If you think your kids’ diet could use some improvement, you’re not alone. Plenty of parents worry about how some of the common, go-to kid foods—like sugary cereal, frozen chicken nuggets, and fruit snacks—could be affecting the health of their kids. While these foods are okay in moderation, most of us know there are definite benefits of convincing kids to eat nutritious foods that actually deliver some benefit. As the parent of four, I am the first to admit that is often infinitely easier said than done. Add picky eaters into the mix, and it’s even harder. That’s where the benefit of sneaking some of what’s called “superfoods” into their meals.
What, exactly, are superfoods? Superfoods aren’t their own food group, but rather foods that have extra large doses of vitamins and minerals that are thought to be helpful when it comes to building strong bodies, being disease-free, and living a good, healthy, long life. Some nutrients in some superfoods feature healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants, or phytochemicals. Any time you can get superfoods into kids’ diets, it’s probably a good thing. Here are some you can tempt them with.
Let’s face it, everything about berries is pretty awesome. Flavorful, sweet, and easy to eat. Hopefully your kids are already loving strawberries and blueberries. Mix some raspberries and blackberries into the mix for even more fun. Berries are a great source of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber kids need to be healthy. These kid-friendly superfoods are perfect by themselves as a snack, but they also work well sprinkled over cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt, or even mixed into a smoothie. Want to go the smoothie route? Check out our favorite nutritionist, Danielle Omar’s Banana Berry Smoothie Recipe – it’s become a staple around our house.
When you need some calcium-rich foods, yogurt is the go-to snack. Not only is it one of the top sources of calcium, but it’s also full of protein and the kind of bacteria that’s good for gut health. If you can, opt for plain yogurt, and then mix in fruit—to make it more appealing to the kids. I also like to add some honey into plain yogurt to sweeten it up a bit. If your children already like yogurt, consider trying Greek yogurt. My kids like the Chobani brand while I prefer the Fage brand. Either way, if you can get them eating Greek yogurt, it’s pretty awesome. The texture is a little different, but the amount of protein is at least double the amount in regular yogurt.
If they’ll go for it, there’s not much better for breakfast in the morning than oatmeal. Iron, fiber, calcium, and protein—oatmeal packs a powerful punch. Thanks to all the fiber, they’ll have no problem staying full until lunchtime at school. And you can vary the flavor a little by adding different toppings every day—with honey, peanut butter, brown sugar, and fruit being some great additions to the typical bowl of oatmeal.
The seafood category contains some of the best superfoods for kids. Fish provides plenty of DHA, which is an omega-3 fatty acid that’s an important part of diet, for kids and adults. In particular, canned salmon and canned sardines are both calcium-rich foods to feed your kids, as each has up to about 300 mg of calcium per serving. I know that fish isn’t always an easy sell, but if you can get your kids to eat these things, it will be a major win in the healthy eating department.
Kids love brightly colored foods, so the tomato should naturally catch their eye. And it happens to be packed with nutrients, including lycopene—which can help reduce the risk of cancer. My kids eat sweetheart tomatoes like they are candy, so we’re covered when it comes to getting enough of this superfood. If you’re not so fortunate and your kids won’t eat tomatoes on their own, try sprinkling a little mozzarella cheese on top (hello, calcium!) and pair this healthy snack with their favorite dipping sauce (Ranch, the old standby is good, and honey mustard is a favorite at our house as well). Remember also that tomato-based sauces—like pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, and salsa—also offer the health benefits of tomatoes.
Seeds make great snacks that happen to be healthy. Most kids love to snack, so you can’t lose with this crunchy superfood. Some of the healthiest seeds include the chia, sunflower, and hemp varieties, as they all feature protein, fiber, healthy fats, and lots of calcium. Encourage your kids to eat a handful of seeds during snack time, or simply sprinkle them on salads and smoothies. I also like to make brownies and homemade power bars, and I’ll put a few seeds in there and they never know the difference.
Nuts count as another crunchy snack kids typically love. They’re full of healthy fats, protein, antioxidants, and fiber. Some of the healthiest nut options include macadamia nuts, cashews, and walnuts. Almonds are another great option, and they happen to also be a calcium-rich food even picky eaters usually love. If your kids won’t eat nuts as a snack, peanut butter and almond butter are both tasty on bread or crackers.
Eggs are packed with protein and vitamin D, which allows the body to absorb calcium better. The awesome thing about eggs is that they are so versatile. Scrambled, fried, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, quiche—whatever you’re in the mood for, you can do it with eggs.
If you’re looking for healthy kids’ foods that happen to have lots of fiber, go for apples. This superfood is so obvious people often look past it in favor of other options, but that’s a mistake. Apples have tons of fiber to help keep you feeling full, and they also have antioxidants for better health overall. Plus, they’re sweet, so hardly any kid turns down an apple! You can offer this fruit whole, slice it up, or chop it up and add it to dishes like oatmeal and baked goods. My kids love to dip apple slices in Nutella, which is a combination healthy/treat option. I call it a win as long as they are eating the apples.
- Whole Grains
There are so many whole grain options that most kids end up eating foods from this category pretty often. And that’s great, because whole grains are superfoods that have fiber, B vitamins, and minerals that include iron and magnesium. Common whole grains include brown rice, whole wheat pasta, wheat bread, and oatmeal, so you shouldn’t have trouble offering this superfood at some point nearly every day.
Here’s the thing. When it comes to healthy eating and kids, the best parenting strategy is simple: You just do what you can. No parent is perfect, nor should we strive to be. Doing the best you can, mixing healthy options filled with nutrients and superfoods (when possible), alongside a fast food dinner or something else that isn’t the healthiest is a good plan of attack. One thing that will help, though, is making sure you can get kids the vitamins and nutrients they need by way of a supplement. My kids don’t drink milk or eat a lot of other calcium-rich foods, so I rely on a calcium supplement. I didn’t, until I started working with the team at FitFormula, but now that I’ve realized the importance of building the foundation of strong bones and muscles and that my kids weren’t getting the calcium they needed, it was an easy thing to integrate into their daily eating habits. Sprinkle some FitFormula’s Cal-EZ, a flavorless, tasteless super easy to sneak in powder, into a morning smoothie and BOOM, calcium is covered. Want to give it a try, here’s a link to check it out for 50 percent off your first order.
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