a vegetable soup (cut as you would a carrot) or make a mix of mashed potatoes and mashed parsnips. — Jodi Greebel, MS, RD and co-founder of DinDins Food
2. Sweet Potatoes: A longtime favorite of babies, sweet potatoes are a vitamin-packed vegetable that are readily available in the winter.
Prepare It: Cut sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch strips, toss with olive oil and a touch of salt. Bake at 400 degrees until the outsides are crispy. —Kelsey Banfield, the blogger behind The Naptime Chef.
3. Walnuts: It’s easy to remember the super power of this heroic food by sight—they resemble little brains, and they happen to be great for our own brains, due to their high omega-3 content. Walnuts are also a great source of calcium, protein, zinc and potassium.
Prepare It: Crack and toast walnuts. Then grind toasted walnuts to a fine powder and blend into pancake batter to create a protein-rich breakfast. —Tracy Gary, founder, Intuition Nutrition.
4. Berries: Berries pack an incredible amount of nutritional goodness into a small package. One cup of raspberries contains 8 grams of fiber and is loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients. Berries also have fiber, which helps control blood sugar, keeping kids more focused and alert during class and full between meals.
Prepare It: Buying frozen berries is a great, economical option in the winter months.
Try defrosting berries and pureeing for either a sauce to go over angel food cake or as an alternative to syrup for pancakes and waffles. —Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD and
the creator of the F Factor Diet
5. Buffalo/Bison: Buffalo
or bison meat is a great source of protein for kids. It’s lower in fat
than beef and has a great concentration of iron and omega 3 fatty
acids, which are essential for children’s brain development.
Try sautéing it with garlic and olive oil. After the meat has browned,
add some tomato sauce and throw it over some whole grain pasta. –Dawn Lerman, MA, CHHC, AADP, founder of Magnificent Mommies and holistic health expert
6. Greek Yogurt:
Greek yogurt is 100% natural and has more protein and less
carbohydrates then regular yogurt. Also, it’s usually unsweetened (so
you can control your sugar intake), and its live cultures and
probiotics help strengthen kids’ immune systems and improve intestinal
health. It can also be used in baking as a substitute for sour cream.
Mix it with granola and berries for a healthy parfait; toss it in the
blender with a banana for a quick smoothie; put a dollop of yogurt on
top of chili or a baked potato; or whisk it together with lime juice
for a creamy salad dressing. —Jill Valente, contributor to Yummy Delicious
This Italian whole grain is gaining in popularity for good reason—it’s
easy-to-prepare, nutty and delicious. Pick up the semi-pearled variety
(available at Fairway, among other city spots) for a fresh, healthy
Prepare it: Boil and drain to fold farro into
salads (it’s delicious with roasted veggies in vinaigrette) or toss it
into soups. Or, for a more refined dish, prepare it a la risotto with
some porcini mushrooms. —Jenna Helwig, culinary instructor and founder of Rosaberry.com
Kale is an undeniable superfood, and it’s packed with calcium, vitamin
C and everything you want from a leafy green. It’s beyond tasty, too.
Rip kale into pieces, douse with olive oil and sea salt and put in the
oven until it crisps into chips, about five minutes or so. It’s also
great sautéed, in soups with whole wheat noodles and white beans, or
even raw—slice it into thin ribbons, dress with olive oil and lemon
juice, grated pecorino, breadcrumbs and sea salt. —Alexandra Zissu, green lifestyle expert, eco-consultant and author of “The Conscious Kitchen”
9. Cherry Tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes are delicious, colorful and full of nutrients.
Prepare It: Bake them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper until they pop for a flavorful snack! — Jessi Walter, founder of Taste Buds
The avocado’s rich, creamy texture and mild taste make it the perfect
complement to smoothies or even dairy-free chocolate mousse. The
healthy fat in avocados is also great for picky eaters who need a
little more bulk, and they also contain protein, vitamin E and
Prepare It: Blend a fourth of an avocado with banana, strawberry, kale and a few pitted dates for a delicious breakfast smoothie. —T.G.
11. Canned Fish: It
may not sound gourmet, but it’s wildly nutritious and a snap to
prepare. Canned fish is a great source of protein and calcium and omega
3 fatty acids, which has been proven to boost brain function in kids.
