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Don’t skip on nutrient-rich white plant foods in favor of more coloful veggies

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It always bothers me to hear the advice “eat the colors of the rainbow.” As the thinking goes, the more colorful the produce, the more nutrients it contains.

But the fact is that many white or off-white plant foods can be just as nourishing as those colorful red, blue, and yellow foods. Here’s a look at what white-colored foods are nutrient-rich, and how they can be made kid-friendly:

Banana

While the peel is banana-yellow, the edible portion is a creamy white. Bananas are a perennial kid favorite and can be baby’s first food when mashed with a fork. Everyone knows they’re loaded with the mineral potassium, but did you know they’re packed with fiber? Bananas are perfect for a backpack, need no refrigeration, and help to soothe hunger pangs when a meal isn’t forthcoming. Whirl into a smoothie, slice on top of cereal or nut butter, or even freeze for a cool treat.

Cauliflower

This classic cold-weather vegetable is loaded with vitamins C and K and glucosinolates.

“Cauliflower is one of my go-to vegetables. It’s a great vegetable that you can prepare and serve in different ways as your kids grow,” says Kathryn Maher, a culinary and public health dietitian in Indiana. “Pureed cauliflower can be a great beginner food. Cooked, whole florets are easy to grab and munch on when your little one is ready.”

For older kids, cauliflower is fantastic when cut into flowerets; tossed with a little fresh chopped rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper; and roasted in the oven.

Celery root

Rich in both iron and vitamin K, this root vegetable is a good source of dietary fiber, which is lacking in many kids’ diets. Traditionally mashed, it can also be eaten raw with a dip.

Jicama

“If you haven’t tried jicama yet, I challenge you to pick one up on your next trip to the grocery store. You will not be disappointed. Jicama has a similar texture to apples, but a milder flavor,” Maher says. “You can bake it, eat it raw or make it sweet or savory. Let your kids help experiment with adding flavor.”

Onion

Pungent and sharp when it’s raw, onion becomes sweet and delicious when cooked until it’s soft and translucent. Like the drummer in a band, always in the background yet missed when it’s absent, onion adds depth of flavor to nearly every savory dish there is. Onions contain the antioxidant quercetin.

Try this the next time you grill hamburgers: Slice a few onions thinly, put into a covered frying pan with a little oil and cook slowly over low heat. After about a half hour, the onions will have caramelized. You can top not only your burgers, but you can add them to sandwiches and salads as well.

Potatoes

These sturdy, budget-friendly tubers tend to be a kids’ fave when ordered as a “fry” at a quick-service restaurant.

When cooked up at home in the form of oven fries, baked, sliced into wedges, and roasted, or even mashed with a little milk and butter, potatoes are a good source of vitamin C and fiber. Surprisingly, they’re a better source of potassium than a banana.

Parsnips

Most kids won’t eat cooked parsnips, but they will eat them if they’re sneaked into stew or soup or included into a medley of oven-roasted root vegetables. A cup of parsnips takes care of almost a third of your vitamin C needs, and is an excellent source of the mineral manganese and dietary fiber.

During this month of snow, incorporate one or more “winter white” foods for good taste and good health.

Christine Palumbo is a registered dietitian nutritionist and Fellow of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a 2018 recipient of the Medallion Award from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Follow her on Twitter @PalumboRD, Facebook at Christine Palumbo Nutrition, or Chris@ChristinePalumbo.com.

Updated 1:46 pm, January 18, 2019
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