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I must admit, despite the fact that I am a registered dietitian and live and breathe nutrition, I truly thought the term SUPER food was merely a media and marketing term to add more hype to the market. Shockingly, a coworker informed me that these powerful foods are at least legit enough to be defined by the classic dictionary.
“a food (such as salmon, broccoli, or blueberries) that is rich in compounds (such as antioxidants, fiber, or fatty acids) considered beneficial to a person’s health; Superfoods increase energy and vitality, regulate cholesterol and blood pressure and may help to prevent or fight cancer and other diseases.”
In other words, foods that are essential for optimal wellness! The (dark) cherry on top? Superfoods are straight from Mother Nature and naturally void of added sugars, trans fat and preservatives.
For example, you’ll get more nutritional value when opting for blueberries over fruit snacks, because the berries are bursting with vitamins—whereas the fruit snacks are mostly added sugars. When it comes to our diet and those of our children, choosing superfoods is the ideal way to add a dose of super nutrition! But what about getting them past a picky palate? Just keep trying (seriously. 20 tastes later, they may love it as painful as it is to reintroduce and reintroduce…). As you are (re)serving your superfoods, try using one of the 11 delicious recipes below. Each one is family approved and sure to please.
Introducing, Your SuperFoods!
Why It’s Super: Each creamy serving of this fruit provides nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, including vitamin K, E and folate. What’s more is the healthy monounsaturated fats found in this green powerhouse are key to helping our bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins; and with nearly 5 grams of fiber per 3-ounce serving, you will surely be left satisfied.
How to Serve It: Add a slice of avocado to top off a black bean burger, mix it up with cocoa powder and Greek yogurt for pudding, or add diced avocado to your salad to amp up the flavor.
Try this recipe: Avocado Tuna Salad
Prep time: 10 minutes
1 5-ounce can light tuna, drained and flaked
½ avocado, diced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons celery, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1 Tablespoons diced red onion (optional)
Pinch of black pepper, to taste
Combine ingredients in a small bowl and mix together, slightly mashing the avocado into the salad. The lemon juice will delay the avocado from browning.
Serve over a bed of leafy greens or between two slices of whole-grain bread for a delicious twist on a tuna salad sandwich.
Why It’s Super: The seeds of this fruit are often served on New Year’s Day as a symbol of good luck throughout the coming year. And it’s clear to see how luck may result when you consider the bounty of fiber and vitamins C and K packed within each bite.
How to Serve It: Toss a handful of seeds onto oatmeal, yogurt, salad or even ice cream for a unique splash of flavor.
Try This Recipe: Pomegranate Seeds
Prep time: 10 minutes
1 large pomegranate
Medium bowl filled with water
Cut off about a ½ inch from the top of the pomegranate. Be careful of juice splashing and staining your clothes and countertop. Without cutting through the skin, lightly score the pomegranate from top to bottom into quarters. Place the pomegranate into the bowl filled with water, pull apart each quarter, and begin to separate the seeds from the flesh. By doing this portion under water, you will be able to prevent the juices from splashing and staining your skin. While the seeds sink to the bottom of the bowl, the pith of the fruit will float to the top. Skim off the pith, drain the water and pour the seeds into a fine colander to rinse. Enjoy the seeds alone or serve them as a tasty topping for other food.
This part is SO much fun for little ones! And did you know that the pomegranate is a symbol for good luck?? We enjoy one every New Year’s for that very reason. Enjoy the seeds alone or serve them as a tasty topping for other food.
Once you have the seeds (aka. arils) separated, enjoy them alone for a crisp and juicy snack or serve them as a tasty topping for other food.
Why They’re Super: Lentils are an excellent source of protein, providing 18 grams per cup cooked, about as much as 3 ounces of beef. These legumes are rich in B vitamins, fiber and potassium. Plus, they are incredibly economical when purchased dry, and can be cooked in less than 20 minutes.
How to Serve Them: A simple lentil soup is by far the most popular option for moms as it is SO EASY to make, though lentils are often served as the star in a cold salad, made into a vegan sloppy joe or mixed into a veggie burger. The options are endless for this power house pulse!
And did you know that this very year, 2016, has been deemed the International Year of Pulses by the United Nations? Watch out, Kale. The pulses are moving in as the top trend among foodies!
Try this recipe: Turkey Sausage and Lentil Soup
Serves 8 (1 cup each) Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 15 minutes
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
4 ounces turkey sausage,
chopped (about ¾ cup)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 can (14 ½ ounces) no-salt-added diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup lentils
5 ounces fresh baby spinach
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium. Add onions and celery, stirring about 3 minutes or until softened. Add sausage and cook, while stirring, until brown. Add the spices and herbs, stirring for another 2 minutes. Stir in broth, tomatoes, and lentils, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until lentils are tender. Add fresh spinach, stir and simmer until wilted. Serve hot.
