Choose these foods for a nutritional wallop.
The food that we eat is our main source of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and protein that are so necessary to support and maintain a healthy body. Every new cell in our bodies is made up of the nutrients we take in on a daily basis. These important nutrients come from whole foods – not from fast foods and processed foods that are often depleted of essential nutrients. And not from vitamin tablets, which are meant to supplement food, not replace it.
But which foods carry the biggest nutritional wallop? Here are my choices for the Top 10 Foods your family should be eating over the winter months (and all year long) for optimum nutrition.
1. Oatmeal seems to be one of the best tolerated of all the cereal grains. A great source of fibre, B vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, oatmeal is my number one choice for breakfast. It’s great cooked (porridge) or raw (muesli). Eating oatmeal and oat bran can also help reduce cholesterol levels. Believe it or not, elevated cholesterol levels have even been found in kids.
2. Yogurt is one of the healthiest dairy products available. A wonderful source of calcium for growing bones, yogurt is also rich in ‘probiotics’ or healthy bacteria. Regular consumption of yogurt helps prevent colds, flu, and diarrhea. For best quality, choose yogurt from organic milk or make your own. Steer away from fruit-bottom yogurt, which is laden with sugar or worse, aspartame. Instead, add fresh or dried fruit plus raw nuts and seeds, or use plain yogurt as a base for smoothies.
3. Blueberries not only taste great, but also contain substances that help maintain normal blood sugar levels and support circulation – especially in the tiny blood vessels of the eyes and skin. While fresh blueberries can be pricey in the wintertime, frozen ones are less expensive and can be thawed overnight in the fridge in time for breakfast. Even dried blueberries go well in hot cereal and can be added to lunch boxes as a snack.
4. Carrots are so rich in pro Vitamin A that it’s hard to top their nutritional value. Sweeter than most vegetables, they are a delicious snack for kids along with pepper slices and celery. After school, try giving your kids fresh carrot juice as an alternative to pop or sugary fruit juices.
5. Goat cheese has as much calcium and other nutrients as other forms of cheese, but is much less mucous forming, and generally lower in fat. It comes in slices and is mild tasting, making it a favourite choice for youngsters in sandwiches, with crackers, or as a snack by itself.
6. Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed butter are better alternatives to peanuts and peanut butter because they are much less allergenic. Pumpkin seed is also rich in essential fatty acids and zinc, a mineral that helps to heal wounds and keep the digestive tract healthy.
7. Avocados are reputed to contain more than 20 vitamins and minerals to help keep us healthy. Plus, the fats in avocados are very healthy for the skin, hair and the nervous system. The mild taste usually appeals to kids, so try adding avocados to salads or sandwiches.
8. Rye breads, crackers and pitas make the best quality sandwiches and snacks. Lots of children are sensitive to gluten and wheat contains the largest quantity of gluten of all the grains. The levels of gluten in rye are much lower and recent studies have shown that rye flour is much better at helping to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Fluctuating blood sugar levels are linked to behavioural problems and inability to focus in kids and to diabetes and rising cholesterol levels in adults.
9. Broccoli is one of the most nutritious vegetables around. The best of the cabbage family, it is rich in B vitamins, magnesium, potassium and selenium and helps prevent cancer. Whether eaten raw, steamed, stir-fried or pureed in a soup, broccoli is one of the tastiest and most important additions to anyone’s diet.
10. Cold-water ocean fish are the best source of omega three fatty acids. Sardines, herring, mackerel, salmon and Arctic char are my favourites. Tuna, which would ordinarily be an excellent food, has become so contaminated with mercury that it is now unhealthy for kids to eat on a regular basis. Try to find wild caught salmon, either fresh or canned, because farmed fish also contain many pollutants.
Eating a healthy diet is so important for growing children and to help us to maintain good health as we age. A good guideline for healthy eating can be found at the University of Michigan’s “Healing Food Pyramid” at www.med.umich.edu/UMIM/food-pyramid/index.htm.