The top 100 superfoods for kids list

As I stand in the produce section at Whole Foods, eyeing the fruits and vegetables, I weigh three important factors before making my selections: 1. Which produce has the highest nutritional value? 2. Which fruits and vegetables will my family actually eat? 3. Which foods won’t rot away in the refrigerator before we have a chance to eat them? And although I am a well-educated scientist and mother, I freeze. Somewhere between the raspberries and the kale, I feel ignorant and frustrated. You see, my 8.5 year-old daughter is an adventurous, vegetable-liking, fruit-hating omnivore while my newly-turned 6 year-old son is a cautious, fruit-loving, vegetable-hating, fish-eating vegetarian. I, myself, have not eaten meat (except fish) in about 25 years, and the thought of fresh vegetables at their peak in August makes me salivate in my seat. My husband appreciates good food of any kind and considers the occasional steak at a restaurant a worthy treat. So, feeding our family a nutritious, delicious and quickly prepared (I am working full-time, after all) meal that everyone will love can be a challenge. Nonetheless, I proceed with my produce selections based on cost (don’t you love it when organic blackberries are on sale?), known familial likes and dislikes, and a minimal amount of knowledge about nutritional value.

Recently I was in Whole Foods and noticed a new posting on the wall of the produce section (and in the bathroom!) listing a variety of foods and their corresponding “Aggregate Nutrient Density Index” (ANDI) score. Green, leafy vegetables were generally at the top with fruits, nuts and beans also receiving impressive ratings. As my son and I stood in the bathroom together, me holding him up so he could reach the faucets to wash his hands (why don’t they have step stools in public bathrooms?), I had an epiphany. Finally. Finally. A quantitative method available to help me choose what to feed my family!

After some more research, I discovered that the ANDI score system was developed by Joel Fuhrman, MD, with the “eat right america” program. I ordered his book, and found that the system is a “complete food scoring guide and dietary program designed to deliver permanent weight loss and superior health.” Not exactly what I was looking for. You see, the scoring system not only accounts for nutritional value, but also considers calories. In essence, Dr. Fuhrman and his team devised a way to quantify the nutritional value of foods, but then divided by the number of calories such that the score is essentially a measure of how much “bang for your buck” you get from a food, or how much nutrition packed per calorie. However, I am not looking to lose weight. My children are healthy, energetic beings, and if anything, they need MORE calories not FEWER calories. I know, with the concern over childhood obesity in this country, I speak words of horror. But my children would rather talk and joke during dinner than actually eat their meals. This certainly makes for family fun at the dinner table, but also evokes nagging from their parents to remind them to eat!

What I need is a nutritional guide that provides me information about the nutritional value of foods without any added complexity. If anything, I need help for those moments when I am standing at the market deciding between escarole and swiss chard (how to get my kids to actually eat these foods is another matter to discuss later), or when I am trying to decide whether to give them juice or milk with breakfast. Granted, there are other factors to consider such as the balance of protein vs. whole grains vs. fruits and vegetables the kids are getting in their diets, but this I am less worried about because I do make sure that each of these groups are represented in their meals. I also try to ensure their meals are packed with variety, when possible (although variety may not be top priority when eating lunch in the car between piano lessons and soccer practice). No, what I need is a list of “super foods,” foods that are packed with nutrients – vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals – that I can integrate into family meals as often as possible.

So I took Dr. Fuhrman’s ANDI scores, and I made some changes to develop my own “superfoods” list. My analysis essentially removes the caloric component of his calculations, so I am left with a value that represents the nutritional component of the foods only. Then, I adjusted this number by considering an appropriate serving size – a realistic serving size that I think I can probably get my kids to eat. Of course this skews the data because it may be much easier for me to get my kids to eat 1/4 cup of brazil nuts than 1/3 cup of collard greens in a particular sitting, but that is okay. Also because I am less concerned about them getting too many calories (especially from these great foods) or eating natural sugars, some foods such as juices also jump to the top of the list. In addition, I deleted duplicate foods that appeared but used different cooking methods; “red pepper, cooked” stayed, but “red pepper, raw” was removed. I also omitted meats, besides fish, since we do not eat meat at home, but I did not include fish that have mid- to high-levels of mercury. Then, I normalized the list to provide a nutrient score between 1 and 100. Hence, the list of “top 100 superfoods for kids” was born.

