Keeping kids’ bodies strong with a healthy diet can give them an edge against the germs they encounter in everyday life. Here are eight superfoods to add to your meal repertoire, along with kid-friendly serving suggestions.
This one isn’t a hard sell with kids. Berries are bursting with bioflavonoids, the plant chemicals that help to activate the immune system and work as antioxidants to prevent cell damage. The darker the berry, the higher the bioflavonoids. But all berries are good for you; one cup of strawberries contains the same amount of Vitamin C as a cup of orange juice. Best of all, it’s been proven that frozen blueberries retain all of the good vitamins and chemicals, so you can benefit all winter long. Add berries to cereal, smoothies or yogurt.
Eggs got a bad reputation when they were suspected of raising cholesterol. More recent studies, however, show that eating 6-12 eggs per week in the context of a healthy diet doesn’t raise the risk of heart disease. You can feel good about eating eggs, especially since they’re full of high-quality protein. They’re rich in B vitamins, choline, selenium, Vitamin A, iron and phosphorus, and they contain two antioxidants that protect eye health: zeaxanthin and lutein. Hard boiled eggs are great for snacking, or whip up an omelet for breakfast or dinner.
Yogurt containing “live or active cultures” (listed on the label) offers probiotics, reducing inflammation linked to viral and gut issues. The other immunity boosting properties of yogurt come from magnesium, selenium, Vitamin D and zinc. The healthiest yogurt is the plain, unsweetened type with active cultures. Mix in berries to sweeten plain yogurt, or try a commercial brand with probiotics such as Activia.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts are powerhouse foods. Almonds, for example, contain Vitamin E, an antioxidant which helps fight off infection. Nuts and seeds are not only yummy, they offer an array of phytochemicals and minerals. Nuts have different nutritional profiles, so consume a variety to give your body what it needs. Nuts are great as a yogurt topper or just for snacking.
Despite the name, peanuts are actually legumes. Peanuts contain manganese as well as iron, magnesium, niacin, folate, copper, phosphorus, thiamine and selenium. If PB&J is your kids’ jam, you’ll get better nutrition from natural peanut butters instead of those with added sugars. Due to the recent rise in peanut allergies, parents should talk with their pediatrician about when to introduce peanuts into their child’s diet.
Sweet potatoes are worthy of the dinner table year-round, with numerous health benefits. Their bright color comes from carotenoids, an antioxidant. Just one sweet potato contains 400% of the daily requirement of Vitamin A, as well as Vitamins B, C and D, and many good-for-you minerals. To get your kids to eat this goodness, try serving a baked sweet potato with butter and brown sugar instead of a regular baked potato, or offer mashed sweet potatoes as a side dish.
Mom was right – broccoli is good for you. Broccoli contains Vitamin C, B, D, E and K as well as folate. More importantly, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates, which protect cells from DNA damage and have been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral and even anticancer effects. Other vegetables in this family include cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, arugula, brussels sprouts, kale, radishes and turnips. Try enticing kids with raw broccoli or cauliflower served with a yummy dip or steam it and top with cheese. Roasting vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts brings out their sweet flavor.
Red Bell Peppers
These brightly colored veggies taste sweeter than their green counterparts, making them more palatable for kids, and they contain three times more vitamin C than oranges. Vitamin C is thought to boost white cell production, the cells that fight infection. Red bell peppers also pack a healthy amount of beta carotene, which is good for eye health. Serve raw with a dip or sauté them in a stir fry.