Are berries on your shopping list this summer? Whether we're talking about blueberries, strawberries or raspberries, these sweet, colorful fruits are sure to make your toddler or preschooler happy. Packed with antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, potassium and folate, berries are a nutritional powerhouse. "The younger children start eating berries, the healthier they will be," says Sarah Krieger, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Look for containers at the store or farmers market without stains, moisture or mold. Berries should be firm, plump and dry. Strawberries don't ripen after harvest, so stay away from green or yellow ones. Steer away from blueberries that are green or blackberries that are red. Raspberries come in a variety of colors; make sure the ones you buy have the right color. For more fun, take your kids berry picking or grow berries at home. When buying frozen berries, shake the bag first. A big lump is a sign of defrost.
How to Store
When you get your bounty home, check for damaged berries and throw those away immediately, before they spoil the rest. Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries last longer if stored at higher humidity with lower air circulation in the coldest place in your fridge. Produce drawers are ideal. If not available, a sealed container will do the job. Keep blackberries uncovered. While berries can last one week in your fridge, eat them within three days for best nutrition.
Rinse berries in cold water when you're ready to eat them. Add berries to low-fat yogurt, ice cream, whole-grain cereals, salads or smoothies. "Sometimes parents think too hard about how to get their kids to eat fruit," says Krieger, who recommends eating berries fresh when in season. For a low-calorie jam, Krieger suggests baking berries in the oven at 400°F for 10 minutes. You don't need to add sugar since the jam contains the natural sweetness from the fruit.
Freeze berries so you and your kids can enjoy them long after the season is over. Spread berries on a baking sheet and place in the freezer for a few hours, then transfer to a freezer-safe bag. Keep strawberries whole to retain more nutrients.