Super foods make super kids

By Drum Digital
07 June 2014

Experts agree that grapes are a healthy snack for children - form babies to teens. Checkers stocks a wide range of delicious grapes throughout the year, making it easy for SuperMoms to feed their brood super foods. We also give you a list of other healthy fruit, vegetables and grains to help their minds and bodies grow strong.

Feeding children a generation ago was simpler than it is today. Mothers prepared purees for babies and something more adventurous for toddlers - after that children usually ate with the rest of the family. Ice cream, sweets, chocolate and chips were treats, not everyday food, and there wasn't a fast food outlet on every corner to tempt kids with burgers.

Now we live in a more stressful world where children often have two working parents. Shopping for food has become a weekend trip to the supermarket to stock up for the week.

But don't despair - even for busy working moms it doesn't require that much effort to stop off somewhere on the way home and pick up chicken breasts and fresh veggies for a stir-fry or half a dozen eggs, fresh herbs and mushrooms for an omelette. Here is a list of super foods - the nutrient packed building blocks of a good diet – that are essential for healthy child development.

Super fruits

They're packed with nutrients and need no preparation, which makes them the ultimate food standby.

Grapes are also a good source of vitamin C and are good for growing children, especially when they're tired or feeling low.

Oranges have a high vitamin C content and supply protein, calcium and iron. Their high potassium content makes them useful to counterbalance the excess sodium in chips and other salty snacks popular with children.

Apples contain flavonoids in their skins that have rich antioxidant qualities and apple juice has strong antiviral properties. The fruit is also rich in soluble fibre and pectin, which helps the body to eliminate cholesterol and toxic heavy metals such as lead and mercury.

Super vegetables

Green leafy veggies are the cornerstone of healthy eating - they reduce cancer rates and heart disease and increase longevity. This information alone is unlikely to get your children tucking in so you'll have to make veggies appetising enough to appeal to picky eaters.

Take advantage of kids' love of finger food and their ravenous appetites just before supper by serving appetisers while you prepare the meal - "little green trees" of raw or lightly steamed broccoli disguised with a tasty dip and carrot sticks to nibble at while they wait. Some kids even love lightly steamed asparagus dipped in melted butter.

Potatoes are full of energy and rich in a number of nutrients, including vitamin C. Eating chips every day is a bad idea but you can make boiled or baked potatoes delicious if you serve them with baked beans, salad, cottage cheese, cold chicken or tuna.

The onion family - onions, garlic, leeks and chives - may seem to lack child appeal but they protect the lungs, heart and digestive system, are potent cancer-fighters and can reduce cholesterol levels. Try playing at being at a restaurant by serving deep-fried onion rings with a dip of tomato sauce or garlic bread or pizzas.

Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants as well as vitamins C and E. Cherry tomatoes look more appealing so add them to your pre-meal snacks or pack a few in lunchboxes. For a quick summer pasta, quarter ripe cherry tomatoes and stir them into cooked pasta with plenty of olive oil, a little seasoning and a handful of torn basil leaves.

Super grains

Whole grains are an essential part of any child's diet, supplying protein for body-building, carbohydrates for energy, fibre for a healthy heart and digestive system as well as essential fats, vitamins and minerals.

Semolina is made from the hard outer part of wheat and used in couscous and pasta. Both are great, providing children with lots of slow-release energy, and are quick to cook. Just add a simple sauce and a salad and you have an easy and nutritious meal.

Rolled oats and oatmeal are high in protein, rich in minerals and packed with enough B vitamins to rank as a first-class remedy for nerves - just the food for stressed-out teenagers. Oats also have a remarkably stabilising effect on blood sugar levels. A bowl of oatmeal porridge for breakfast will send kids off to school full of energy. Alternatively, for supper, roll fresh fish in oatmeal before frying in a little olive oil.

Sweetcorn, fresh or frozen, provides more protein than potatoes and plenty of fibre, as well as useful vitamins and minerals. Most kids love mealies on the cob with butter, while home-made popcorn without too much salt makes a healthy snack.

Super proteins

Before grains and legumes were extensively cultivated, meat, fish and chicken were our early ancestors' most reliable sources of protein and in today's varied diet meat still offers valuable protein and other important nutrients for growing children.

Burgers from fast-food outlets often aren't healthy but if you make them at home from lean mince they're great for kids.

Poultry is also a terrific source of protein and B vitamins - a real boost during periods of intense activity and excellent if your kid 's been sick. Any poultry can be used to make soup and the traditional chicken soup beloved of Jewish mothers has more than folklore to thank for its reputation as "Jewish penicillin". Researchers have found a special sulphur compound in chicken soup really does protect against throat and chest infections.

Fish is a superfood too, rich in protein, low in fat and packed with B vitamins and precious minerals from the sea. It's quick to cook, easily digested and if kids already like fish fingers it won't be too hard to persuade them to be a little more adventurous. (If they insist on fish fingers make sure you fry them in olive oil.)

Super dairy foods

Dairy products are a major source of bone-building calcium, essential for children's healthy growth and fortunately most children love cheese and milk. Cottage cheese, cheese on toast, cheesy pizzas and a glass of milk instead of juice with meals will up their intake.

Eggs

These are an amazing source of high-quality protein and an important source of lecithin, which helps prevent heart disease and gallstones and encourages the speedy conversion of body fats into energy. It's also an important brain food, contributing to good memory and concentration. Make French toast by cutting medium thick bread into triangles and dipping them into beaten egg before frying in olive oil (serve with honey and grated cheese); or make scrambled eggs flavoured with grated cheese.

SOURCE: Superfoods for Children by Michael van Straten and Barbara Griggs (published by Dorling Kindersley, distributed by Penguin).

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