My family and I sat down to discuss the list and we decided to put forth a challenge. All four of us would eat the top 100 superfoods in 100 days at the given serving sizes. Not just taste, but actually eat. Calories are not much of a concern although food variety and balance will continue to be part of our goals. The superfoods do not necessarily have to be eaten in isolation (I am thinking “swiss chard chocolate pudding”), but they must be eaten in their entirety. This will require some creative cooking on my end, but I am up for the challenge. We start tomorrow, December 6, 2010 and will continue until March 15, 2011. I will be keeping a running tally and will even include recipes on the blog, if they are successfully embraced by the kids. So here it is, my list of “top 100 superfoods for kids:”

Ranking Food Serving size Nutrient Score
1 Brazil nuts 0.25 cups 100
2 Carrot juice 4 fl oz 59
3 Collard greens, cooked 0.33 cups 57
4 Pumpkin, canned 0.5 cups 55
5 Sunflower seeds 0.25 cups 51
6 Pomegranate juice 4 fl oz 51
7 Brussel sprouts, cooked 0.33 cups 44
8 Kale, cooked 0.33 cups 42
9 Sprouted grain bread 2 slice 36
10 Hummus 0.33 cups 35
11 Broccoli rabe, cooked 0.33 cups 35
12 Pumpkin seeds 0.25 cups 34
13 Sesame butter 2 tablespoon 34
14 Spinach, cooked 0.33 cups 33
15 Turnip greens, cooked 0.33 cups 33
16 Pistachio nuts, unsalted 0.25 cups 31
17 Dark chocolate candy bar (45-59% cocoa) 1.5 ounces 30
18 Vegetable juice, low sodium 4 fl oz 29
19 Adzuki beans, boiled 0.33 cups 29
20 Chicory greens, uncooked 0.33 cups 28
21 Almonds, unsalted 0.25 cups 28
22 Peanuts, unsalted 0.25 cups 28
23 Lentils, boiled 0.33 cups 28
24 Flax seeds 2 tablespoon 27
25 Pecans 0.25 cups 27
26 Swiss chard, cooked 0.33 cups 27
27 Red kidney beans, boiled 0.33 cups 26
28 Mustard greens, cooked 0.33 cups 25
29 Tomato juice, low sodium 4 fl oz 25
30 Sweet potato, cooked 0.33 cups 24
31 Hazelnuts 0.25 cups 24
32 Sesame seeds 0.125 cups 23
33 Walnuts 0.25 cups 23
34 Great northern beans, boiled 0.33 cups 23
35 Black beans, boiled 0.33 cups 22
36 Broccoli 0.33 cups 22
37 Carrots, cooked 0.33 cups 21
38 Bean sprouts, uncooked 0.25 cups 21
39 Bok choy, cooked 0.33 cups 20
40 Black eyed peas, boiled 0.33 cups 19
41 Cashew nuts 0.25 cups 19
42 Cabbage, cooked 0.33 cups 19
43 Almond butter, unsalted 0.25 tablespoon 19
44 Chick peas, boiled 0.33 cups 18
45 Tomato sauce, no salt 0.25 cups 17
46 Salmon, pink, cooked, dry heat 3 ounces 17
47 Pinto beans, boiled 0.33 cups 17
48 Cashew butter, unsalted 2 tablespoon 17
49 Peanut butter 2 tablespoon 17
50 Edamame 0.33 cups 17
51 Artichoke, cooked 0.33 item 17
52 Orange juice 4 fl oz 17
53 Prunes 0.25 cups 17
54 Kohlrabi 0.33 cups 16
55 Trout, rainbow, wild, cooked, dry heat 3 ounces 16
56 Whole wheat bagel 1 item 16
57 Kiwi 1 items 16
58 Pepper, red, cooked 0.33 cups 16
59 Avocado 0.33 items 16
60 Brown rice, cooked 0.5 cups 16
61 Split peas, boiled 0.33 cups 16
62 Granola 0.33 cups 15
63 Butternut squash, cooked 0.33 cups 15
64 Barley, whole grain, cooked 0.5 cups 15
65 Macadamia nuts 0.25 cups 14
66 Bran flakes 0.5 cups 14
67 Flounder, cooked, dry heat 3 ounces 14
68 Cranberry juice cocktail 4 fl oz 14
69 Plums 0.33 cups 14
70 Whole grain bread 2 slices 14
71 Oats, old fashioned, cooked 0.5 cups 14
72 Turnips, cooked 0.33 item 13
73 Dandelion greens, cooked 0.33 cups 13
74 Wheat berries, cooked 0.5 cups 13
75 Tomato, diced 0.5 cups 13
76 Blackberries 0.33 cups 13
77 Lobster, cooked 3 ounces 13
78 Wild brown rice, cooked 0.5 cups 13
79 Blueberries 0.33 cups 12
80 Plain bagel 1 slices 12
81 Haddock, cooked, dry heat 3 ounces 12
82 Rye bread 2 slices 12
83 Lima beans, boiled 0.33 cups 11
84 Whole wheat bread 2 slices 11
85 Grapefruit 0.33 cups 11
86 Swiss cheese 2 ounces 11
87 Strawberries 0.33 cups 11
88 Tangerine 1 items 11
89 Shrimp, cooked 3 ounces 11
90 Cranberries, dried, sweetened 0.25 cups 11
91 Feta cheese 2 ounces 11
92 Green peas, cooked 0.33 cups 11
93 Figs, dried 0.25 cups 11
94 Sole, cooked, dry heat 3 ounces 11
95 Raspberries 0.33 cups 11
96 Potatoes, flesh and skin, baked 0.5 item 11
97 Gruyere cheese 2 ounces 11
98 Asparagus, cooked 0.33 cups 11
99 Pine nuts 2 tablespoons 11
100 Monkfish, cooked, dry heat 3 ounces 10