Why They’re Super: Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or strawberries, whatever berry you choose, these tiny fruits possess super nutrition. Low in calories, rich in fiber and exploding with antioxidants and vitamins. It’s amazing to think that each beautifully bright berry, no matter how small, is able to squeeze in so many nutrients to fuel our bodies.
Oh, the power of smallness!
How to Serve Them: Serve these delights fresh by the handful. Whether enjoyed atop breakfast cereals, on a fruit and cheese kabob, or used to brighten a smoothie, this fruit won’t disappoint.
Try this recipe: Blueberry Topping for French Toast
Serves 7 Prep time: 2 minutes Cook time: 10 minutes
1 16-ounce bag frozen blueberries
Prepared (Whole Grain) French toast
Add blueberries to a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring berries to a boil, stirring occasionally, until they begin to thicken into a syrupy consistency. Serve ¼ cup over warm slices of French toast.
(Like this recipe? We also have a Maple Raspberry Topping that is loaded with syrupy goodness!)
Why They’re Super: Walnuts provide vitamin E for radiant skin and nails, plus omega-3 fatty acids to support strong vision and a healthy nervous system.
How to Serve Them: Combine walnuts with dried fruit and whole-grain cereal for a tasty trail mix, grind up walnuts as a topping for fish or chicken (in place of breadcrumbs) or simply toss a handful into banana pancake batter for added texture.
Try this recipe: Sweet Walnut Butter
Makes 8 servings (2 tablespoons each) Prep time: 10 minutes
2 cups raw walnuts, chopped
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Place walnuts in a food processor and blend until a thick paste is formed. Slowly pour in the oil until the paste begins to combine. Additional oil may be needed to create a smoother texture. Blend in cinnamon and honey to taste
Tip: This nutty butter makes an excellent meal on the run when spread over a whole grain tortilla and topped with chopped apples, raisins and a dash of honey.
#6 Leafy Greens
Why They’re Super: From spinach to broccoli rabe, romaine to endive, or rainbow chard to collards, the world of leafy greens is one you do not want to miss. Calorie for calorie, dark leafy greens may just be the most nutrient-dense food on the block. Within each vibrant leaf you will find a powerhouse of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants believed to help prevent the risk of several chronic diseases, including certain types of cancer.
How to Serve Them: Add bok choy to your stir-fry, roast kale into crunchy chips, replace a tortilla with a Boston bibb lettuce leaf or toss a handful of baby spinach into a smoothie. Who knew there were so many options for green veggies
Try this recipe: Spinach Bites
Serves 12 Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 20 minutes
1 16-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, cooked and drained
¾ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
¼ cup wheat germ, crushed walnuts or ground flax seed
Garlic powder, basil, oregano and pepper to taste (optional)
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
3 large eggs
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Mold mixture into bite-size pieces (balls, nuggets or sticks) and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake 20-25 minutes, flipping bites halfway through cooking time. Serve warm.
Why They’re Super: Cherries are naturally rich in a flavonoid known as quercetin, a potent warrior in cancer prevention.
How to Serve Them: Whether you mix black cherries into your favorite granola bar recipe, simmer them down into a glaze for chicken or top off a yogurt parfait, you can’t go wrong with this sweet treat.
Though if you’re short on time, just pop out the pit and enjoy them as is! (Just watch out for the quick-t0-stain juices as they easily pour down toddler chins and onto their shirts – or under your nails as you pit them!)
Try this recipe: Chocolate Cherry Pinwheels
Serves 1 Prep time: 5 minutes
Whole-grain tortilla or slice of bread
¼ cup fresh cherries, halved and pitted (Tip: If your kiddo is averse to strange textures, fine dice or puree the cherries for more of a jam-like feel)
2 Tablespoons chocolate nut spread (such as Skippy’s Dark Chocolate or Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter)
Spread the nut butter evenly over the tortilla, top with cherries and roll. Slice into 4-8 pieces and serve.
# 8 Sweet Potato
Why It’s Super: This budget-friendly veggie packs a powerful antioxidant punch, serving up potassium and beta-carotene for a healthy heart and vital vision.
How to Serve It : Rather than ordering the often-greasy versions available in restaurants, bake your own sweet potato fries or chips. You can also roast fresh potatoes alongside a turkey breast for a sweet baked or mashed side.
