Red lentil soup, also known as Masoor Daal, is a staple in most Indian households, with each family possessing a slight variation in how it's prepared. Jazzed up with turmeric, cumin and other spices and served with veggies and whole wheat bread (roti) or rice, daal is a fixture at every meal, packing a vegetarian protein punch as well as fibre and B vitamins. Most importantly, it is absolutely delicious and soul-warming. My four year old loves it, which is a fact that definitely warms my soul.
Green vegetables really are all they're chalked up to be.
Bursting with cancer-fighting phyto (plant-based) nutrients, as well as fibre, vitamin C, B vitamins like folate and minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron (great for vegetarians!), green vegetables have been an integral part of many healthy ancient diets. Sadly, the intake of green veggies in the West today is far from optimal, with debilitating health consequences.
So what's the big deal about greens anyway? Can't we get all the same nutrients from 'tastier', more kid-friendly veggies? Not so fast.
A recent study shed even more light on the benefits of green veggies, which contain an important type of sugar called sulfoquinorose. Complicated nomenclature aside, these SQ sugars are food for the good bacteria in our guts. A healthy gut means a healthy you - this makes gut-friendly greens even more critical in our diets.
Getting kids to eat their greens, however, isn't always an easy task. We have likely tried and failed, facing vehement rejection. We may have occasionally snuck them into soups, stews, fritters and frittatas in an effort to get our tots to enjoy their umpteen benefits.
While there's nothing wrong with occasionally disguising veggies, I was determined to get my almost 4 year old son to embrace and celebrate greens in their natural, pure, unadulterated form, in order to set the stage for a lifetime of 'green veggie loving' (wishful thinking?).
And so, I played around with a bag of frozen spinach until I found a recipe that was a home run. I share it with you today in the hope that your kids and families will enjoy it as much as we have.
Here's to loving our greens!
A Note On Spinach And Oxalates
Spinach and some other greens contain oxalic acid which reduces the absorption of calcium from that same food. As long as you are not eating boatloads of spinach daily or relying on it as your main source of calcium, this should not be an issue. For this reason I also suggest varying your greens. Kale, Swiss Chard and Collard Greens are all worth bringing into your rotation.
When meat is cooked at high temperatures like when grilling on an open flame, the creatine, amino acids and sugars in the meat form chemical compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that cause mutations in our DNA and ultimately, at high enough doses, cancer (why does everything that's fun and delicious have a downside?! Boo). Fascinatingly, anti-oxidant rich marinades containing spices like turmeric and certain herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, mint) can substantially reduce HCA formation! This marinade combines several anti-oxidant spices for a flavour and anti-carcinogenic boost. Like I've said on many occasions, if only our conventional meds tasted this good!
Here I present a nutritious version of my beloved childhood potato cake that is ideal for the lunchbox and the family table. Cooled in the lunchbox, these energising patties provide resistant starch that feed the friendly bugs in our colon, promoting digestive and overall health and vitality. Enjoyed hot or cold, they are brimming with complex carbohydrate for sustained energy as well as B and C vitamins, highly absorbable minerals, complete protein and fibre. Spiced lightly with digestion boosting and iron-rich cumin, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer turmeric and anti-bacterial cilantro, these are 'I can't believe it's good for me' delicious. I hope your kids love them as much as we do.
As previously discussed, cumin is the perfect spice for babies' unique needs - (1) Pro-digestion, (2) Immunity-boosting, (3) Anti-microbial and (4) Iron-rich - but it has additional powers that also make it ideal for the whole family. Cumin's benefits, in addition to those mentioned above, include: (5) Anti-cancer / Anti-oxidant, (6) Anti-diabetes (7) Anti-osteoporotic. While high doses of spices are often required to see disease-modifying effects, a close inspection of the amounts of cumin involved revealed that levels attainable through diet (a teaspoon a day) can have positive benefits on measures like cholesterol, lipid levels and body weight. A generous sprinkling on a fried egg for breakfast, in a lentil soup for lunch and in this chicken curry for dinner could get you to a high enough concentration to see health benefits, no pill required!
Khichdi, a rice and lentil porridge, often prepared with vegetables, is a revered food in the ancient Indian medical system known as Ayurveda (translated the Science of Life). The combination of rice and lentils provides all essential amino acids. When made with white rice (stay tuned for my post on my data-driven massive change of heart about brown rice for babies!), the dish is thought to be extremely energising and healing for the digestive tract and is highly recommended for babies who are learning to flex their digestive muscle. Khichdi also presents itself as a canvas for various vegetables rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. The addition of spices like turmeric and cumin boosts the antioxidant content and augments the digestibility of the lentils, although one typically uses skinned yellow or red lentils for babies, which are easier to digest anyway. All of these factors make khichdi a great addition to baby's meal plan, elevating it with science and flavour.
Butternut squash is not only delicious but alive with nutrients - carotenoids (that become vitamin A in the body), antioxidants, anti-inflammatory molecules, types of starches that aid in blood sugar regulation, B vitamins, including folate and surprisingly, a bit of omega-3 fats in the form of alpha linoleic acid, also a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Squash is abundant in winter and affordable so there really is every reason to make it part of your family table. Combined here with antioxidant-rich spices that regulate blood sugar, exhibit antibacterial effects and boost digestion, to name a few of the benefits, this delicious and soul-warming soup is sheer health and deliciousness in a bowl.
If you hate beets it might be because you, like me, were only offered the boiled, sad preparation growing up. But beets done right can be addictive and delicious. My toddler definitely thinks so and I, having introduced them to him as a bay, am taking all the credit ;) Beets are not just gorgeous to look at but so amazing for our bodies, particularly due to their detoxification and anti-inflammatory powers, in addition to being a solid source of folate. Cumin is a fantastic digestive aid and antioxidant. It’s also a good source of iron! In this dish, cumin’s smoky and nutty flavours beautifully complement the earthiness and sweetness of beets. We suggest pressure-cooking or steaming (versus boiling) the beets to preserve nutrients. Here, they join forces with probiotic and calcium-rich yoghurt to create a nutritious, delicious, flavour-packed puree any budding gourmet will love.
The content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. We do not claim that any of the spices or recipes we discuss are a substitute for modern medicine or will cure you of a disease or ailment. Please consult with your doctor before introducing spices or any new foods mentioned on this site to your baby or kid if you are concerned about their reaction to them.