Sunday, October 13, 2013

How to Cook Healthy Food for Kids : Healthy Spaghetti Recipe

Most people intuitively know that vegetables are healthy.  But sometimes it can be difficult to objectively compare the nutrition value of one food compared to another.  Classifying food based on calories doesn't reflect the content of essential vitamins and minerals in foods.  Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of Eat For Health and Eat To Live classifies food according to the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) score.  
The ANDI score assigns foods a point value based on their ratio of micronutrients to calories.  ANDI scores range from zero to 1,000, with zero being the least nutrient dense and 1,000 being the most nutrient dense.

For example, kale and other dark green leafy vegetables have ANDI scores of 1,000.  In general, vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains, and nuts have higher ANDI scores while highly refined sweets have very low ANDI scores.  When it comes to feeding your kids, choosing foods that have higher ANDI scores and cutting out foods with low ANDI scores is a great way of maximizing their nutrition.  In fact, the ANDI scoring system was adopted by Whole Foods Market grocery stores so you can use it the next time you go grocery shopping.

Unfortunately, despite some improvements in labeling to promote healthier eating like ANDI scores, many Americans today still choose foods based on brand recognition and commercial advertising.  Old habits are hard to break.  In the following clip entitled, Bok Choy To The Future, I go back in time to promote healthier eating.

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Somewhat paradoxically, dark green leafy vegetables are the most nutrient dense foods available to kids, but they also the most challenging foods for kids to accept.  One study found that hiding pureed vegetables into foods is an effective strategy to increase vegetables intake in young children.  I used this trick in the above clip to incorporate dark green vegetables into a flavorful spaghetti sauce.  In other words, the secret is in the sauce!  The recipe for this sauce can be found at the following link:


Spill MK et al.  Hiding vegetables to reduce energy density: an effective strategy to increase children's vegetable intake and reduce energy intake.  Am J Clin Nutr 2011;94:735-41. 

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