I have the neighbor, and friend, everyone wishes they had. The kind who will let you rummage through her pantry for paprika when she’s out of town. Or good-humoredly agree to sample your child’s latest homemade “super-sour gum” that looks like it’s been chewed up and spit out already.
So I wasn’t surprised when Ingrid, who’s a registered dietitian and health coach, generously agreed to give a presentation to my daughter Riley’s 2nd-grade class.
It was a fairly casual, interactive discussion about making healthy food choices, but the highlight was a DIY breakfast parfait table with a pretty impressive spread of ingredients.
Here’s what she brought for the kids to choose from and layer upon layer:
Stoneyfield Organic low-fat French Vanilla yogurt
Fresh pineapple, diced
Frozen wild blueberries, thawed
Fresh organic strawberries, diced
Fresh yellow mango, diced
Cascadian Farm Oats and Honey granola
Carrington Farms chia seeds
Bob’s Red Mill unsweetened shredded coconut
I would say just about every child in that room finished his or her colorful little parfait cup.
And had a load of questions for Ingrid. So I thought I’d interview her about this simple, but brilliant, parfait making idea and what makes it the perfect breakfast food for kids.
So, Ingrid, you know that Donkey from “Shrek” says, “parfait’s gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!” Obviously a healthy breakfast parfait isn’t exactly what Donkey had in mind, but was this your line of thinking here?
Well, like you said, the word parfait conjures up images of a fun dessert with layers of color and delicious toppings. My thought was that if kids were allowed to put together their own parfaits they would be more apt to eat them, so why not provide a lineup of colorful healthy fruit with some fun and interesting add-ins like coconut, chia seeds and granola and let them create their own personal parfaits.
Do fresh fruits really make a difference (over frozen — to save time in the morning rush)? What’s the difference between fresh and frozen in terms of nutritional value?
Both fresh and frozen fruits (and vegetables) are nutritional powerhouses. However, when deciding which version to choose I usually ask myself the following question: Is it currently in season? If yes, I choose fresh. Seasonal produce always tastes better and is usually a better value. And more grocery stores are starting to purchase produce from local sources, which cuts down on travel time. The shorter the time between harvest and retail, the more nutrients are retained. That being said, frozen fruits and vegetables are an excellent choice any time because they have been picked at the peak of ripeness and flash frozen shortly thereafter, which retains all their nutrients. The important thing to pay attention to with frozen produce is the ingredient label. Nothing but the fruit itself should appear on it.
What’s up with the chia seeds — are these really good for us?
Yes they are! Chia seeds are high in fiber, contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential to human health, and are also an excellent source of protein and calcium.
And what does coconut have in it?
To be honest, coconut (the unsweetened kind) just tastes good! It has a little bit of fiber and iron, but should be eaten in moderation due to its high saturated fat content, although this type of saturated fat is not as bad for you as the animal-based sources of saturated fats.
I heard you tell the kids they should “eat the rainbow.” Can you explain?
Foods with deep colors, the kind that fruits and vegetables contain, are concentrated sources of phytonutrients. For example, the blues and purples are flavanoids, and the reds, yellows and oranges are carotenoids. There are thousands of phytonutrients in plant foods, many of which have been shown to protect against diseases like cancer, high blood pressure and eye disease. I think they will be linking phytonutrients to many more health benefits in the future, as well. So eating the rainbow is eating for health.
Can you suggest a few other healthy, and quick, breakfast ideas for kids?
Sure, I love peanut butter on toasted whole grain bread with banana slices, and fruit smoothies, especially if you can sneak in some greens. In the summer, I like to make overnight oatmeal. Just mix together a cup of vanilla yogurt, a cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, a cup of rolled oats, 2 cups of fresh or frozen mixed berries, ¼ teaspoon of vanilla and some honey to taste. Refrigerate overnight and you have a great-tasting cold oatmeal ready to go in the morning. If you have time, toast some chopped almonds or walnuts to sprinkle on top. I also like Meal Makeover Moms.com; they are a great source for kid-friendly recipes.
What if someone wants to have a dietitian visit his or her child’s class and do a similar food demonstration? Where would be the best place to find a willing soul like you (assuming you’re busy)?
Contact the Greater Atlanta Dietetic Association at eatrightatlanta.org.
Ingrid Hill is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in corporate wellness and private consultations.