With a new superfood in the spotlight almost every week, I’m sure many parents have asked themselves, “Should my child be eating that?” And like every other mom out there who doesn’t have a degree in nutritional science, I struggle to separate fact from hype and to figure out how to incorporate what’s truly good into my toddler’s diet.
I started really looking into superfoods when I was several months pregnant with my second child, so I was not only interested in what worked for my toddler, but for myself and my growing baby too. I must admit that I had already started spend a good amount of our grocery bill on overpriced quinoa, chia seeds, organic oats, almond milk and other more “popular” superfoods – without actually knowing if what I was feeding my family was making a difference to our overall health.
So I’ve put a temporary stop to the superfood craze in my kitchen, and did a little digging to create a super simple list of superfoods (all available and affordable – with the exception of super-expensive kale – in Malaysia) you can easily include into your child’s snacks and meals:
Oats are the ultimate back-to-basics superfood. And as it turns out, one of the most thoroughly-researched (an important factor to consider when considering a superfood). This is my son’s staple breakfast food, quick to cook and goes great with (super) fruits like blueberries, strawberries and kiwis. There’s strong evidence that oats are anti-cancer, beneficial for adults with diabetes, and helpful in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. It’s even great as a moisturizer for babies and kids with eczema or dry skin. Oats are at the top of my superfood list because they are literally something you can slip into your everyday meals, in less than a minute!
Okay, not really a superfood because despite all the claims about how much protein they contain (hemp seeds have more) and signs that their nutritional profile can help with cholesterol and blood sugar control – there simply isn’t enough solid research to warrant going crazy about chia seeds. At the same time, I love how much fibre is packed into just one tablespoon and how well they thicken smoothies when you’re out of yogurt.
A single cup of cooked quinoa contains an impressive amount of protein, fibre, B vitamins and folate, iron, magnesium and zinc. If you’re looking for an alternative to rice porridge for your toddler – go for this. It’s just as easy to prepare (rinse and soak before cooking) and its somewhat nutty flavour goes well with almost anything.
If you’re willing to fork out at least RM50 for a bushel of this superfood classic, you’re in for a rich dose of much-needed vitamin K. The easiest way to make these into something edible your kids will love is to bake kale chips: Just brush lightly with olive oil, sprinkle some sea salt on top, and bake on a cookie tray for ten minutes or until the leaves are dried. A fuss-free snack you can make with your kids, whilst getting a high dose of vitamin A, C, and calcium into their bodies.
Not nearly as flashy as other superfoods, but one of the surest nutritional bets you can make for your health. Of course it can be a little hard to get your toddler to love the slightly bitter taste, so adding a dip can be a good way to increase their intake. I recommend eating it with mayonnaise yourself, as research shows even fat-laden dips can help the body absorb it better than if you eat it plain!
Rich in good fats, vitamins and minerals, avocados remain on pretty much everyone’s superfood list. Spread on toast, slip into smoothies or just let your little one spoon in straight out of a half open one. This was T. rex’s very first food, mashed up with some milk, and he has loved it ever since. Of course if you’re watching your weight, go easy on fatty foods if you’re loading up on avocados because a single cup can contain as many calories as two who bananas.
I’ve learned that when it comes to superfoods, bear in mind that just because something is making headlines on a trendy lifestyle blog doesn’t meant it’s been properly researched. The safest and surest bets are often things we already know a lot about like almonds, blueberries, strawberries, spinach, sweet potatoes and beets to name just a few of the less exciting but more deserving superfoods.
Michelle Lim-Chua is a mum of two and a copywriter with a special interest in sociology. Born in New York City and raised across six different countries, Michelle loves traveling and is naturally curious about people and their cultures. She moved to Malaysia more than seven years ago, found God and fell in love with a boy from Melaka. Michelle is still learning, along with her husband, how to be a good parent.