Creative and Healthy Ways to Serve Fruit for Dinner
15-Minute Pasta Salad
Just one serving of this strawberry-studded pasta salad delivers all the vitamin C your kid needs for the day.
Strawberries have as much of the B vitamin folate as broccoli, says Bethany Thayer, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Getting folate during pregnancy helps prevent certain kinds of birth defects. But it does other cool stuff too: In a study of nearly 8,000 kids and adults, doctors at Johns Hopkins Children's Center found that those with the highest blood levels of folate were 31 percent less likely to have been diagnosed with allergies than people who had the lowest folate levels. In addition, broccoli and strawberries are both packed with heart-smart plant compounds called lignans.
Nutrition per cup 140 calories; 5g protein; 5g fat (2g sat. fat); 17g carbs; 1g fiber; 107mg calcium; 1mg iron; 167mg sodium
Grilled Chicken Sliders
For kids who won't eat romaine on a burger (let alone in a salad!), kiwi offers many of the same nutrients like vitamin K (for strong bones), potassium (to balance the high amount of sodium kids consume), and heart-healthy soluble fiber. Although kiwi doesn't contain as much lutein—a plant compound important for eye health—as lettuce does, it's one of the few fruits that have a significant amount. Plus, it packs more immune-boosting vitamin C than most any fruit or veggie; all the C that kids need for the day is in one small kiwi.
Nutrition per slider 218 calories; 21g protein; 3g fat (1g sat. fat); 27g carbs; 4g fiber; 59mg calcium; 2mg iron; 305mg sodium
Picky eaters shun tomatoes (technically a fruit) because they travel with the veggie crowd in salads. A great swap: watermelon. Both offer similar amounts of vitamins A and C, although the melon packs twice as much of the plant compound lycopene as raw tomatoes, says Ronald Prior, Ph.D., a retired chemist at USDA Children's Nutrition Research Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. Known for fighting cancer, lycopene may have a more immediate benefit for kids—some early research with mice from the University of Newcastle, in Australia, suggests it may help prevent asthma attacks. Store watermelon on the counter for a few hours before you're ready to cut it: USDA research shows the warmer temp bumps up the lycopene level as much as 40 percent.
Nutrition per serving 76 calories; 3g protein; 1g fat (0 sat. fat); 17 carbs; 1g fiber; 31mg calcium; 1mg iron; 298mg sodium
Try a simple eggplant-plum switch in this tasty 4-ingredient pizza.
The purplish skin on plums and eggplant is a clue that they're both packed with anthocyanins, plant compounds that may help prevent cancer and improve cholesterol levels (high cholesterol is a problem even for children). Both eggplant and plums also contain chlorogenic and caffeic acids; some preliminary research suggests that they might help improve the immune system and keep bones strong. One-half cup of eggplant packs more fiber than a plum, but "ounce for ounce, plums have far greater ability to absorb disease-causing free radicals," says Dr. Prior. In general, the darker the skin of the plum, the more anthocyanins it has.
Nutrition per slice146 calories; 6g protein; 5g fat (1g sat. fat); 21g carbs; 1g fiber; 34mg calcium; 0 iron; 280mg sodium
Sweet Grilled Pork
If your little one won't take to carrots, try swapping in fresh apricots.
Both apricots and carrots have beta-carotene in common. Besides protecting against heart disease and cancer, this antioxidant seems to also be good for kids' skin. A recent Korean study of 5-year-olds suggests that the more beta-carotene they get, the less their chance of developing atopic dermatitis (itchy, scaly skin that's common in childhood). When fresh apricots are no longer around, pick up canned ones that are packed in water—not juice—so they won't have added sugar.
Nutrition per serving 259 calories; 25g protein; 5g fat (1g sat. fat); 30g carbs; 1g fiber; 20mg calcium; 1mg iron; 245mg sodium