Super foods are those foods that provide your body with more than just calories, protein, carbohydrates and fat. They are classified as "real" foods (read: unprocessed) that supply your body with disease-fighting components and support health.
For example, many fruits are considered super foods because they contain antioxidants which neutralize free radicals, on top of their low-fat and carbohydrate content. A free radical is an unpaired oxygen atom that is loose in your body. When too many of these occur, your body is under oxidative stress and the antioxidants in healthy food can help to waylay the free radicals before they do any damage-aging, cancer-to your body.
A multi-grain potato chip will not be featured on a super food list because, although it gives your body a small amount of fiber, it does not supply other vitamins and minerals that help your body to ward off disease.
Kids need healthy, disease-fighting foods as much as adults. This list will outline some of the easier super foods to incorporate into a child's diet. Even though a stir-fry filled with loads of veggies and brown rice is a great mix of super foods, getting your kid to consume more than one broccoli floret will be a battle. Instead, feed them these super foods that they already like.
Cage-Free, Organic Eggs
Scramble up some eggs for your kids' mental health. Eggs contain choline, a necessary nutrient for brain development and memory. Fill up the kiddies at breakfast with eggs cooked over-easy, boiled or scrambled, and the children will stay full until lunch. Egg-eaters also consume fewer calories all day, according to Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author of the Pocket Idiot's Guide to the New Food Pyramids.
Low-fat or Fat-free Yogurt
Yogurt gives your kids calcium which ensures strong bone density and growth. In addition, it is filled with probiotics which help their digestive health by breaking down food and supplementing their digestive tract's existing flora and bacteria.
Don't buy the flavored brands of yogurt because those are full of added sugars and preservatives which can cancel out the nutritional benefits. Instead, to get those little taste buds interested, purchase the plain light yogurt and add some fresh fruit and granola.
Don't even think about putting them in the cookies, as they will get picked out immediately. To get the antioxidants without the complaining, make trail mix pouches of nuts and dried fruits for little hands to pick at on car rides or during the movies. Watch the portion control, though, because nuts do have a high fat content.
Out of all the fruits, kiwis are the most nutritionally dense. They can supply your little one with an entire day's worth of vitamin C. The fuzzy exterior may put off some kids, so peel and cut them prior to serving. Make them more appetizing by serving with slices of star fruit, apples and oranges. Interest your kids with familiar favorites and then entice them to try the new fruits.
Berries have phytonutrients, which are naturally occurring compounds-like vitamin E, vitamin C and folate-found in plants that help kids maintain healthy bodies. Any berry will be full of antioxidants, so buy the ones your kid likes in bulk and blend them into yummy smoothies or sprinkle them on cereals or salads.
The dark orange vegetable family supplies us with vitamin A, needed for eye health. Here are some dark orange veggies besides sweet potatoes:
- Squash; and
- Orange bell peppers.
The same way that kids don't go gaga over baked potatoes like they do mashed or fried, they won't respond to a sweet potato in all of its baked glory. Cutting up the potato into small strips and baking it in the oven will yield sweet potato fries to fill hungry tummies. Just brush the fries with some olive oil prior to baking and when finished decide if you would like them to be savory (add salt and pepper) or sweet (dust some cinnamon or nutmeg on top).
Fatty fish, like salmon or tuna, contain high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids which aid in heart health and also improve mood. Since a filet of salmon won't make the grade for kids, whip up some tuna sandwiches instead. Serve on whole-grain bread with as little mayo as possible.
Switch your kids' desserts from processed milk chocolate to the dark, organic variety and fill them up with added magnesium and antioxidants. To counteract the natural bittersweet flavor, try warming it up in the microwave and dipping fruit in it. By applying just a thin skein of dark chocolate, it will taste mostly of the strawberry or dried fruit that you used to dip it but with just a hint of chocolate. Since dark chocolate is high in caffeine, a little goes a long way with your young ones.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Since kids have signed a contract to fight eating anything green, try one of the new green food powders available at your local health food store blended into a fruit smoothie. The powder can be either straight chlorophyll or one of the popular green food mixes available. If you own a juicer, you can infuse the drink with even more nutrients like beta-carotene, lutein and vitamin B by juicing raw veggies and adding them to the smoothie.
The fruit flavors will mask any vegetable flavors. In fact, it takes quite a bit of leafy vegetables to make a significant amount of juice so you could ostensibly get multiple servings of veggies into one drink. Try adding:
- Bok choy;
- Swiss chard; or
Iceberg lettuce doesn't count as a green leafy vegetable, by the way. It is comprised mostly of water and you will notice it isn't actually green in color, if you really look at it.
Whole Grain Bread
Whole grain bread is full of polyphenol antioxidants, healthful compounds derived from plants. Grab a loaf of bread that lists actual whole grains in the first 3 ingredients, not anything that says "enriched," "refined," or has anything ending in "-ose." Avoid wheat breads until you are sure your child does not have a wheat allergy, which have become quite common for children.