Great nutrition for families usually starts with decreased consumption of highly processed snack foods – crackers, cookies, pretzels, sweetened yogurt – and increased daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals that every body needs and provide fiber, which is critical for good digestion as well as energy. Certain fruits and vegetables – those that are dark green and leafy (kale (Tuscan cabbage), chard (silverbeet), spinach, collard greens), dark orange (winter squashes, yams, carrots) or purplish (beets, grapes, berries) contain beneficial phytonutrients.
Phytonutrients are the chemicals that help plants defend against environmental threats like pests, drought and disease. Research shows that these chemicals can be protective for humans as well; phytonutrients may have the potential to help us ward off diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Adding an array of vegetables and fruits to your family dining table is an excellent way to teach your kids what a healthy diet looks like.
An easy and delicious way to add fruits and vegetables to family meals is by combining them in salads. Fruit and vegetable combinations are delicious and appealing to kids.
Try these combinations in your next salad:
- Torn leaves of romaine or butter lettuce with slices of mandarin oranges, thinly sliced red onion, dried cranberries and some pecans.
- Sweet ribbons of carrot, slices of pear and pomegranate seeds with red leaf lettuce.
- Berries and baby spinach.
Once you’ve got a beautiful salad put together, don’t diminish its nutritional impressiveness by topping with a store-bought salad dressing. Bottled dressings often contain highly processed vegetable oils, trans-fats, sugar or high fructose corn syrup, and other artificial ingredients. Instead, make your own dressing – it is incredibly easy to do (let the kids help!) and it’s very economical. Making salad dressing at home with quality ingredients costs nearly the same per serving as store-bought. After you’ve done it a few times, it takes literally seconds to whisk together a dressing that you can use for several days. Homemade salad dressing will keep in the fridge or even on the counter for up to one week.