Copyright 2010

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11 Responses to The top 100 superfoods for kids list

  1. Stephanie says:

    This is absolute.genius. We have superfood charts and other food reminders all around our kitchen for our kids to absorb. I am very open with them about the health benefits of food but have never factored in calories as a part of their eating habits because I think how you do on that topic. My kids naturally revel in a challenge and I can’t wait to present this idea to our fam!

  2. Jennifer Hartz says:

    What a great idea! I can’t wait to spring this on Zoe when she gets up this morning. You may be able to start a whole 100 foods challenge group. I forwarded this along to my friend Bridgette Kasubick who is a buy local foods supporter and a great cook. I’m looking forward to starting our journey soon. Bridgette and I both have a photo a day blog. You can find Bridgette’s by googling “All Things Kasubick”. If you want to see mine let me know and I’ll send you an invitation.

    Jennifer Hartz

    • Sounds great – I’ll take a look. And yes, definitely send me an invitation. If you try any recipes (or have some of your own to share) consisting of superfoods, I’d love to hear about it!

  3. Krissy Dietrich Gallagher says:

    Oh and I added you to my blogroll. You can do the same and then traffic will pass from one to the other (hopefully).

  4. Krissy Dietrich Gallagher says:

    Bravo Ali! Perhaps, because you are a girl who loves a challenge, you could come up with some “kidney friendly but kid-friendly” recipes? (How’s that for a cookbook idea?) Low phosphorous, low potassium, low sodium. Austin will report back with “yums” or “yucks.” Just, you know, in your free time…..

  5. Stacy Goldberg says:

    Wow Alexis! I admire your effort and scientific approach. I look forward to hearing about your superfood adventures with the kids. If only I could convince Anna, my picky eater, to even look at much less take a taste of some of those foods… Can you also get them to give up sweets?

  6. Janice says:

    This is fabulous and it came just in time. My kids snarf candy constantly and eat 0 fruits and vegetable. There, I said it. It is true and I am always feeling terrible about it. I am already feeling inspired by this blog and think it may provide just the guidance I need to get us out of the abyss. I mean, look at how yummy some of those superfood are! Thank you, thank you.

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