Add tasty foods that benefit you

Published 2:17 pm Saturday, March 29, 2014



To help celebrate National Nutrition Month, which takes place in March, we were offering a sample of pineapple at Washington Pediatrics to families who came into the clinic.

One mom studied the handout of benefits while her son devoured the pineapple. She commented how nice it was that something we eat that tastes good also does great things for your skin (fresh pineapple has enzymes and vitamin C that help improve skin hydration, reduce age spots and fine lines, and help make skin more elastic to create a glowing complexion). No pill or costly cream needed.

This mom expressed exactly what this year’s theme for National Nutrition Month, “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right,” is all about. Research confirms the number one reason we choose a food is because of taste, but we don’t have to choose between taste and health!  We can have both. By choosing nutrient-rich foods and beverages from each of the food groups that offer vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients, without a lot of calories, enables you to maximize the benefits. Sometimes adding nutrient-rich foods that our families might enjoy can seem like a challenge, but it is possible to create enticing, flavorful, satisfying meals and snacks using nutrient-filled foods.

One way to start might be adding foods you and your family enjoy but may not have very often. To make changes more doable, try adding to them foods your family already has on a regular basis. Love ramen noodles or dry noodle and sauce packets? They offer very little in nutrition, but we can add a bag of frozen or canned vegetables when we cook them for an appetizing result that boosts the vitamins and minerals. Another way might be to substitute one ingredient for another, such as switching to 98 percent fat-free, creamy soups instead of regular, or using plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Benefits for health are great and in many cases, the change might not be noticeable.

Also, remember with kids that they like foods they are familiar with, so they may need to have it a few times to accept it. If your child is trying something completely new and you see rejection in the near future, suggest they just touch it or lick it to let you know if it is sour or sweet. Does it taste like an apple?  I was doing this at the clinic with a child who wasn’t interested in trying a mango. I suggested he try licking it, and before I knew what was happening, instead of licking his sample piece, he had picked up the whole uncut mango I had for an example and licked it — another great reason to wash all fruits and vegetables before cutting.

Try foods that are similar to ones your family already enjoys. For example, if your child likes broccoli, try cauliflower (trees with snow), or sweet potatoes if they love regular potatoes. Also, adding flavor can help. A recent study conducted at Arizona State University found that less than one in five kids given plain Brussels sprouts said they liked the vegetable, but about two-thirds of kids who got the sprouts spread with cream cheese said they liked them. Later, when all the kids had Brussels sprouts plain, the ones who originally got them with cream cheese ate more.  Use this information to your advantage and pair new foods with a low-fat flavor they already like, such as serving vegetables with low-fat dip, peanut butter or cheese. Some vegetables have milder flavors, such as cauliflower, and the kids were more likely to say they liked them, even without a flavor added. Try different ways to see what works for your family.

Here are some additional ideas and the benefits they can provide.

Add fruit, such as mashed banana or strawberries or blueberries, to pancake mix, cereal or oatmeal.  Bananas have potassium that can help prevent high blood pressure and berries help improve our memory.

Serve kiwi as a night snack. A study found kiwis can help you rest a lot easier, deeper and longer. People who ate two kiwis one hour before bedtime for four weeks fell asleep 41 percent faster and slept 15 percent longer.

Use mashed avocado instead of mayonnaise on a sandwich, have as a dip, or add as a creamy addition to salads. Avocados moisturize and repair skin, are good for your eyes, and have monounsaturated fat, which is great for our heart.

Use cut mushrooms in place of half the ground meat in your recipe. They have similar texture, and mushrooms have energizing B vitamins and immunity benefits. Also, they are fat-free.

Try something new each week, and enjoy giving your body the nutrients it craves to be healthy and fit.


Andrea Nikolai, is registered dietitian at Washington Pediatrics and can be reached by calling 946-4134.