Shhh, don’t tell the kids these foods are good for them! Each one is loaded with nutrients — whether they’re vitamins, phytochemicals or friendly bacteria. Stock them in your kitchen and serve regularly using these easy, tasty recipes. Don’t be surprised if your little ones beg for seconds.
A version of this article was published in our January 2007 issue.
The mighty mango has lots to offer a hungry child besides its juicy, sweet taste. That bright yellow flesh is a clue that this fruit contains plenty of beta carotene, which protects vision and heart health. It’s also full of other nutrients such as vitamin C, fibre and vitamin B6, needed to form red blood cells.
Inside-Out Mango Porcupine: Slice off a mango “cheek” by standing the fruit upright on a cutting board and slicing down directly beside the pit, cutting off half the flesh. Make 3 or 4 lengthwise slices and 4 or 5 horizontal slices into the flesh (making sure to stop just before the peel) to create a crosshatch pattern. Turn skin inside out, and bite-sized cubes pop out on the surface. (Remove cubes and slice smaller for kids under four to prevent choking.)
While most kids are apt to choose milk chocolate, this bitter, stronger-tasting cousin is actually better for them. It contains flavonoids, which act as heart-healthy and cancer-fighting antioxidants in the body. Also, while dark chocolate is high in saturated fat, some of that fat is converted in the body into a healthier fat. And remember, children need some fat for healthy growth.
Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries: Coarsely chop 4 oz (100 g) of dark chocolate, and gently melt in a double boiler or a small pot placed inside a larger pot of boiling water. Or melt the chocolate in a microwave 2 minutes, stirring at 30-second intervals, until melted. Remove melted chocolate, and dip in a clean, dry strawberry until three-quarters covered. Place on a waxed-paper-lined tray, and refrigerate until set. Makes about 12 to 15 large chocolate-dipped strawberries.
More recipes: Strawberry and rhubarb recipes: 10 delicious ideas.
Looking for a way to get more iron and good fats into your child’s diet? Hulled pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) provide kids with omega-3 fats and immune-boosting zinc. A ¼ cup (50 mL) serving contains 153 calories and provides almost a quarter of your child’s daily iron needs.
Pepita Nature Bars: Toast 1 cup (250 mL) pumpkin seeds in a 350°F (180°C) oven for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine toasted pumpkin seeds, 2 cups (500 mL) each Rice Krispies and corn flakes, and ½ cup (125 mL) each dried cranberries and quick-cooking oatmeal. In a microwave, melt 250 g marshmallows, ¼ cup (50 mL) non-hydrogenated margarine and 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla in a microwave-safe glass bowl. Combine marshmallow and cereal mixtures, place in an oiled 9 x 13 in. (3.5 L) baking dish, and spread and flatten using a metal spatula. Let cool 2 hours, then cut into squares.
This leader in lean meat contains half the saturated fat found in red meat and delivers a taste most kids won’t squawk about. Little bodies need protein, and turkey can deliver. Also, there’s cancer-fighting selenium in those drumsticks, as well as zinc, which boosts children’s immune systems.
Turkey Teriyaki: Slice 1 lb (500 g) of turkey breast scaloppine (thin slices) into strips. Marinate for at least 1 hour in mixture of ½ cup (125 mL) soy sauce, ¼ cup (50 mL) brown sugar and 1 tbsp (15 mL) each chopped garlic, finely grated ginger, rice vinegar and sesame oil. Drain. Heat 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil in a frying or grill pan at medium high and cook strips for 2 to 3 minutes per side.
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Whether your dear little diner calls it “trees” or “yuck!” there are plenty of good reasons to keep serving broccoli. It’s sky-high in nutrients (including vitamins A and C, fibre and folate) and provides iron and calcium. Packed with phytochemicals, broccoli offers premium protection against cancer and heart disease.
