When you’re looking for something to feed your kids, you’re probably hoping for that nutritional holy grail of a food: something that they love to eat that’s high in protein and fiber, relatively low in sugar, and filled with vitamins. Realistically, you may never find that one perfect food, but there are plenty of “power foods” that taste good and pack a nutritional punch. We like to think of these as our Top 5:
Eggs: Eggs have been called nature’s perfect food, and many kids agree. You can serve hard-boiled eggs for lunch or snacks; scrambled eggs can do double duty for breakfast or dinner. Eggs are a great source of lean protein and iron. Plus, most nutritionists now say you shouldn’t worry too much about the cholesterol factor. Keep your servings to one every other day or so and you should be fine.
Oatmeal: Hey, what happened to oatmeal? It used to be the go-to food when your little ones were babies. Many parents drop it from their repertoire once their kids have teeth, but you don’t have to. It’s a great high-fiber food to start the day. Just try not to load it down with too much sugar.
Yogurt: Yogurt is a great source of calcium and protein, and it’s good for your gut too. When choosing a kids’ yogurt, stay away from the stuff that’s loaded down with sugar and artificial colors. Look for yogurt that has live active cultures and is relatively low in fat.
Blueberries: They’re perfect little packages of sweetness, and most kids love them. That’s why blueberries earn our vote: With each serving of blueberries, you get plenty of fiber and antioxidants. Plus, scientists are still discovering the myriad benefits of this tiny fruit, including improved heart health, visual acuity, brain functioning, and protection against colon cancer.
Spinach: Ounce for ounce, spinach is a nutritional powerhouse. With every bite, you’re filling up on Vitamin K, Vitamin A, iron, and mega-doses of other vitamins and minerals. But we’re not kidding ourselves: Leafy green vegetables, especially spinach, are a tough sell for kids. Our advice? Start offering spinach as a matter of course when they’re still young enough not to know the difference. Cook it in with scrambled eggs or rice so it’s not the center of attention. Then later on, if you need to, you can hide it in foods like tomato sauce by steaming it and pureeing it. Sure, this approach is a little sneaky, but it’ll amp up the nutritional quotient of just about anything you’re serving.
Of course this list is just meant as a starting point. A few runners-up deserve mention too: Peanut butter is a great source of protein, and although it’s high in fat, it represents one of the “good” fats. Bananas are loved by just about every kid, and they’re a perfectly packaged source of potassium. Sweet potatoes are a great source of Vitamin A and C (and they make for great French fries too!). Low-fat milk is your go-to source for calcium and Vitamin D. Try lean beef for protein, iron, and zinc. Kidney or garbanzo beans are a fun way to get protein and fiber. And don’t forget good old apples – they’ll give you a good shot of vitamins and fiber, and they’re easy to pack for lunch.
Hungry yet? If you haven’t had one of these foods in a while, now’s the time to bring it back into your regular routine. You’ll feel better about what you’re serving, and your kids will have the benefit of more energy, strengh, and stamina. “Power” foods, indeed.