For Preschoolers: 4 to 5 years
Your little one can eat most adult foods now, so emphasize wide variety. “Focus on color diversity and avoid beige,” says Halas-Liang. “Make plates reflect all the colors of the rainbow.” This is also the time to start modeling healthy behavior; kids are old enough now to really pay attention to what you’re eating, so keep your own plate clean. Stay away from added sugar, artificial flavors and processed foods, and minimize refined carbs. “Teach kids to eat whole food, like it comes out of the ground,” Neustaedter says. He also cautions that parents of children with a family history of nut allergies omit walnuts from the staples listed here.
Tot-Smart Staples: 4 to 5 years
• celery sticks
• almond butter
• frozen salmon burgers
• gluten-free penne pasta
• cherry tomatoes
• frozen shrimp
• sulfite-free dried apricots
• prunes (pitted)
• sprouted wheat tortillas
• unsalted pretzel sticks
• frozen broccoli florets
• whole-grain crackers
• black beans
• frozen strawberries
• organic hot dogs
Quick-Fix Recipe: 4 to 5 years
Black Bean, Red Pepper and Pumpkin Burritos With Avocado
Each of these tasty rolls sneaks in a serving of antioxidant-rich pumpkin and red pepper. Make the whole recipe, wrap extras in foil and freeze for fast, last-minute lunches.
2 cups cooked black beans or 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup mild salsa
1 small red pepper, cored and diced
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup cooked or frozen and thawed broccoli florets, finely chopped
1 small avocado, mashed
8 sprouted wheat tortillas or gluten-free tortillas
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1 cup low-fat shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Combine beans, salsa and red pepper in a medium pot. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until peppers are tender.
Stir in pumpkin puree and broccoli florets into beans and heat through.
Spread 1 to 2 tablespoons of mashed avocado on the center of a tortilla. Spoon about 1/2 cup bean mixture onto bottom half of tortilla, spreading to within 1 inch of sides and bottom. Sprinkle with olives and cheese.
Fold in 1 inch of sides over filling. Roll up from bottom, keeping sides tucked in. Place seam-side down on a plate and repeat with remaining tortillas.
Wrap extra burritos tightly in foil and refrigerate for 4 to 5 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. To reheat frozen burritos, unwrap foil and heat in microwave for 2 to 3 minutes or in a 350-degree F oven for 15 minutes. Carefully unwrap and serve.
Lisa Turner is a food writer and mom in Boulder, Colo., who constantly cooks up ways to make fast, healthy food for her family.