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Fill your kids with healthy foods

If you're unhappy with your children's eating habits, you're not alone. Whether they're turning up their noses at the peas on their high chairs or sucking down Slurpees at the mall instead of eating the school lunches you packed for them, most kids are downright defiant when it comes to food.

To make up for your little ones' preferences for cookies over cauliflower, you may be relying on multivitamins and fortified cereals. That way, picky eaters can still get most of the nutrients they need without your having to force-feed them, says Jennifer Collins, a registered dietitian and owner of Leading Lady Fitness in Pompano Beach.

And that means fewer children in the United States are clinically deficient in the recommended nutrients, with the exception of iron. Yet the National Cancer Institute reports that only 1 percent of children between ages 2 and 19 get the intake of grains, vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy that the USDA Food Guide Pyramid recommends.

Although it's a good idea to give kids the nutritional safety net that multivitamin supplements and enriched foods provide, Collins, the mom of Delaney, 2, and Donovan, 5, says that vitamins and minerals found naturally in foods are more readily absorbed and used by the body.

To find out which nutrients our kids are most likely to be lacking in their diets, we consult with Josee Derrien, a registered dietitian in Boca Raton. She says the usual suspects are calcium, iron, fiber, folate, magnesium, potassium and vitamin E.

There is no need to screen your child's blood for nutrient deficiencies unless a doctor or registered dietitian recommends it, Collins says. But you can do some simple meal planning and add new recipes to your repertoire to ensure your child gets them.

Here we offer a guide to each of these nutrients. Then we tell you which food sources are best and offer nutrient-rich recipes. These are for dishes you can tuck into your child's school lunch.

Don't expect changes overnight. What your child eats over the course of a week matters more than his or her day-to-day consumption. Most kids need to try a new food at least 10 times before they acquire a taste for it.

Calcium

Why kids need it: Calcium helps build strong, healthy bones; assists in nerve transmission; facilitates muscle contraction; and aids in hormone release.

Why they may lack it: Your child may need more calcium if he or she chooses sodas, sports drinks and other beverages instead of calcium-rich milk. These not only lack calcium, but phosphoric acid found in soda can actually limit calcium absorption. Some teenagers who avoid milk fat due to weight concerns are more prone to osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis (teenage girls in particular) and are often low in calcium intake. And children who follow a vegan diet tend to be low in this nutrient.

Recommended daily intake: 800 milligrams for kids ages 4 to 8; 1,300 milligrams, ages 9 to 18.

Sources: Milk (300 milligrams per 8-ounce glass); yogurt (225 milligrams per 6-ounce serving); cheese (300 milligrams per 1.5-ounce slice); and fortified soy milk (80 to 500 milligrams per 8-ounce glass).

Our lunch box suggestion: Bone-Building Lasagna contains plenty of calcium in the tofu, cheeses and whole-wheat noodles. A serving of it contains 181 milligrams calcium, or 18 percent of the daily value.

Pack a slice of the lasagna in a small, reuseable container with carrot sticks, your child's favorite dip and an insulated container of unsweetened herbal ice tea. This is a particularly good for kids who don't like milk.

Iron

Why kids need it: Iron makes up hemoglobin in the blood, which carries oxygen to all of the body's cells.

Why they may lack it: If he or she avoids red meat; has been diagnosed with anemia or consumes too much calcium, which can block iron absorption.

Recommended daily intake: 10 milligrams for kids ages 4 to 8; 8 milligrams, ages 9 to 13; 11 milligrams for boys ages 14 to 18; and 15 milligrams for girls ages 14 to 18.

Sources: Lean beef (2.5 milligrams in 3 ounces), canned tuna (1.3 milligrams in 3 ounces); edamame (9 milligrams per cup), cooked dried beans (4.4 milligrams per cup) and spinach (3.2 milligrams per ½ cup cooked spinach).

Our lunch box suggestion: A serving of Not Your Ordinary Spinach Salad contains 5.5 milligrams iron, or 30 percent of the daily value. We suggest you pack it in the lunch box with an 8-ounce container of orange juice. The vitamin C from the juice will aid absorption of the iron. Also pack a slice of whole-grain bread and pat of butter. This lunch is particularly good for children who don't eat meat.

