Most of the elders in my family were from “the old country”– though from the half dozen languages we speak, you’d think it was several old countries. And we had a tendency to talk really loud, unlike polite Americans who seemed to converse in whispers. In keeping with this European influence, our eating habits were also distinctly un-American—like making a meal out of a zillion cloves of fresh chopped garlic piled atop toasted bread and butter. (Don’t knock it: my grandfather, z”l—the Garlic King—lived to age 97 on that diet.)

But these practices don’t fly with my very American husband. He ate tuna on white bread for lunch every single day for 20 years. After he grew up and left home, breakfast was always Ring Dings and a Coke. My Yankee Doodle darling puts ketchup on everything. I used to cringe when he would squirt ketchup on whatever he served our kids—fries, noodles, cereal—it didn’t matter. That ketchup really rankled me, until I did some research.

I discovered that tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that helps prevent premature aging, several forms of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Now here’s the kicker: the lycopene in ketchup is absorbed four times more efficiently than from raw tomatoes! Let’s hear it for the red, white & blue!

We all want to do what’s right for our kids, particularly when it comes to feeding them wholesome food. But during the summer and this crazy Corona pandemic, I got a bit lazy and gave them treats I would never confess to our nutritionist, Tamar. But now we’re going back to school (at least virtually), and with Rosh Hashanah in view, the season gives us a fresh start. We can make new food choices for ourselves and for our kids.

To help with your daily meal planning, here’s a carefully selected list of best foods for kids. Your job is to work them into their meals and snacks!

THE TOP 10 BEST FOODS FOR KIDS

(From Leanne Ely, C.N.C. author of Healthy Foods: An Irreverent Guide to Understanding Nutrition and Feeding Your Family Well)

1. Oatmeal 

A fabulous breakfast food, full of B vitamins, iron, zinc, and calcium. Its carb load and fiber count offer quick energy for busy kids.

2. Eggs 

A great source of protein and a host of other nutrients, including the B vitamins, vitamin E and zinc, to name a few.

3. Nut Butters 

A super fast food for kids, who need the protein and fat they provide. (A good fat doesn’t have hydrogenated oils mixed into it.) Almond butter is a big favorite. Nuts are a common allergen, so make sure that’s not a problem before giving it to your child.

4. Yogurt 

A great source of calcium, yogurt is easier to digest than regular milk and the cultures (check the label to make sure they’re in there!) are very beneficial to good colon health, especially if your child has been on antibiotics. Watch the sugar content, though. A better idea is to buy plain yogurt and sweeten it yourself with fresh fruit.

5. Melons 

One of the best choices is cantaloupe, with vitamin C, beta-carotene, B vitamins, trace minerals, and calcium in every juicy bite.

6. Broccoli “Trees” or Kugel

Sometimes you can get picky eaters to eat “trees” rather than broccoli. It’s full of calcium and a host of other nutrients, such as potassium, beta-carotene, and B vitamins and if they don't like the trees you can always try kugel or quiche.

7. Sweet Potatoes 

It would take 23 cups of broccoli to get the same 30 mg of beta-carotene as in one cup of sweet potatoes. And with 3 grams of fiber per serving, sweet potatoes deserve a place at the table.

8. Meat, fish, poultry, soy products (like tofu), and legumes 

These all contain protein! Beans combined with a grain make a complete protein, too. Growing kids need protein to keep growing, and with all of these choices, you can keep it coming.

9. Whole Grains 

Brown rice and whole grain breads are a quantum leap over their white counterparts and offer needed fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Don’t shortchange your kids with the white stuff.

10. Orange Juice 

orange juice

OJ is OK in moderation, just don’t give it to your children in place of water. Orange juice is full of vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, folate, and zinc.