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Top Ten Power Foods for Kids

I don’t force my kids to eat anything they don’t like. I figure it’s my job to expose them to new foods and it’s up to them to decide what to eat. Still, I can’t help but be pleased that they will happily devour berries and snack on edamame. I’m even more pleased now that I’ve read Parenting Magazine’s 10 Nutrition Powerhouses for Kids, which features blueberries and soy such as edamame.

Parenting.com asked dietician Rachel Beller, mom of four and an expert in eating for disease prevention, for her “power food” recommendations. Here are her top ten:

Top Ten Power Foods for Kids

1. Blueberries

They’re fun to pop in your mouth. And they’re among the healthiest fruit. Packed with antioxidants, blueberries protect against heart disease and diabetes and improve brain function. They may also help fight “toxic” belly fat, which has linked to obesity and metabolic syndrome, according to Parenting.com. My kids like them on top of breakfast cereal or in yogurt smoothies.

2. Tofu

Tofu is especially beneficial for young girls because it has a “protect effect as their bodies and breast tissue are developing — which lasts until adulthood,” according to Beller.

Whole soy foods are also a good source of lean protein and have anti-cancer benefits. My kids like Tofutti “ice cream” and they also like to snack on boiled and salted edamame (soybeans).

3. Tomatoes

I knew that tomatoes were packed with lycopene, a substance that protects against many cancers. But I didn’t know that cooking tomatoes makes them even healthier. Apparently, the heat releases the lycopene. Neither of my girls likes tomatoes, but they do like pizza and my older daughter can’t get enough ketchup, so that will have to do for now.

4. Low-fat Greek yogurt

My kids love yogurt, but they generally want the kind that has Trix in it (I’ve refused them so far). Maybe we should give Low-fat Greek yogurt a try. Like most yogurts, it contains healthy bacteria which boosts immunity and helps with digestion. But it packs two to three times as much protein and less sugar than most regular yogurt.

5. Cabbage

Honestly, I’ve never liked cabbage and I have never tried to feed it to my kids. But Parenting.com said that “it has a mild flavor and crunch that kids tend to like better than the usual salad greens. ” It’s also good to know that cabbage, along with broccoli and kale contain phytonutrients which are said to reduce the risk for many types of cancer and improve digestion.

6. Salmon

The key here is to make sure you buy the wild salmon, not the farmed salmon, since it is lower in mercury and higher in omega-3 fats, which aid brain development, stave off depression and act as anti-inflammatories. So next time your kid needs a little boost, serve up salmon for dinner! Try salmon terriyaki with edamame for a Japanese- style healthy family meal.

7. Cocoa

Good news! Cocoa powder has one of the highest concentrations of flavonoids, which are said to help stabilize blood pressure and boost heart and oral health. Flavanoids may also protect skin from sun damage. The key is to use at least 70 percent pure cocoa and to make sure that it isn’t processed with alkali (“Dutch processed”) since that removes many of the flavonoids. Now you can eat dark chocolate without guilt!

8. Black beans

“Beans are a great source of protein, as well as fiber and calcium — two things kids tend not to get enough of. The darker the color, the better they are,” says Beller. Beans also protect against high cholesterol and heart disease. How about a cheese quesedilla with beans for a Mexican-themed family dinner?

9. Basil

Who knew that basil is a wonder herb? It’s got plenty of antioxidants and some research shows it can help treat headaches. But, wait, there’s more — it’s also packed with vitamins A, C, and K , iron, potassium and calcium. My kids like it in pesto and on pizza.

10. Cinnamon

It’s easy to fit cinnamon into your kids’ diet. My kids love it sprinkled on apple sauce, oatmeal or muffins — or best of all, on top of cocoa (see number 7) . Beller says that since the spice can help regulate blood sugar, it may even help prevent hunger meltdowns (but no guarantees).

Do you serve your kids any of these 10 foods? If not, give them a try. Who knows? They might actually like food that’s good for them. And don’t forget, these power foods are good for grown-ups too!

Photo: flickr/olgucz

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