Find out which superfoods are not only great for your kids, but have proven to be tasty crowdpleasers as well
With a preschooler at home who is highly susceptible to coughs and colds… not to mention the constant threat of HFMD, Dengue and now Zika in our germ-thriving tropical haven of Singapore, we mamas have to constantly be on the warpath with germs and find ways to boost those little immune systems!
Our go-to ammunition at home is usually a combination of high-quality supplements such as Zinc, Sambucol, Olive leaf extract, Kaloba (do check with your health provider before giving these to your child) and essential oils that we diffuse and rub on the soles of feet (we love Thieves essential oil from Young Living) …and last but not least: we rely on lots of nutritious food!
Superfoods are our friends, and while there are a number of articles written on this topic, kid-friendly superfoods are a whole different story! I don’t know about you, but as much as I would like him to, my 3-year-old is certainly not going to be thrilled by chia pudding over regular pudding. The good news is that there are tons of superfoods that many kids naturally like, such as honey, sweet potato and salmon.
I’m a big believer of healing and boosting via food; check out the gallery for some of my favourite superfoods for little ones!
Interestingly, there no strict definition of the term ‘superfood’, leading to a lot of confusion on the topic and endless lists. As sensible mamas, we ultimately just need to say to ourselves “Okay, if I’m going to make the effort to cook and get this kid to eat, what food will provide an extra boost of energy? What will offer an extra dose of nutrition?” And then of course there’s the ever challenging, “What superfood will he/she like?” Good luck, super mama!
‘Get Well Soon’ Turmeric Soup
Prep Time: 45 minutes
6 cups water
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns (you can also mix with white, green, etc. if you have them)
1 clove (optional)
1 bay leaf
1 small cinnamon stick
1 star anise (optional)
1 carrot (half coarsely chopped, half thinly sliced for later)
1 celery stick, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
1 lemongrass stick, coarsely chopped (optional)
4-6 pieces skinless chicken drumsticks and thighs (optional)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 zucchini, thinly sliced
150g tofu, cubed
1 small sprig of fresh coriander, finely chopped (optional)
1. In a stockpot over medium heat, add the water, ginger, garlic, and all the whole spices.
2. Add in the coarsely chopped carrot, celery, onions, and lemongrass. Bring to a boil.
3. If making soup with chicken, add in the chicken.
4. Add in the turmeric and salt.
5. Boil for 5 minutes, then cover and simmer for at least 20 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked and falling off the bone. Follow same cooking time — even if making vegetarian soup.
6. Using tongs, pull out the chicken pieces and shred them using a fork (you may want to let the chicken cool down a bit before doing this).
7. Using a sieve or colander, strain the soup into another stockpot. To the clear strained liquid, add the shredded chicken (vegetarians: you could add tofu instead of chicken at this point), sliced carrots, and zucchini and simmer for another 5-7 minutes.
8. Pour soup into bowls (the soup may be served by itself, or over boiled noodles or steamed rice), squeeze lime over it, and garnish with fresh coriander. Slurp away!
Readily available in Singapore, these juicy seeds can tend to be sour sometimes – in which case we highly recommend sweetening with a dollop of Manuka honey. These ruby red seeds are not only high in anti-oxidants and vitamin C, but also have the potential to keep those little fingers busy for a while. You could also juice pomegranate, and the juice also makes a fabulous natural red food coloring. Stain alert!
I watched a fascinating documentary about an island in Japan (Okinawa) which has some of the healthiest (and oldest) people in the world and guess what one of the key foods in their diet was? Sweet potato! I usually pop over to Liang Court to get the Japanese ones (but the really purple ones from Vietnam are fab, too and much sweeter… almost like eating dessert to be honest!).
Our favorite preparation is simply to rub the outer skin with ghee or butter, pierce all over with a fork and bake for about 30-45 minutes. Add more salt and butter and dig in! High in carbs, sweet potato makes a great side dish or pre-soccer game snack!
Everyone knows I am obsessed with Turmeric! As a powerful anti-inflammatory and antiseptic, ensure that you source high quality organic turmeric (there was recently a major issue with lead in Turmeric in the US) or use fresh turmeric, which can be found at many wet markets in Singapore. Freshly grated turmeric root is perfect in stews and soups, while ground turmeric is great with milk and honey (aka Golden milk). This immunity-boosting spice has a mild taste and should be every mama’s best friend. I’m super excited to share my ‘Get Well Soon’ Turmeric Soup recipe with you!
Known to be a blood purifier and great for hair and skin, fresh fenugreek (also known as methi) is popular in Indian cuisine and easily available at Mustafa or Tekka market. We recommend you sauté it like baby spinach (de-stem, chop finely and cook in ghee with garlic, salt and a pinch of turmeric.) The mild bitterness of this green veggie can be toned down by cooking it with basmati rice (methi pulao), which is how my 3-year-old enjoys it! In case you can’t find the leaves, fenugreek seeds work wonders, too, and can be stirred into lentils or soup.
Whether you buy Manuka, raw, locally sourced or organic…. most honey is great as long as it’s real and made by bees! Just avoid the kind in that teddy bear shaped bottle — that is not real honey, it’s just marketing. Use honey as a substitute for sugar where and when you can. We’ve started using raw honey in cake recipes instead of sugar and you can’t even tell the difference! Honey is great for kids, because despite our best efforts, they will eat sugar…and at least with honey their sugar levels don’t get a sudden jolt. Honey also contains good bacteria and has healing properties.
Get hold of some kefir grains…the milk-based ones are ideal for kids because they result in a delicious yogurt-esque product that can be easily blended with berries and honey to make a yummy smoothie. Loaded with probiotics that heal the gut, Kefir is super simple to make at home once you have the grains. This website (and many others) have all the details you need.
You can’t do a kid superfood list without salmon! Salmon, mackerel and sardines are all high in omega 3’s, and even my 3-year-old knows his favorite, salmon, is good for brain-power! Source responsibly — organic is best (we usually buy ours from SuperNature or Fishwives or Alaska Guys), or purchase from a high quality source (for example: sushi-grade salmon from MEIDI-YA at Liang Court).
A lot of kids say they don’t like salmon/oily fish, but that’s because they may not like the intensity of flavor. We are a fish-loving family and marinade our salmon in gluten-free soy sauce, garlic and lemongrass before simply searing in ghee. But for non fishy fish-eaters you may want to consider fishcakes (see recipe in my kids’ cookbook The Magic Spicebox) which are much more mellow as the fish is mixed with mashed with potato and other mild spices.