Fiber

Why kids need it: Those who don't consume enough fiber increase their risks of developing certain cancers, diabetes, digestive disorders and heart disease.

Why they may lack it: If he/she allows fruits, vegetables and whole-grains to take a back seat to chips, cookies and other simple carbohydrates or is routinely constipated.

Recommended daily intake: Children ages 4 to 18 should get 5 more grams fiber than their age.

Sources: Cauliflower (3.5 grams per cup); raspberries (8.5 grams per cup); sweet potato with skin (3 grams); broccoli (4.5 grams per cup); and whole-grain oats (4 grams per cup cooked oats).

Our lunch box suggestions: A Fiber-tastic Burger, which contains 4.5 grams fiber, or 18 percent of the daily value. Pack it with bread or roll (preferably whole grain, which will add about 3.2 grams fiber), a bag of baked sweet potato chips and a container of cold, low-fat soy milk. The burger can be put on the roll and eaten as is or microwaved for 10 to 15 seconds.

Potassium

Why kids need it: Potassium is essential for proper kidney function, for regulating blood pressure and for muscle contraction.

Why they may lack it: If his or her vegetable and fruit intake consists predominantly of fries or salt consumption is very high.

Recommended daily intake: 1,600 milligrams for kids ages 4 to 8; 2,000 milligrams for kids ages 9-18.

souRces: A banana (500 milligrams); baked potato with skin (700 milligrams); and broccoli (500 milligrams).

Our lunch box suggestion: A serving of Peanut Butter Banana Dogs packs 613 milligrams potassium or 18 percent of the daily value. Pack them with, low-fat milk and baked soy chips.

Magnesium

Why kids need it: Magnesium is important role in the production and transportation of energy and the contraction/relaxation of muscles.

Why they may lack it: If he or she avoids green vegetables, nuts, fish and other magnesium-rich fare.

Recommended daily intake: 130 milligrams for kids ages 4 to 8; 240 milligrams, ages 9 to 13; 360 milligrams for girls ages 14 to 18; and 420 milligrams for boys ages 14 to 18.

Sources: Spinach (150 milligrams per cup cooked spinach); almonds (80 milligrams per ounce); raw pumpkin seeds (180 milligrams per ¼ cup) and halibut (120 milligrams per 4 ounces).

Our lunch box suggestion: Add a serving of this heavy-on-magnesium Energy-Boosting Trail Mix to any lunch and you add 62 milligrams magnesium or 15.5 percent of the Daily Value. We recommend you include it in a lunch box with a roast turkey sandwich, an apple and a sport-top bottle of water.

Vitamin E

Why kids need it: Vitamin E is an antioxidant that may protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals.

Why they may lack it: If he or she eats a very low-fat diet due to weight concerns.

Recommended daily intake: 7 milligrams for kids ages 4 to 8; 11 milligrams, ages 8 to 13, and 15 milligrams, ages 14 to 18.

Sources: Sunflower seeds (6 milligrams per ounce), peanut butter (3 milligrams per 2 tablespoons) and almonds (7 milligrams per ounce).

Our lunch box suggestion: This E-xcellent Sandwich will help your child fulfill his or her dietary needs for vitamin E by adding 5.4 milligrams vitamin E (8 IU) or 27 percent of the daily value. Pack it with a banana and water flavored with fresh lemon. This is a great way to get vitamin E without getting a lot of fat.

moderate

Bone-Building Lasagna

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 large shallots, chopped

2 small or 1 large garlic clove, minced

Salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste

8 ounces firm tofu, drained

15 ounces part-skim ricotta

3 cups jarred prepared tomato sauce

1 ½ cups water

½ pound whole-wheat, no-boil lasagna noodles

½ cup grated mozzarella cheese

½ cup grated Romano cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add the shallots and garlic and saute 5 minutes until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

Place tofu and ricotta in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and use on/off pulses to chop until mixture has texture of cottage cheese.

Put tofu mixture in a bowl and mix shallots and garlic mixture into tofu mixture.

