March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
Studies consistently show that kids are not getting the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. But, red, sweet, juicy strawberries are one healthy fruit that you won't have any trouble getting your child to eat.
Strawberries are one of America's most loved fruits, with the average American consuming 8 pounds per year.
A cup of naturally sweet strawberries (about 8 medium) has only 50 calories, making them the perfect treat to satisfy your child's sweet tooth. Strawberries for dessert pack a powerful nutrient punch that many traditional desserts lack.
Strawberries are rich in vitamin C, folate, fiber and potassium. Just 1 cup contains 160 percent of the recommended Daily Value of vitamin C, which is necessary for growth and body tissue repair, and for maintaining a healthy immune system. Fiber aids in digestive health and 1 cup of sliced strawberries provides 3.3 grams of fiber. Strawberries are rich in antioxidants including anthocyanins, which give them their bright red color. These compounds may help prevent some chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Not only are strawberries delicious and nutritious, but as Rachel Begun, MS, RDN, points out, "What makes them particularly great for kids is that they are the perfect size for little hands and fingers."
Fresh strawberries are extremely versatile and can be served whole, packed to go or used in a variety of recipes, including salads, sandwiches with cheese or nut butter, salsa, smoothies, fruit kabobs or served with low-fat yogurt or ice cream.
When fresh strawberries aren't in season, choose frozen, but check the label to make sure there is no added sugar. Sheila Campbell, RD, suggests making instant "ice cream" by blending frozen strawberries with Greek yogurt and avocado. "The avocado doesn't change the flavor but makes a fun green color and extra rich consistency," Campbell says.
Marilyn Yon, MS, RD, LD, recommends pick-your-own strawberry farms. "It's fun to see the kids eating strawberries as they pick, red-stained faces and all," she says. What could be better than watching your child enjoy a healthy food such as strawberries? Just be sure to wash fresh berries before eating.
Try this easy Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade for a bubbly summer refresher bursting with vitamin C.