Try this recipe: Sweet Potato Fries
Serves 6 Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 40 minutes
Nonstick cooking spray
3 large sweet potatoes, sliced
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or 3 egg whites)
Salt and pepper to taste (alternatively, cinnamon is a great flavor enhancer!)
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Scrub potatoes thoroughly under cold running water and cut into fry-size pieces leaving skins intact (I go back and forth between rounds and sticks, though rounds are certainly faster!). Toss your cut sweet potatoes with olive oil (or egg whites) and seasoning in a medium mixing bowl. Once evenly coated, place onto a (dark) rimmed baking sheet. Spread fries into a single layer (preferably without touching as this can cause them to steam and prevent them from becoming crisp) and bake for about 15-20 minutes before taking a peek. If there are any beginning to brown too much pull them out now (not every piece will be cut evenly and will therefore cook at different rates. That is, unless your name is Martha… ). Otherwise, allow your fries to continue baking for another 5-10 minutes or until you have crisp edges and a soft center.
Serve plain or as my boys prefer, with ketchup.
Tip: If you choose to use egg whites in place of oil (hello, protein!), they will stick a ton more, so this is where the cooking spray will be beneficial.
# 9 Oats
Why They’re Super: Whole-grain oats are free of added sugar, salt, and preservatives, a far cry from the average breakfast cereal geared toward kids, which packs upward of 4 teaspoons of sugar alone – and that is merely in ONE serving which no one honestly sticks with (be honest). Outside of missing the not-so-nutritious additives, oats provide filling fiber that will keep you and your kids feel full for longer. The fiber also helps stabilize blood sugar and maintains healthy cholesterol levels.
How to Serve Them: Add a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, a spoonful of nut butter and a pinch of raisins to 1 cup of cooked oats (1/2 cup dry) for a delicious and nutritious breakfast. You can also get breakfast started at night by combining steel-cut oats, diced apple, walnuts and a pinch of brown sugar in your slow cooker to create a ready-to-serve meal for hectic mornings.
Or if you just can’t get enough of flavored oatmeal mixes, make your own to save yourself the extra money and added sugar.
Try this recipe: Homemade Instant Oatmeal Mix
Serves 1 Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: 2 minutes
½ cup oats
2 teaspoons dried milk powder
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄8 teaspoon ground cloves
1⁄8 cup nuts or seeds (almonds, crushed walnuts, pumpkin seeds)
1⁄8 cup dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, raisins, diced apricots)
Combine ingredients in a small, re-sealable plastic bag for a ready-to-use packet of instant oatmeal. When ready to cook, place about 1/3 cup into a small bowl or mug with 1 cup steaming water or milk, allowing the heat to cook the oats. Top with fresh fruit or ground flax seeds if desired.
# 10 Salmon
Why It’s Super: Salmon is an all- star when it comes to heart health, fighting off inflammation in our bodies and reducing the rate of fatty buildup in our arteries. As a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein, this fishy find should be served at least once a week. Choose wild Alaskan salmon, as it tends to be the lowest in mercury.
How to Serve It: Shape canned salmon into patties (as we did in our summer 2012 issue) or make your own fish nuggets with crunchy panko breading.
Try this recipe: Sweet Broiled Salmon
Serves 4 Prep time: 5-10 minutes Cook time: 15 minutes
2 Tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup crushed walnuts
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 lb. salmon fillet
Preheat oven to 450°F.
In a small roasting pan, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to coat pan. Place salmon in the baking dish and top with a second tablespoon of oil. Roast for 15 minutes. Remove salmon from oven and switch to broil. Top salmon with crushed walnuts and brown sugar (you may also top with the pan juices). Return to oven and broil about 5 minutes or until walnuts begin to brown. Cut fillet into 4 pieces and serve.
# 11 Greek Yogurt
Why It’s Super: This creamy delight provides the key to a healthy heart, muscles and bones, thanks to plentiful potassium. When compared with other yogurts, organic, plain, low- fat Greek-style yogurt provides double the protein, making it a hearty addition to your little one’s diet.
How to Serve It: Build your own parfait! Rather than buying the varieties loaded with added sugars, create your own fruity goodness by mixing in colorful berries and a sprinkle of a crunchy whole-grain cereal. You can also swap plain Greek yogurt for sour cream in any of your favorite dips.
In our house, we have been serving Greek yogurt with sprinkles as of late. With sprinkles being a combination of chia seeds (“black sprinkles”) and actual colorful sprinkles. Thankfully both mom AND son win with this healthy concoction!
Try this recipe: Strawberry Whip Fruit Dip
Serves 6 Prep time: 10 minutes
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
8 ounces whipped topping
½ cup strawberries, mashed
In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, whipped topping, and berries. Serve with fresh fruit or graham crackers for a fun treat.