In a nonreactive saucepan, combine tomato sauce and water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Grease a nonreactive 9- by 13- by 2-inch baking dish. Place a layer of 4 noodles on the bottom of pan, breaking them to fit if necessary, spoon a third of the ricotta mixture on top, and ladle a third of the sauce on top of that. Repeat layers twice more until all three ingredients have been used. Make sure that the top layer is coated with sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella and then the Romano cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10 additional minutes.

Makes 12 servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 221 calories, 10g total fat (5g saturated), 22g carbohydrates, 3g total fiber, 11g protein, 524mg sodium.

easy

Not Your Ordinary Spinach Salad

1 cup raw spinach leaves, thoroughly washed and dried

2 tablespoons raisins

¼ cup "crunchy" of choice such as whole-grain Goldfish crackers

2 tablespoons unsalted cashews (preferable) or unsalted peanuts

½ cup cooked and shelled edamame

¼ cup grated cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons low-fat salad dressing of choice

Place spinach in a bowl. Top with raisins, crunchy, nuts, edamame and cheese, putting your child's favorite ingredient on top. Place dressing in a container to pack separately.

Makes 1 serving.

Nutritional information per serving: 771 calories, 37g total fat (15g saturated) fat, 81g carbohydrates, 8g fiber, 30g protein, 1,750mg sodium.

easy

Fiber-tastic Burger

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 small or 1 large shallot(s), minced

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained thoroughly

1 ½ slices whole-grain bread

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste

¼ cup whole-wheat flour

In a small skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon canola oil. Add the shallots and cook 3 minutes until translucent.

In a large bowl, use a potato masher to mash the beans, leaving them with some texture. Either crumble the bread finely or grind it in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add it to the beans with the shallots, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Add the flour, a tablespoon at a time, stirring after each addition with a wooden spoon. Form the mixture into six ½-inch-thick patties.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to a nonstick skillet and heat over medium-low heat. Add the patties and cook 5 minutes per side until firm.

Makes 6 burgers.

Nutritional information per serving: 139 calories, 5g fat (4g saturated), 20g carbohydrates, 5g fiber, 5g protein, 224mg sodium.

easy

Peanut Butter Banana Dogs

1 medium banana, peeled

Juice of ¼ lemon or orange

¼ cup all-natural peanut butter

2 tablespoons yogurt-covered raisins or similar snack of choice

2 whole-wheat hot dog buns

Cut banana in half lengthwise. (If you are packing this in a school lunch and you don't want it to turn brown before lunchtime, brush the orange or lemon juice over the rounded surfaces of the banana. Blot cut edges of banana halves using a paper towel.) Spread peanut butter on the flat, cut surfaces. Sprinkle raisins on top of the peanut butter on both halves. Wrap airtight. For serving, place each in a hot dog bun.

Makes 2 servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 388 calories, 18g fat (4g saturated), 50g carbohydrates, 7g fiber, 13g protein, 356mg sodium.

easy

E-xcellent Sandwich

1 tablespoon unsalted, shelled sunflower seeds

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon all-natural peanut butter

2 slices whole-grain bread

1 tablespoon thin-sliced mango, blotted dry

1 tablespoon mango preserves

1 tablespoon wheat germ

Mix sunflower seeds, honey and peanut butter. Spread peanut butter mixture on one side of a slice of bread. Top with mango slices. Mix preserves and wheat germ and spread on one side of second bread slice. Place second slice of bread, preserve side down, atop first slice.

Makes 1 sandwich.

Nutritional information per serving: 427 calories, 15g fat (3g saturated), 63g carbohydrates, 7g fiber, 15g protein, 302mg sodium.

easy

Energy-Boosting Trail Mix

¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds

¼ cup unsalted almonds

¼ cup unsalted cashews

¼ cup unsalted peanuts

¼ cup raisins

¼ cup sweetened banana or plantain chips

Mix all ingredients. Divide among four snack-size, reusable storage containers.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 287 calories, 20g fat (6g saturated), 21g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 8g protein, 7mg sodium.

Fill your kids with healthy foods 08/18/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 11:13pm]

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