Snowstorm Broccoli: Wash and trim 1 broccoli bunch into bite-sized pieces. Heat 2 tbsp (25 mL) olive oil in a large frying pan at medium high. Toss in 2 whole, squashed garlic cloves, cook 30 seconds, and add broccoli. Stir for 1 minute, then add 2 tbsp (25 mL) water or chicken stock, cover and steam until tender. Remove garlic and garnish with a snowstorm of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
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Increase your child’s fibre intake by adding this whole grain to her diet. Buckwheat has an appealing nutty flavour that can be snuck into pancakes, crepes and waffles. It’s high in protein, calcium and energy-boosting iron.
Blender Buckwheat Pancakes: In a blender, whisk together ½ cup (125 mL) each buckwheat flour and all-purpose flour, along with 1 tsp (5 mL) salt and 2 tsp (10 mL) each baking powder and sugar. Add 2 large eggs and ½ cup (125 mL) milk, and whisk until the batter is smooth. Heat a frying pan and, well, you know the rest.
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Get your little tyke swimming over to salmon, a top source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, crucial for proper brain and eye development in infants and young children. Your kids will also benefit from salmon’s bone-building vitamin D and calcium (found in the canned variety). To lessen the risk of toxins, choose wild versus farmed salmon more often. Tip: Canned salmon is usually wild.
Salmon Cakes: Drain 1 can sockeye salmon and mix with ½ cup (125 mL) crushed corn flakes. Finely chop a green onion and a celery stick, and add to the mix along with 1 beaten egg, 1 tbsp (15 mL) mayonnaise and some chopped parsley or cilantro. Form the mixture into 6 patties, and fry in 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil at medium high for 3 to 4 minutes per side. Serve as fish entree for dinner or pop into a burger bun.
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While mom and dad may be munching on these antioxidant power-houses to help guard against memory loss and protect vision, kids can cash in on the benefits of these blue orbs too. This high-fibre berry is great for a kid’s plumbing: It can help ward off constipation, may relieve diarrhea and contains a compound called hippuric acid that protects against urinary tract infections.
Blueberry Sauce: In a small pot at medium, heat 1½ cups (375 mL) frozen blueberries, 2 tbsp (25 mL) sugar and the finely grated peel (no white pith) of ½ a lemon. Stir constantly for about 5 to 8 minutes or until sauce comes to a boil. That’s it. Now pour over pancakes, French toast, angel food cake or ice cream. Or blend it with plain yogurt and you have a delicious smoothie.
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A vegetable that is sweet — who could ask for more? Get kids hooked on the other tater to soak up nutrients such as vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene), vitamin C, iron, and manganese for strong bones. If that’s not enough, these sweet spuds provide a good source of fibre, and a high potassium content that helps keep kids’ body fluids in balance.
Sweet Potato Rosti: Grate 2 small, peeled sweet potatoes and ½ a small onion. Place in a clean tea towel and squeeze out excess juice. Transfer to a medium bowl and combine with 2 beaten eggs, ½ tsp (2 mL) each nutmeg and salt, and season with pepper. Heat a large, non-stick frying pan at medium and add 2 tbsp (25 mL) olive oil. To form 6 patties, drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil and flatten slightly. Cook 5 to 6 minutes per side or until golden brown. Serve with a dollop of low-fat sour cream or apple sauce.
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Kids love yogurt, and it loves them back: Yogurt helps to build strong bones with its high calcium content and is a great source of protein, good for growth and tissue repair. This slightly sour and oh-so-creamy goody is easier on the lactose-intolerant among us and offers up a bounty of digestive and disease-preventing benefits. Whenever possible, buy yogurt labelled as containing “live and active culture.”
Tzatziki: In a medium bowl, mix 1 cup (250 mL) plain yogurt with a ¼ cup (50 mL) finely chopped, seedless cucumber, 1 clove crushed garlic, some chopped mint and a squirt of lemon juice. Season with salt. Use as a dip for grilled chicken or plop some into a pita pocket with cubed, leftover chicken, chopped lettuce and tomatoes.
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