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Super Foods for Kids (and Adults)

Why it's good for a growing body: Beef packs high-quality protein; vitamins B 12, B 6, and niacin; and the minerals zinc and iron in their most absorbable form. I chose beef over other meats because it's one of the most concentrated choline sources going. Choline is a B-like vitamin required for brain development and peak cognitive powers. In addition, beef contains the cholesterol and fat necessary for proper brain growth during the first two years of life. Lean cuts of beef contain the least fat and cholesterol and are the most appropriate for older children.

How to serve: Older children go for small amounts of ground beef as part of spaghetti sauce, tacos, and burritos, or as a burger.

When to begin offering: Infants may eat pureed, or finely chopped cooked ground beef beginning at eight months.

Why they're good for a growing body: You can't beat eggs for top-notch nutrition, especially when it comes to protein. Eggs are considered the gold standard of protein quality because of their superior amino acid content. Egg protein provides all of the EAAs necessary to support life and growth. In fact, the protein eggs provide is so superior that all other foods are judged against the egg's amino acid makeup. Eggs are also the source for more than a dozen vitamins and minerals, and they are the most concentrated food source of choline, which is crucial for brain development in babies and in young children.

Now for the obvious question: Aren't eggs bad for you? Once considered cholesterol "bombs," a multitude of research has exonerated the egg, but parents still view it as a food to be avoided or strictly limited in family members' diets. Studies say that most people can eat an egg a day as part of a low-fat regimen without raising their heart disease risk. Despite their cholesterol count, which at 213 milligrams is admittedly high when compared to the recommended restriction of 300 milligrams a day, one medium egg supplies just 1.5 grams of saturated fat. Saturated fat is much more detrimental to health than dietary cholesterol. That's good news for parents and kids who enjoy this healthy food.

Above all, eggs are cheap, convenient, versatile, easy to prepare, and kids love them.

How to serve: You and your family can reap the many benefits of eggs in a variety of ways, including as omelets, quiches, and frittatas; and as part of waffles, crepes, pancakes, and French toast. Hard-boil a batch of eggs and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week for a quick snack, for egg salad sandwiches, or for adding to green salads.

When to begin offering: Babies may have cooked egg yolks at eight months, but wait until twelve months of age before giving them egg whites. Egg whites can be allergenic in children. Even so, chances are your child will have no problem tolerating the white of an egg. Serve infants chopped hard-boiled yolks or scrambled egg yolks (remove the whites and scramble for older family members or use in baking). Avoid egg substitutes in infants because they are made from egg whites only.

Why it's good for a growing body: Cow's milk contains calcium and phosphorus, two minerals critical for bone development and subsequent bone strength in growing children. Nearly all milk sold in the United States is fortified with vitamin D. Vitamin D regulates the body's uptake of calcium from food as well as bone calcium concentrations. In fact, getting adequate calcium without enough vitamin D does not ensure bone health and can certainly harm a child's chances of avoiding osteoporosis later in life.

In addition, milk supplies high-quality protein for growth and development and carbohydrate for energy. Full-fat milk provides fat and cholesterol for growing minds and bodies; reduced-fat milk is safe to feed your child after his second birthday. Milk is also a source of vitamin A and the mineral magnesium, which contributes to bone health. Magnesium may also be one of the components of dairy foods that research reveals helps to keep blood pressure in check. The Dietary Approaches to Hypertension Study (DASH) found that a low-fat diet rich in plant foods and three daily servings of reduced-fat dairy foods, including milk, lowered blood pressure as effectively as medication in adults.

How to serve: Most children love plain cold milk. Flavored milks, such as chocolate and strawberry, contain more sugar but no less calcium. Commercially prepared flavored milks may lack vitamin D, so read the label. Offer cereal with milk when kids won't drink a glass of milk straight up. Or make milk into a fruit smoothie or pudding. Prepare condensed soups such as tomato with milk instead of water.

When to begin offering: Aside from cow's-milk-based formulas, refrain from giving milk of any sort to your child until after her first birthday. The rationale for waiting to offer milk is covered in detail on page two of Formula Feeding.


Copyright © 2002 by Elizabeth M. Ward. Excerpted from Healthy Foods, Healthy Kids with permission of its publisher, Adams Media Corporation.

To order this book visit Amazon.com.


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