Kids can be picky eaters, but here’s a short list of nutrition-packed, healthy foods that most will enjoy.
It’s always funny to me when people ask me how my kids ate when they were little. I’m sure many of them think that since I do what I do, my kids must have been perfect eaters––or that I had some special tricks up my sleeve that made them beg for broccoli and other healthy foods. Truth be told, my kids were no different from most other kids. They had their likes and dislikes. And they’d go on food jags where they’d want to eat the same thing every single day.
Naturally, it did concern me that their nutritional needs weren’t always being met. But there were several really healthy foods that they were almost always willing to eat. I just downplayed the “healthy” part, because once you tell kids something is “good for you,” that’s one of the surest paths to rejection.
So, here’s a list of my top-rated foods for kids––they’re good, and good for them.
Tuna fish – Many kids turn their noses up at fish, but they’ll eat tuna salad. Like all fish, tuna is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and is rich in protein. Try mixing your canned tuna with mashed avocado instead of mayonnaise for a healthier tuna salad, and serve with some whole grain crackers––kids love to make their own little cracker sandwiches.
A lot of kids fall short when it comes to meeting their calcium needs, and many don’t eat enough fruit, so smoothies can help fill both gaps. They’re quick and easy to make, and they’re great when things get rushed in the morning. Kids love to make their own. If you’ve got low-fat milk, protein powder and some frozen fruit at hand, your kids can take it from there.
Kids and vegetables often don’t mix, but sweet, crunchy, raw carrots are an exception. Carrots are rich in beta carotene to help support healthy-looking skin and eyesight, and they’re also a good source of fiber. They’re fun to eat plain or dipped in fat-free ranch, salsa or guacamole.
It takes just a few minutes to cook up some rolled oats, which are naturally rich in fiber and B-vitamins. Try making it with nonfat milk or soy milk rather than water to boost calcium and protein. Then sweeten lightly, and stir in some diced fruit like bananas or apples.
Kids love strawberries because they taste so good. They’re also packed with vitamin C, potassium and fiber. When fresh berries are unavailable, use the frozen whole berries in smoothies or mixed with yogurt.
Instead of chips, offer kids nuts to satisfy their craving for something crunchy and salty. Tree nuts like almonds, walnuts or pistachios provide beneficial fats, protein and minerals like zinc and magnesium.
Beans do double nutrition duty for kids. They’re not only a good source of iron, but they’re a great fiber source, too. Most kids will eat canned beans seasoned with a touch of ketchup, barbecue sauce or salsa. You can also try bean soup, or whirl some beans in the blender with a little salt, lemon and olive oil for a tasty hummus dip for raw veggies.
Susan is the Sr. Director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife, where she is responsible for the development of nutrition education and training materials, and is one of the primary authors of the Herbalife-sponsored blog, www.discovergoodnutrition.com. She is a Registered Dietitian and holds two Board Certifications from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, and a Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management. Susan is also a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Susan graduated with distinction in biology from the University of Colorado, and received her master’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition from Colorado State University. She then completed her dietetic internship at the University of Kansas. Susan has taught extensively and developed educational programs targeted to individuals, groups and industry in her areas of expertise, including health promotion, weight management and sports nutrition.
Prior to her role at Herbalife, she was the assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, and has held appointments as adjunct professor in nutrition at Pepperdine University and as lecturer in nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Susan was a consultant to the (then) Los Angeles Raiders for six seasons, and was a contributing columnist for the Los Angeles Times Health Section for two years. She is a co-author of 23 research papers, 14 book chapters, and was a co-author of two books for the public: “What Color is Your Diet?” and “The L.A. Shape Diet” by Dr. David Heber, published by Harper Collins in 2001 and 2004, respectively.