Superfoods for future Superheroes
OHbaby! nutritionist Hannah Gentile gives us the lowdown on her favourite superfoods and shares some fresh ideas for integrating them into kids’ everyday diets.
Poor diet variation and under-nutrition are two very common issues with under-fives. As a nutritionist I could tell families the best foods for their kids to eat until I’m blue in the face … but if your child refuses to eat it, then there’s nothing ‘best’ about that food at all!
My aim with superfoods is to find something which is ‘inoffensive’ to the average child, but which is also filled with heaps of nutrients for their growing bodies and brains. Being a parent myself, I also know sleep and behaviour are really important, so my list has taken into consideration not just growth and development but also regulation of mood and sleep cycles.
Oatmeal is my top choice of superfood and my favourite first food for babies. It’s packed full of nutrients such as vitamin E, the B vitamin group, potassium and zinc. Generally you need to add milk to it for cooking, which means your child is also getting calcium. It’s highly versatile, being used as a standalone breakfast, as well as pancakes, muffins, smoothies, bread, loaves and muesli. It’s a prebiotic, which means that it feeds the good bacteria in our gut, and keeps kids full for a long time. Check out the Superhero pancake recipe below!
Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and is also a ‘complete protein’, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids your body cannot produce itself, but are necessary for survival. This makes it ideal for vegetarians. Quinoa contains compounds which reduce inflammation, so it’s great for prevention of cancer, heart disease and depression. Another rising star is amaranth – which actually outdoes quinoa in the micronutrient race – however, it is still relatively hard to track down and slightly more costly.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away … maybe. Studies do show that people who eat apples have better overall wellbeing and do visit the doctor less. They’re also great for your teeth and gums, so that means less dental visits too – always a good thing for little kids! Apples are also high in fibre, so they’re useful for littlies who struggle with their bowel movements. Check out the Superhero Vege Delight Muffin recipe below!
Just one cup gives you a quarter of your daily vitamin C needs! Blueberries also contain iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamin K, which help with bone, skin and mental health, as well as protecting against cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Blueberries are great in smoothies, pancakes, muffins, or stirred into porridge, and their fibre content makes them an amazing prebiotic. Watch little kids eating blueberries, as their smooth round surface can make them a choking hazard. Check out the Superhero pancake recipe below!
Avocados are a plant-based source of mono-unsaturated ‘good fats’. They have over 20 vitamins and minerals, as well as a healthy dose of fibre to feed those good gut bacteria for a healthy digestive and immune system. Check out the Superhero Smoothie recipe below!
Almost any fish on the planet is considered incredibly healthy, however there are some that stand out from the rest. These are fatty, oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout and sardines. Why are they so great? All fish contain protein, which is important for healthy cell growth throughout our bodies, however oily fish also contain high levels of vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acid and iodine. These nutrients are beneficial for optimum brain and eye development, as well as helping to regulate sleep! Fish doesn’t have to be expensive – the tinned supermarket variety is just as good.
Kiwifruit are a super-fruit, chock full of nutrients like potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K. They also have a lot of antioxidants and are a good source of fibre – essential in the feeding of those good gut bugs. They help regulate bowel movements, so are particularly useful for constipation in young children, and for pregnant women. Check out the Superhero Smoothie recipe below!
These fruit are the powerhouse of a kid’s diet. Most children love bananas, either on their own or in muffins, loaves, pancakes or on toast. If your child struggles with bananas, and you’re not keen on baking them into his or her diet, then try bananas of varying ripeness – they change substantially from day to day. Some kids like the firmer greener banana, whilst others like them slightly yellowed. Other stranger children (my daughter included) like them with their ‘chocolate spots’ – you know, when they’ve nearly had it and have started to go brown. Bananas are high in energy, a great way to get nutrients into a tiny tummy. They are stuffed full of amazing vitamins and minerals such as potassium and fibre, helping feed that good bacteria in your kid’s tummy, keeping their immune system and gut healthy. Check out the Superhero Smoothie recipe below!
9. NUT BUTTERS
These are another powerhouse food. You can pick from peanut, almond, cashew – amongst many others. Nut butters are an easy way to get energy and protein into tiny or fussy tummies. Spread them on toast, spoon them into a smoothie, or use them as a dip for fruit. Nut butters are a source of healthy fats, helping with brain and eye development, and they contain amino acids, fibre and phytochemicals. Nut butters also help regulate blood sugar, keeping kids’ mood and sleep patterns regular. Make sure you opt for the ‘no added sugar or salt’ options.
If the whole vegetable doesn’t appeal to your child, you can mash it slightly to resemble mashed potato.
Why not try purple carrots too, just for some fun and variety. Baby carrots, if you don’t mind the additional expense, are easy for popping into lunch boxes.
A serious super veggie, broccoli is not just the fuzzy bit at the top, you can also eat the crunchy stalks, so don’t throw them out! Broccoli can help with everything, from building strong bones and muscles to supporting your little one’s immune system.
Really any colour capsicum is great, but the red ones are slightly sweeter, and can be more palatable for little taste buds. Capsicum support healthy cells, eyes, and immune system. Pair them with some sliced carrot and a chickpea hummus or unsweetened yoghurt dip and you have a yummy afternoon snack.
These are good for your eyes and are a surprising source of iron. Technically a legume, they’re also a good source of protein.
A great source of resistant starch, which is essential food for your good bacteria, helping to reduce inflammation, increase energy, and regulate mood and sleep.
CHECK OUT THESE SUPERHERO SUPERFOOD RECIPES...
Hannah Gentile is a registered nutritionist and mother of two. She provides nutritional support and advice for conception, pregnancy, starting solids and fussy eating. Find her at nourishedbynature.co.nz.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 43 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW