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10 Foods to Health Up Your Family

10 Foods to Health Up Your Family

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Updated on Apr 22, 2011

With more attention than ever on the state of kids' health parents are giving their pantries a second look in an attempt to get healthy as a family.

According to both the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Dietetic Association, a private organization of nutrition professionals, kids and young adults are consuming higher calorie diets that are low in nutrients with disturbing effects: the rate of childhood obesity has "doubled among children ages 2 to 11 years, and tripled among adolescents ages 12 to 19" in the last 40 years, research has shown.

Want to kick start healthier days for your family? Here's a list of 10 nutrition rich foods and recipe ideas to get you started.

Digest This: Technicolor Food!

What to Eat: Carrots

The idea that carrots make your eyes pretty is no joke. The beta-carotene that makes carrots orange really does help vision. Plus vitamin K, vitamin C and potassium make the humble carrot a powerful and snackable food.

What It Does: In general, foods saturated with color, like carrots, peppers and collard greens are rich with beta-carotene. Our bodies convert beta-carotene to vitamin A as needed, an essential nutrient our bodies can't produce on their own. It's important to our vision and skin. Beta-carotene itself also has anti-oxidant properties, which protect our cells.

Mix It Up: If you happen to have salad fans on your hands grate up carrots over a salad that includes chopped up tomatoes and avocado with a favorite dressing or vinaigrette. This combination isn't just yummy, it's an optimum way of pairing up foods to get the most of the nutrients they offer. Some nutrients, like beta-carotene, are best absorbed into the body along with a little bit of fat. The healthy fat in avocado, or from a little bit of olive oil satisfies that need. If your kids aren't big fans of raw carrots you can always cook them to make them soft, add them to soup, even grate them into spaghetti sauce or muffin batter.

What to Eat: Spinach

Like other dark leafy greens, it's high in iron. Spinach is also a good source of protein, fiber and niacin.

What It Does: Niacin is a type of B vitamin and according to the Mayo Clinic it helps the body "turn carbohydrates into energy. Niacin also helps keep your nervous system, digestive system, skin, hair and eyes healthy."

Mix It Up: Try replacing iceberg lettuce with this nutrient packed leafy green in salads and sandwiches. And for a wild, yet sweet tasting idea try green milk shakes.

What to Eat: Oats

Oatmeal is a great source of dietary fiber and has been shown to reduce "bad" cholesterol making it a heart healthy food. It's low fat and filling. Plus it's quick.

What It Does: Research shows fiber helps keep some cholesterol from being absorbed by the body, which is how this powerful grain can lower levels of bad cholesterol.

Mix It Up: Prepare plain oatmeal ahead of time and freeze it into individual portions. When you need it heat it up in the microwave and add some brown sugar and milk, or try honey and some fresh fruits like banana and strawberries. Oats can be enjoyed in cold cereals too, and found as muesli, which is just uncooked rolled oats with nuts, dried fruit or chocolate mixed together.

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