Any food with a high level of vitamins and minerals can fall into the Superfood category. They help our bodies run at their best, no matter the season. Theresa Ferdinand, the Manager of Employee Health and well-being for Monument Health, says, “Nutrition is key, not only in preventing and treating chronic conditions, but in being able to be at your peak and perform all day long.”
FRESH, FROZEN, OR FRIED?
A good rule of thumb is to eat superfoods as close to their natural state as possible, but cooking them won’t remove their nutritional value. Avoid frying or grilling if possible, and stick to simmering stewing, or baking. This applies to processing as well; frozen produce loses little of its nutritional value and keeps much longer. Theresa cautions “When choosing canned foods, beware of the salt content with vegetables and the sugar content with fruit. Look for products with no salt or sugar added. Fresh or frozen are your best options.”
ALL ABOUT THE VEGETABLES
Unsurprisingly, a lot of superfoods are fruits and vegetables since they naturally supply an array of nutrients. Orange and red vegetables are an easy go-to this time of year, as they have high levels of Vitamin A and C and immunity-boosting beta-carotene. Carrots, squash, and tomatoes are all good additions and versatile enough for almost any dish. Grains are also a common superfood if you stay away from highly processed or bleached versions. Brown rice, oatmeal, and quinoa are great foundations to build from since they have high levels of zinc and iron.
BRING ON THE PROTEIN
When adding meat to your meal, the easiest way to maximize your benefit is to select products that were fed as close to their natural diet as possible. Look for labels such as grass-fed or wild-caught as a starting point. Seafood tends to be healthier than other types of meat, and salmon is an especially great choice. It is one of the few dietary sources of vitamin D, which is tough to come by in the winter months.
SPICE IT UP!
A convenient way to add a little extra to a meal, or even a drink, are spices. Cinnamon is popular this time of year, and adding it to recipes can help lower blood sugar and cholesterol. Turmeric is another common spice with a host of benefits; it reduces inflammation and may even improve memory. For the brave at heart, adding some cayenne or chili pepper can boost metabolism– just be careful, too much can cause nausea or pain in sensitive tummies.
LIFE IS SHORT, EAT DESSERT
Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to give up dessert. Making a couple substitutions to a standard baking recipe can up the ante! Trading out half of your white flour for coconut is a great way to add fiber. Likewise, trading milk chocolate for dark adds antioxidants and zinc. Pumpkin is a perfect base for any fall or winter dessert and is full of zinc, fiber, and vitamin C. Its benefits are dense enough that you can put a dollop of whipped cream on top guilt-free!
Tips for Picky Eaters
While all of these superfoods are great for our health, they only count if they’re actually eaten. So how do you get your kids to try something like turmeric or pumpkin? Here are a couple of tips to convince your kids to at least give it a shot:
Even a choice between two healthy options lets kids feel like they have a say. This works simply because kids are constantly fighting for independence and autonomy, so giving them options can make them feel in charge–even if it’s between carrots or peas.
Let them see behind the scenes.
Take them to farmers’ markets to see a variety of new produce and find recipes to try them. The Mayo Clinic recommends asking what kids want for meals when you make your grocery list or letting them help with basic cooking prep like measuring ingredients. Having them be a part of the process makes them
Try camouflaging the healthy food.
An easy one to start with is adding sweet potatoes to mac and cheese; it’s a favorite dish kids are more likely to eat, while the cheese does wonders to cover the taste and color of the potatoes. Once they take to the new ingredient, try it in more interest in the end product.
Remember not to force the issue.
While it can be frustrating, letting your child guide the conversation leaves foods open for exploration later. Trying to force something can cause resentment to both the food and the process.
Stocking the Pantry
So what are some easy-to-find superfoods you can start incorporating into your family’s meals? Here is a list of some of our favorites!
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES:
* Berries (blueberries, strawberries, etc.)
* Pumpkins and their seeds
* Brown rice
* Oily fish (salmon, sardines, etc.)
* Greek yogurt
* Almonds, pine nuts, and peanuts
* Grass-fed beef
No matter what your current meal rotation is, don’t try changing things up completely. Small, easy-to-manage adjustments are better than attempting to change your entire lifestyle. Theresa notes, “I wish we could convince people to not think about things as ‘a diet.’ People go on this diet, that diet, or whatever. Focus instead on healthy eating and making good food choices.” Add a few of our suggestions to your daily routine, or make healthy substitutions where it’s easy, and you’re more likely to reap the benefits of superfoods in your daily life.