Goodbye butternut squash, hello asparagus! It is finally that time of year where we leave behind the yellow and orange starchy vegetables of fall and winter, and welcome all the reds, greens, blues, and pinks of spring! This time of year, farmers markets and grocery stores are bursting with fresh produce that we’ve been longing for all winter long.
Potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, fresh greens – it’s all coming into season. If you’re like me, you are sick and tired of trying to convince your toddler to eat another plate of sweet potatoes or spaghetti squash, not to mention all the heavy prep that comes from working with winter produce. Spring and summer are the time for wash, rinse, and go – making healthy snacking easy and accessible for busy moms and kiddos alike.
With so many choices available this season, it’s easy to get overwhelmed at the store. Here are 10 healthy produce picks that are all rich in nutrition, as well as fun to eat for the whole family.
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Produce pics for kids! 1 of 11'Tis the season for farmers markets and brightly colored veggie drawers! Here are ten delicious (and super healthy!) choices that are ripe and ready this spring.
Potatoes 2 of 11Believe it or not, we have a hard time getting my son to eat potatoes. Even in french fry form, he is very particular about when and where he'll eat them (which remains a mystery until I try to serve them!). And while potatoes in general tend to get a bad reputation, when prepared in a healthy way (i.e. not deep fried!), they can actually provide a good amount of nutrition. They are a great source of B vitamins, Vitamin C, and potassium, as well as being rich in fiber.
Looking for healthy, fun way to prepare potatoes? Make a summer potato salad that is spruced up with additional spring veggies. Have a baked potato night and let the kids pick their own toppings - but swap in healthier choices like Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Or simply cube and roast them with some olive oil and rosemary, and serve crispy potato rounds along side homemade veggie burgers.
Asparagus 3 of 11Asparagus is one of those vegetables that just screams, "SPRING IS HERE!" While usually available year round, their peak season is May-July (depending on geography, of course), and this is the best time of year for both quality and price. Asparagus is rich in a number of different vitamins, as well as being a good source of folate and iron.
My favorite way to serve them to my toddler? Roasted and crispy. He loves picking up the stalks and eating them like sweet potato fries. Just make sure they are cooked well enough that those tough fibers break down easily in little teeth. Another idea is to cut and blanch (cook for ~5 minutes in simmering water) and add to pasta and potato salads for an extra veggie punch.
Spring Peas 4 of 11The phrase "eat your peas" seems almost synonymous with picky toddlers and parents desperate for the kids to eat more greens. But it's not just because moms want to torture little ones with these little green bites; peas are actually quite rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, and also boast high levels of fiber and protein - making it a great choice for everyone in the family.
We often eat our peas straight out of the freezer, but spring peas are a bit different as they usually come still in their pods. While they take a bit more labor to cook, it's a fun way to get kids involved in the kitchen. Let them help you shell the peas from the pods - they will love popping them out and sorting the peas and pods into bowls. And after all that fun prepping, who wouldn't want to eat them for dinner?
Avocado 5 of 11Avocado is a healthy choice all year long, especially for little ones because of the rich fat content. Our toddlers' developing brains depend on healthy fats in order to grow, and avocado is a great way to pack in as much (good) fat as possible.
Avocado is so tasty that it doesn't usually require much more than cubing and serving. But of course, most people won't turn down a yummy bowl of guacamole. Swap out tortilla chips for veggie snacks to boost the nutrient power of this yummy snack!
Carrots 6 of 11Carrots are another veggie that is popular year round, but really tends to thrive in the spring. Your kids are probably most used to seeing carrots from the grocery store - trimmed and bought in bulk bags. Do something different and visit a local farm or CSA, where they can see carrots in their natural form - with long green stems, pulled straight out of the dirt! Rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C, carrots are a colorful and tasty snack for all ages.
Need help finding a fun new way to serve carrots? Try roasting them whole! Add to a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil and sea salt - bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Once cooled, toddlers will love being able to hold whole carrots that are soft enough to bite. Add a small dish of hummus or Greek yogurt for the kids who love to dip!
Kale (Chips!) 7 of 11It seems like everywhere you look these days, someone is talking about kale. Kale is definitely the new "it" food, and it's for good reason. Kale is rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants, and has incredible levels of Vitamins K, A, and C.
Worried you can't get your toddler to eat leafy greens? Enter the kale chip! Tear kale off stems and rinse off any dirt. Spread onto a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sea salt. Bake at 350 for 7-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until kale has dehydrated a bit and becomes crispy. Kids will go crazy for these salty "chips!"
Tomatoes 8 of 11While tomatoes really shine in the peak of summer, they start hitting shelves as early as late spring. If your toddler is like mine, he tends to gravitate toward the most colorful fruits and veggies, so tomatoes aren't too hard of a sell. They get their deep red color of lycopene, which is linked to anti-oxidant properties as well as increased bone health.
My favorite way to serve tomatoes to my toddler is in cherry tomato form. Just slice and serve, and he can't get enough! But if it's still early tomato season where you are, and they are still green and firm , try making healthy baked green tomatoes (similar to their fried counterparts). Cover in egg and bread crumb coating, and then bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, flipping once halfway through cooking. Tastes just as good without the added fat from frying!
Blueberries 9 of 11All year long I have been waiting for blueberries to come back into season. Here in Seattle, we buy giant flats of them at the farmers markets, and eat them by the handfuls every time we walk past the fridge. Blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits and vegetables!
I don't know many kids who need convincing to eat blueberries, but if you're looking for some new way to eat them, here are a few ideas. Mix into Greek yogurt and top with sliced almonds and shredded coconut, sprinkle into lightened-up oatmeal pancakes, or add to traditional tomato salsa for a fruity twist!
Rhubarb 10 of 11While rhubarb is definitely less popular than most fruits, it's actually one of the tastiest. High in vitamin C and dietary fiber, it was used for medicinal properties in Ancient China as far back as 2700 BC.
Rhubarb is best eaten cooked, and is a flavor and filler for pies, jams, and sauces. Have a baking day with your kids and make a pretty lattice rhubarb pie!
Fiddleheads! 11 of 11Fiddlehead ferns are actually edible plant fronds, that typically pop up this time of year in early spring. Rich in Vitamins A & C, potassium, and iron, their fun curly shape is a hit with kids and adults alike.
These silly looking plants are so interesting to kids that they don't need much preparation or fuss before eating. Just boil or roast until soft, and toss with light oil and salt. Watch your kids squeal and squirm as they dare each other to take a bite!
Nutritional information sourced from Whole Foods.
All photos from iStockPhoto.