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updated: 3/21/2013 12:34 PM

Super foods to the rescue

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By Christina Fitzgerald

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's super foods!!

There are a lot of foods out there with "super" qualities. Often these foods are high in antioxidants and phytochemicals and have added benefits including the ability to fight disease or decrease inflammation. No matter the possibility, there are certain foods that are just plain super for your kids that you should not be leaving the grocery store without. Let's take a closer look at the what, why, and how of some of these less familiar but equally awesome foods.

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Avocados

In my opinion, avocados are just about the perfect food for kids. Because they are naturally creamy and incredibly high in all the good fats (essential for brain development), it's a perfect baby food for infants. For all kids, it's one of the highest fiber fruits you can eat and is rich in the B vitamins (help maintain metabolism), vitamin K (assist in bone development and blood clotting) and vitamin E.

Serving suggestions:

• For the littlest ones, serve plain and creamy or mashed with a banana.

• Older kids, especially certain boys I know, love to make their smoothies green with avocados (and pretend to turn into the incredible Hulk!)

• Dice on top of tacos or as a side dish for quesadillas.

Green Hulk Smoothie

1ripe Hass avocado

1ripe banana

16-ounce container Greek yogurt

¼cup honey

1½cup fresh orange juice

1cup ice cubes.

Blend and enjoy. Serves 4.

Chia seeds

I had actually never heard of chia seeds until my dad gave me the book, "Born to Run," a couple years back. In the book, it talks about the Tarahumara Tribe in the Copper Canyons of Mexico and their use of chia seeds. I was intrigued! Since then, chia seeds are becoming more well-known and are easily on the super list for their powerful punch of nutrients with very minimal calories. The nutritional benefits of chia include fiber, omega fatty acids, calcium, antioxidants and even protein. Chia seeds are one of the most condensed sources of omega 3 fatty acids and deliver up to 11 grams of fiber per ounce! Another benefit is the calcium part of chia seeds -- they can provide up to 18 percent of the daily value per ounce and can be a great additive for kids with milk protein allergies or lactose intolerance. But, one word of warning, they can absorb up to 12 times their own weight and may curb appetite. This can be helpful if your child is gaining weight too quickly, but may pose a problem if your child already has a small appetite.

Serving suggestions:

• Replace the poppy or sesame seeds in breads and muffins with chia seeds.

• Mix into a hearty oatmeal for breakfast.

• Mix into pudding for a tapioca-type texture.

• Sprinkle on top of a fruit and yogurt parfait.

Oats

This may not be a new trendy super food, but it's definitely my favorite with kids because it's so versatile. Oats are high in fiber, particularly soluble fiber, which make them both a digestive aid, and a cholesterol-lowering component. A 2011 review of multiple research studies published in the journal Nutrition Review found that the soluble fiber beta-glucan, which is actually unique to oats, is associated with a reduction in total cholesterol and in LDL cholesterol, the type associated with heart disease. And then, for those moms out there that are nursing wee little ones, oats is an easy addition to your diet to help boost your breast milk supply!

Serving suggestions

• Create a hearty oatmeal bar where your kids can pick and choose their favorite toppings: assorted fruits, mixed nuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, maple syrup.

• Overnight oatmeal smoothies give a nice twist and are a quick grab and go meal in the morning.

These are three easy foods to add to your grocery list this week to boost the health of the family all around!

Contact me: If you have any feedback, comments or questions on this topic or any others, I would love to hear from you! You can send me an email at Christina@nourishedliving.com with your thoughts.

•Christina Fitzgerald, a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian nutritionist, is the owner of Nourished, Nutrition and Wellness, nourishedliving.com. She lives with her husband and two young sons in the Northwest suburbs.

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