Enjoy wild Alaskan or sockeye salmon, trout, mackerel or sardines. Buy
only wild caught and, yes, the bones and skin are an added bonus as
they increase those brainy fats and calcium. Bones crush easily and
skin all but disappears into the preparation.
Prepare It: Prepare
salmon just as you would tuna salad or use for salmon cakes with lemon
juice, egg, breadcrumbs and seasoning. Sardines, trout, and mackerel
are a treat on their own, on a bed of greens or with brown rice and
chopped avocado. —T.G.
12. Nori and other Sea Vegetables: Luscious green vegetables of the sea are crammed with vitamins and nutrients. Nori, which contains calcium, potassium and iron, is more protein rich than milk, meat, fish, poultry and soybeans. It also boasts vitamins A, B, C and D. Crumble it over salad or into soups.
Prepare It: Use it to wrap rice balls filled with fish, cooked sweet potato or mango or just eat it straight. We like the toasted seaweed packets from Trader Joe’s. “More seaweed mama!” —T.G
13. Quinoa: This ancient grain is quick and easy to prepare and has as much protein and more calcium than milk. It also contains iron, phosphorus, B-vitamins and vitamin E.
Prepare It: Eat it warm with butter and salt or as a warm porridge with berries, dried fruit, maple syrup and almond milk. Or top it with a sunny side up egg and toasted pumpkin seeds. —T.G.
14. Kiwi: Kiwi is among
the most nutritionally dense fruits, full of antioxidants. One large kiwi
supplies your daily requirement for vitamin C. Kiwis also contains fiber,
potassium and some vitamin A and E.
Prepare It: Kiwis are delicious on their own, or added to a traditional fruit
salad, giving it a more tropical feel. –T.Z.
15. Coconut Oil: Coconut
oil contains lauric acid, which the
body converts to monolaurin, which helps fight viruses, parasites, yeast
overgrowth and bacteria—and even boots brain health. It’s a popular ingredient
in the autism recovery community, where it is believed to help normalize brain
Prepare It: Use coconut
oil in place of oil, for baking, salad dressings, and for sautéing. You can
also mix a few teaspoons into a smoothie. Or, try melting coconut oil popcorn,
add some dark chocolate chips (70% cacao) and unsweetened coconut flakes. Makes
a great snack! —D.L.
16.Goat Kefir: Smooth and creamy kefir has antibiotic properties and, loaded with healthy bacteria from fermentation, it helps to restore balance to the intestinal tract. It contains calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, vitamins B2, B12, K, A and D. If you are not already running out to buy it right now, check this out: it also has a calming affect on the nervous system.
Prepare It: Drink it plain, with maple syrup or blend with your favorite fresh or frozen fruit for a delicious smoothie. — T.G.
17. Jicama: Jicama looks like a potato—and is frequently referred to as a Mexican potato—but it isn’t very starchy, doesn’t get discolored and has a great crunch. It provides fiber, vitamin C, potassium, iron, folic acid and calcium—all of which are very important for kids.
Prepare It: Try tossing it on a salad, or serving jicama sticks with different types of dressings and dips like hummus or tzatiki. Or, add to a stir fry as you would water chestnuts. —J.G.
18. Pumpkin Seeds: Pumpkin seeds are very high in zinc, b-complex vitamins, as well as other vitamins such as K,
D, C and E. They are a good vegetarian source of protein and are packed with
omega 3 fatty acids.
Prepare It: You can buy them at pre-packaged and throw them into baked goods, (especially
pumpkin bread) or trail mixes,
or sprinkle them on top of yogurt and cereals. Or, try baking them when in
season with some olive oil and sea salt. —D.L.
19. Chia Seeds:
Chia seeds are a nutritional powerhouse that provide sustained energy
throughout the day. This nutty-tasting seed contains more omega-3 fatty
acid in a serving than salmon, making it important for heart health.
Unlike flax seeds, chia seeds are easily digestible, don’t need to be
ground up and have a much longer shelf life.
Prepare It: Add Chia seeds and berries to yogurt for a nutty crunch. –T.Z.
For more inspired ideas for family nutrition, visit New York Family’s food blog Yummy Delicious.