Saturday, January 7, 2012

10 Superfoods. Green Apple Baby Approved!

I'm sure by now you are all familiar with the word, "superfood," and have probably even seen a few superfood lists. Most of the ones I have read contain at least a few animal-based products like turkey, eggs and yogurt. However, they are almost always written by dietitians or doctors who are products of "the system." If you are a product of "the system," you have received a highly esteemed medical or food science degree from schools where education is mandated by our federal government.

Think about it: We only know what we are taught. It is interesting to me that toddlers are practically wired to ask "WHY" about everything, and yet, we somehow re-wire them to understand the answer is because we said so. This way of thinking is then transferred into our schools, where the information we are taught is true because they say so. If we learn to stop asking why and this pattern continues, there will never be change.

So what does all this have to do with my Superfoods List? By questioning and asking "why," I have been able to make the best decisions I can for myself and my family. Here is a short list of the superfoods we strive to eat daily! How many of these do you eat?

1. Avocados
Included as one of my Baby Superfoods, avocados are an excellent source of fatty acids and antioxidants, and are known to lower cholesterol and prevent certain cancers. For my toddler, I mash avocados and spread it on whole grain bread/toast, mix it with steamed broccoli as an alternative to cheese, use it in my Green Quinoa add it to smoothies, or simply just chop and serve.

2. Berries
Organic blueberries, blackberries and strawberries are always a staple in our home. Loaded with phytonutrients and antioxidants, these super-berries are perfect for smoothies, pancakes, muffins, and oatmeal! Buy fresh or frozen.

3. Broccoli
People are always so surprised that my toddler loves broccoli. Keep in mind that it takes 10-15 tries to determine whether or not a child likes or dislikes a food. Most people stop at only 5 tries. My favorite way to eat broccoli is simply steamed with a little salt and lemon juice, but its also delish in Vegan Mac n Cheese, on a baked potato, spicy in a stir-fry, or even hidden in a smoothie! Are you getting the hide your greens in a smoothie trick yet?

4. Beans & Lentils
Beans provide a delicious, low fat alternative to meat. One cup of lentils provides 17g of protein and less than 1g of fat. Another reason why beans and lentils are on this list because of their high nutrition content, including fiber, b-vitamins, iron, folate, potassium, magnesium, and many phytonutrients. For baby, I love mashing squash or sweet potato with white beans. Get my recipe for Sweet Butternut Squash and White Beans here. I love to use lentils in Veganomicon's Snobby Joes. This is an excellent alternative to Sloppy Joes, which I honestly don't even know what part of which animal is used for that anymore.

5. Carrots
Carrots don't only come in orange. You can find them in beautiful yellow and purple varieties. Delicious raw, steamed, roasted or juiced, carrots are high in fiber and antioxidants. I love to steam carrots and cut them into bite sized pieces as a snack food for Kaden, or grate them raw. If you have a juicer, you can add the juice of carrots to smoothies and soups, or steam and puree to use as sweet addition to pancake or cake batter!

6. Dark Leafy Greens (Kale, Romaine & Spinach)
If I wasn't trying to list these in alphabetical order, my greens would be number one. No matter what superfoods list you find, there is no doubt that one of these magical greens will be there. You just cannot argue with the fact that calorie for calorie, greens contain more nutrients than other food, including protein! Yes, greens contain more protein per calorie than red meat. Add a wide variety of greens to as much as you possibly can!! Kaden has been drinking Green Smoothies since he was 10 months old! My favorite way to eat kale is HERE!

7. Ground Flax Seed
Countless studies have shown the positive effects of including ground flax seed into your diet. They are high in fiber and omega 3 fatty acids, which help with constipation, cholesterol, cancer and heart disease. Keep in mind that these benefits have been scientifically documented with raw, ground flax seed, not flax oil. I add a few teaspoons of flax to oatmeal, pancakes, smoothies, yogurt (soy, almond or coconut), and even cookies!

8. Tofu & Tempeh
There seems to be so much misunderstood controversy surrounding soy. The truth is, with all foods, you want to eat soy in its most natural state. In this case, that would be the soybean itself, tofu and tempeh. But when highly processed in a lab and turned into isolated soy protein as the main ingredient for "fake meats," protein powders and energy bars, too much of a good thing is just not good! Tofu and tempeh are super high in quality protein, calcium and good fats. For Kaden, I cut up tofu into small cubes or steam and cube tempeh and cover with marinara sauce. I use extra firm tofu to make breakfast scrambles and the vacuum sealed tofu to grill for dinners as the texture is fabulous. Tempeh is a great alternative to ground meat when crumbled and seasoning. Use in tacos, meatloaf and even sushi!

9. Quinoa
Quinoa made my list of superfoods because it is the only grain that is also a complete protein, containing all the same amino acids as meat. Remember that your body doesn't need protein, it needs amino acids! Not only is quinoa rich in protein, but it is loaded with magnesium, iron, calcium and fiber. I have been using quinoa in replace of rice for years now and we love it. Quinoa is also a fabulous, easy to digest food for your toddler, and easy to make! Check out my Rainbow Quinoa with Marinated Tofu Spring Rolls.

10. Walnuts
Ever notice that walnuts look similar to a brain? Coincidence? I think not! Because of their extremely rich vitamin E content, walnuts have been shown over and over again to help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Walnuts are also a great source of folic acid, omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins and magnesium. I have been giving Kaden walnuts since he was 10 months old by grinding them in a food processor into an almost-powder like consistency and sprinkling over oatmeal. I now also add them into his smoothie... shocking, I know :)

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