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Superfoods for Supper

Rushed as dinner can be for most families, it's also critical for "smart" eating. It's usually the only meal where children get to see adults eating--and enjoying--a variety of different foods. Nutritionists have discovered that what parents say to and offer kids make little difference; they will eat primarily what you eat.

You can help that process along by involving kids in supper choices whenever possible, says Johnson: "Should we have salmon or chicken? Green beans or peas?" That said, here are foods to include regularly at the dinner table.

Beef
Iron deficiency is the most common type of nutritional shortfall in American children, and the number one nutrition disorder in the world. And poor performance at school could be a symptom. Even a minor deficiency can cause a decline in cognitive functioning, says Mary J. Kretsch, PhD, a researcher at the USDA-ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis, CA. Primarily, it seems to affect kids' ability to pay attention.

Lean beef is one of the best absorbed sources of iron there is. The amount of meat consumed matters less than you think. Kretsch says that adding even as little as 1 ounce of beef per day has been shown to make a big difference in the body's ability to absorb iron from other sources.

An added brain bonus: Beef packs plenty of zinc, and even minor zinc deficiencies have been shown to impair memory.

Turn up the appeal
You already know they love burgers and steak. Have them help you make beef kebabs on the grill, or pick out their favorite vegetables to toss into a stir-fry.

The Third-string Produce Team
"We know that far more than any one food, variety is what promotes optimal nutrition in kids," says Johnson. Because parents tend to offer the healthy choices we know will get eaten--let's say, apples and carrots-we tend to forget there are other foods kids have enjoyed in the past.

Remember celery and nectarines? And how about kidney beans and raspberries? By resisting the urge to revert to their favorites, you boost variety--and nutrition.

Turn up the appeal
Turn them loose in the produce aisle. Ask each child to pick out three fruits they like, and three vegetables.



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