Clamoring for healthy, kid-friendly food ideas? Think outside the box with the following five superfoods.
As a parent, you probably know that getting kids to eat healthy foods isn’t the easiest thing. Well-known standbys such as apples, carrot sticks, turkey, and whole-wheat bread are great places to start. But how about thinking outside the box?
Foods like beans, tofu, edamame, avocados, and sweet potatoes may not spring to mind when you think of kid-friendly food. But you just might be surprised as you sift through the following suggestions.
While tofu lacks its own flavor, it has the ability to absorb flavors from whatever food it’s added to. A nutrition powerhouse, just 4 oz. of tofu contains more than 9 grams of protein, along with a good dose of iron, calcium, and omega-3 fats.
- Add diced tofu to stir-fry dishes. Be sure to use the extra firm variety, which has a meatier consistency.
- Instead of yogurt, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of silken tofu to homemade fruit smoothies.
- Make a fruit “pudding” by blending 2 cups diced fruit (strawberries, peaches, pineapple) with 1 tablespoon honey and 12 oz. of firm tofu. Top with crushed nuts (optional).
- Mash silken tofu and use it in pasta dishes like stuffed shells or lasagna. Simply mix with low-fat ricotta and mozzarella cheese. Your little (and big) ones won’t even know its there.
Another soy product, edamame is an often overlooked kid-friendly food that is great for snacking. Edamame are soybeans in pods. One half cup of edamame (shelled) has 4 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein, and only 100 calories. The bean is slightly sweet and a little salty, making it the perfect snack for kids. You can buy edamame in or out of the shell, fresh or frozen.
- Make it fun for kids by showing them how to open the edamame pods and pull out “magic beans.”
- Get your starch and veggie all in one by serving edamame along with your favorite meat, chicken, or fish dish.
- Add it shelled to salads, or mix it into corn (yellow and green look pretty together).
Beans are inexpensive, readily available, and packed with protein, B vitamins, and iron. They are also a great source of fiber and calcium – two things kids tend not to get enough of. To boot, they can help guard against heart disease and high cholesterol, which aren’t just adult problems. Though you can cook them from scratch, they have just as much nutritional value coming from an easy-open can. Just be sure to rinse them off before cooking or eating.
- Make nachos or quesadillas with pinto beans, light cheese, and salsa.
- Introduce your kids to hummus (a delicious smooth blend of ground chickpeas, lemon juice, and olive oil). It’s a great dip for veggies or a good sandwich spread.
- Toss chickpeas with olive oil and salt and roast at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes. Stir and then roast another five to 15 minutes until they’re golden brown but not burned.
- Add lentils or kidney, black, white, or pinto beans to your favorite soup or chili. Mash them up if you want to “sneak” them in.
Avocados have a creamy, smooth texture and mild taste. They are the perfect ingredient for both sweet and savory dishes, both of which are food qualities kids tend to love. Avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including potassium, vitamin E, and all the B vitamins. Plus, they are packed with fiber (7 grams per half an avocado) and are a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat
- Mash avocados with salsa for a quick guacamole dip.
- Cut one in half, pull out the pit, sprinkle with lemon juice and salt, and let your kids eat it right out of the shell.
- Slice an avocado and add it to a turkey sandwich.
- Perk up a toasted cheese sandwich by spreading avocado on one slice of bread. Then add cheese and toast until bubbly.
- Add avocado to fruit smoothies.
This sweet, tasty vegetable may be starchy, but it’s packed with potassium, vitamin C, fiber, folate, and vitamin A. Sweet potatoes are also a decent source of much-needed calcium and iron.
- Mash sweet potatoes with ripe bananas for an extra, naturally sweet side dish.
- Blend some mashed sweet potatoes in with some oats as you cook them. This adds sweetness without pouring on the brown sugar. Top with raisins, almonds, and cinnamon.
- Blend cooked sweet potatoes (no skin) with chicken broth and use as the base for a “creamy” soup.
- Make sweet potato fries: Cut potatoes into thick strips, brush with olive oil, add a dash of salt, and roast in the oven for 45 minutes at 400 degrees F (turn once halfway through).