Spring is a great time to hit the reset button and reintroduce some fresh foods into your kids' diet after a long winter. Get into the swing of spring produce with these four seasonal favorites.
Spinach is called a superfood for a reason: It's packed with vitamins A and C, which are essential for eye health, immune function and many other body processes. It also contains vitamin K which helps build strong bones. Spinach delivers folate and iron, which help prevent anemia. And its magnesium and potassium are important for muscle development and growth.
If your kids are on board with green stuff, serve spinach salads or serve it sautéed with meat and fish. For kids who don't like veggies, the mild flavor of spinach is easily masked. Just puree and mix it into sauces, smoothies, soups and meatballs.
A calcium-rich food, yogurt is important for building strong bones and teeth. At eight grams per 6 ounce container, yogurt also is a great source of protein. Greek yogurt has up to twice that much, however it provides less calcium. Yogurt also is a good source of probiotic bacteria, which can promote good digestion and immune system function.
"Make yogurt parfaits with your kids for a fun treat," says Sonya Angelone, MS, RDN, CLT, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Get a clear glass and layer yogurt, fruit and a whole-grain cereal or granola. Try dipping fruit slices into vanilla yogurt for a protein-packed snack."
Loaded with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, fresh strawberries are a seasonal superstar. Just one cup provides more than a day's worth of vitamin C, plus a hearty dose of manganese, which is important for bone development. A serving of strawberries also packs three grams of fiber.
"They are a versatile fruit that can be used in many ways," says Angelone. "Try them alone, in a fruit salad, over cereal, with yogurt or even blend frozen strawberries in a smoothie for a thicker consistency."
Asparagus is an excellent source of bone-building vitamin K as well as folate. It also provides vitamin A and iron. Available in green, purple and white varieties, asparagus spears are fun to eat and go with all kinds of foods.
Angelone suggests trying some simple preparation techniques to encourage kids to eat more vegetables. "Have them roll asparagus in egg then in bread crumbs and bake on a cookie sheet until tender," she says. "Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese for an extra treat!"
Angelone reminds parents to include kids in grocery shopping and food preparation. This helps them learn about a variety of foods and cooking techniques, which makes it more likely they will enjoy a variety of foods.