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My last blog post was about the importance of fruit in children’s diets. Many parents worry when their kids won’t eat vegetables, and it may come as a relief to remember the variety of other super healthful plant foods that many children will love. Fruits are one good example, and today I am here to shine the spotlight on another one—nuts! So next time your kid refuses to taste his broccoli at dinner, pass the almonds!
Why I’m Nuts for Nuts
Nuts are among the best sources of vitamin E, which acts as a nerve protector and immune-enhancing antioxidant. Common nuts and seeds also contain the greatest quantity of fats of all unprocessed foods–much of it in the form of essential fatty acids. Nuts, legumes, and grains are all types of seeds. Looked at in total, the seed is the spark of life–a living and perfect food with all the elements necessary for vitality.
(Here’s more from the Mayo Clinic on the health benefits of nuts.)
A Fun Way to Serve Nuts
I always keep a pretty wooden bowl filled with mixed nuts in their shells on my dining room table. We also have a cool squirrel-shaped nutcracker that is a favorite of my grandsons. When they come over, they sit down and first identify all the different nuts and put them in categories (all the pecans in a row, then the hazelnuts, then the brazil nuts, the almonds, etc.). Then we crack the nuts one at a time and enjoy their rich flavor, each one unique.
Children enjoy learning where their food comes from. You can explore all the different nut trees, examine the different shells, and marvel at how hard it is to get just one little taste of a nut. Experiences like this allow children begin to develop an appreciation for food beyond just going to the grocery store and buying a nut bar or a bag of shelled nuts.
Some Favorite Nut Snacks
Fruit and nut combinations can be delicious: I love a simple mix of raisins and walnuts, or a nut butter dollop on an apple slice or spread on a banana. How about dates stuffed with almond or peanut butter and then sprinkled with powdered coconut?
For Extra Healthy Nuts
The best way to eat nuts is to soak them overnight to initiate the sprouting process, which makes the fats and proteins more digestible. Then dry and eat raw or roast and cook them.
Two Nut Warnings
Of course, when feeding nuts to your kids, consider the child’s age and always be mindful of foods that are a choking hazard. Nut butters on a slice of bread are also an option for those two young to have whole nuts.
It is worth considering that some children may have nut allergies. Peanuts are the most common “nut” that kids are allergic to, but peanuts are actually legumes (beans), not nuts. Interestingly, recent studies indicate that the children of mothers who eat nuts while pregnant are actually LESS likely to develop nut allergies.
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