What Vegetables should You Give to Babies and Children

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vegetables_cWe know that children need vegetables to be healthy and grow, but what vegetables should we give our babies and children? Here is a list of them and some information about their qualities. Not only vegetarians eat lots of vegetables, every person should. Give your children broccoli, pumpkin, carrots, cauliflower, courgettes, garlic, cabbage, lettuce, onions, leeks, parsnips, peas, potatoes, peppers, spinach, sweetcorn, tomatoes and many other vegetables.

Brightly coloured vegetables contain a wide variety of phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that wilt give us a higher chance of preventing diseases such as coronary heart disease and cancer. Tinned tomatoes and passata retain most of their nutrients but do also contain salt.

Broccoli is a true SuperFood as it is a great source of vitamin C and also contains betacarotene, folic acid, iron, potassium and anti-cancer phytonutrients. Broccoli is best steamed or microwaved as boiling in water it halves its vitamin C content. If your baby isn't keen on the taste, mix it with a sweet-tasting vegetable like sweet potato, swede or butternut squash (pumpkin).

Butternut squash (pumpkin) and pumpkin are easily digested and rarely cause allergies, therefore they make perfect weaning food. It provides an excellent source of betacarotene. Butternut squash (pumpkin) is very appealing to babies as they love its sweet taste - and it is a very good source of the antioxidant betacarotene.

Carrots are rich in betacarotene, the plant form of vitamin A, and make excellent weaning food as babies like their naturally sweet taste. Darker, older carrots contain more betacarotene than baby, new carrots. Carrots are more nutritious when cooked, unlike many other vegetables. Cooking breaks open the plant cells so antioxidants and other plant chemicals can be absorbed much better. Carrots contain large amounts of carotene, an antioxidant that gives it its orange colour. Carrots do improve night vision. They are an excellent source of betacarotene, which is formed in the body into vitamin A and one of the first symptoms of vitamin A deficiency is night blindness.

Cauliflower provides a good source of vitamin C and also contains folic acid and glucosinolates, which are sulphurous compounds that help to protect against certain forms of cancer.

Courgettes (zucchini) are a good source of betacarotene but most of the nutrients lie in the skin, so do not peel them.

Garlic has the reputation of a cure-all in folk medicine and has been proven to help develop resistance to infection. Garlic contains allicin, which acts as a -natural antibiotic and antifungal, and it is also high in antioxidants. Worshipped by the Ancient Egyptians, chewed by the Greek athletes and essential for keeping vampires at bay, garlic is also good for zapping bacteria, maintaining a healthy heart and warding off colds.

Green cabbage is rich in betacarotene and vitamin C. Cabbage belongs to the crucifer family whose protective powers against cancer have been demonstrated in many studies. The phytochemicals in cabbage were once thought to be poisonous to humans. It also contains antioxidants that fight coronary heart disease by mopping up free radicals.

Lettuce is rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, calcium and folic acid. The darker the lettuce leaves, the more nutrients they contain. Lettuce also contains phytochemicals that act as a mild sedative and may help induce sleep. Always remove and discard the outer leaves of lettuce.

Onions are from the same family as garlic and many experts believe that they can help lower blood

cholesterol and contain substances that help to prevent the blood from clotting. It is believed that the sulphur compounds in onions may help prevent the growth of cancer cells.

Onions and leeks have a protective action on the circulatory system that helps to prevent your blood clotting. With children eating more and more junk food, fatty deposits in the arteries can now be found in even the youngest children.

Parsnips provide a good source of starch and fibre. They also contain the antioxidant vitamins C and E.

Peas belong in the SuperVeggie league, being a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as folic acid and B vitamins.

Potatoes contain vitamin C, and are a good source of potassium. They also blend well with most vegetables. Potatoes provide us with a good source of complex carbohydrate, which is a good source of energy. They also contain vitamin C, potassium and - as long as they remain unpeeled - fibre. Baked potatoes are very good for children and you can top them with baked beans for added fibre.

Red peppers (capsicums) are one of the best vegetable sources of vitamin C and contain three times as much vitamin C as oranges. They are also rich in betacarotene. So adding red pepper to a tomato sauce is a good way to boost its nutrient content and colour.

Root vegetables make the perfect weaning food because of their naturally sweet taste and smooth texture when pureed.

Spinach is rich in chlorophyll, the green pigment found in plants which helps prevent and treat anaemia. Spinach is a good source of betacarotene and vitamin C so do not overcook it or you will destroy a lot of its content. But despite popular opinion - and Popeye - it is not a particularly good source of iron.

Sweetcorn is high in fibre and vitamin C. Corn-on-the-cob spread with a little melted butter is fun for children to eat - cut it in half for young children.

Sweet potato comes in two varieties: orange-fleshed and creamy-fleshed. Both have red skins and both are good sources of potassium, vitamin C and fibre. However, I prefer to use the orange-fleshed variety, which is also an excellent source of betacarotene. This helps to prevent certain types of cancer and mops up free radicals.

Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins C and E and betacarotene. Sometimes it's a good idea to substitute them for ordinary potatoes.

Tomatoes contain lycopene, a powerful pigment important in the prevention of cancer. Men who have a high level of lycopene in their fat stores are half as likely to have a heart attack. One of the factors of the good health of the Mediterranean people may be that their diet is rich in fruit and vegetables, including tomatoes.

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