Ask your kid what their favorite food is and chances are they won’t name a leafy green vegetable (that is of course unless you happen to live on a planet without cookies). The bigger question is: Are your favorite little humans getting enough folate?
Folate gets its name from “foliage,” so when you think about this essential B vitamin, think leafy greens. Spinach is pretty much the poster child for folate. It’s also present in other naturally occurring foods, including other veggies, some fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and eggs.
Foods High in Folate
- Romaine/Leafy Greens
- Brussel Sprouts
- Bell peppers
- (Nuts, Seeds, Lentils, Peas, Beans, Quinoa*)
*Note: Only consume nuts, seeds, lentils, peas, beans, other legumes, and quinoa if you tolerate them. These foods can cause an inflammatory response in some individuals.
But, still, the biggest question remains: How in the world do you get kids to eat folate?!?!?
Don’t worry! There’s no need to resort to plate-fulls of liver and boiled beets to reap the benefits of this essential nutrient. (But you can if you want!) There’s plenty of ways to fix folate-rich, yummy food that your toddler won’t throw on the floor and your teenager won’t roll his eyes at.
Here are ten hacks to get more folate in your (and your kid’s) diet (without using supplements)!
- Start Small:
Think of your kid’s top three favorite meals. Now, see how you can alter them slightly to include spinach, broccoli, avocado or other naturally occurring folate-rich food.
Place a slice of avocado on that turkey burger or offer guacamole on taco night. Add finely chopped broccoli–steamed, raw, sauteed, whatever–to their scrambled eggs. You can even just take a few florets of frozen broccoli from the freezer and only heat up as much as you need.
Start with small changes and then gradually increase the number and frequency of new foods and dishes. Opt for tiny alterations early on and avoid the emotional hiccups of overhauls.
- Create Kid-Friendly Snacks:
For snack time, lunch time or anytime, these delicious morsels are derived from fresh food with naturally occurring folate.
Ladybugs on a Stick: Remember coming home from school and making ants on a log? Here’s a new twist! Put guacamole on celery sticks and top with cherry tomatoes!
Dairy-Free Chocolate Pudding: In a food processor or blender, add 1 ripened avocados, and 2 ripe bananas, along with 2 tablespoons coconut milk or water and 2 tablespoons cacao or carob powder. (Note: carob is significantly higher in carbohydrates than cacao but can have a less stimulating effect than cacao). If you find that your bananas were not quite ripe enough to lend enough sweetness to the treat, consider adding the plant-sweetened and sugar-free Stevia Leaf Sweet Drops in vanilla flavor or a bit of maple syrup. Chill and serve.
Owl Deviled Eggs: Mix the yokes of 4 hard boiled eggs and 1 avocado in a bowl with salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. Add a squirt of lime juice. Fill egg halves with mixture. Next, on each egg half. put two black olive slices on for the eyes, 1 carrot piece for the beak, 2 basil leaves for the wings. These are adorable, yummy and are gonna be the envy of the lunch table.
- Chomp on Carrot Fries:
While leafy greens tend to get all the applause in the folate world, carrots also make a contribution. And, if you’re little human won’t touch a leafy green with a ten foot pole right now, maybe focus on food sources he’ll actually eat (sans blood, sweat and tears).
The caramelized sweetness of these baked carrots tempt anyone from toddlers to teens and beyond. Simply cut five to seven carrots into thin slices. Toss with a tablespoon or two of avocado, coconut or olive oil and sprinkle on the salt. (For a faux cheese effect (and extra B vitamins), add ¼ cup of nutritional yeast!) Spread on a baking sheet and cook at 375 for 10 minutes. Flip the fries and return to the oven for additional 10-15 minutes.
- Berries and Greens Smoothie:
In a blender, add 1-2 cups frozen spinach, 1-2 cups frozen strawberries, half a banana, ¼-½ avocado and 1 cup coconut milk or water. (If you tolerate nuts and seeds, you can add 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, almond butter or sunbutter.)
- Sizzle with a Skillet Fajita Dinner:
Because bell peppers are high in folate and provide an array of colors, this recipe is a must! Cut 2 bell peppers in thin slices along with a red onion. Saute in 1 tablespoon olive oil or ghee until soft. Remove from skillet. To 1 tablespoon oil or ghee, add 2 lbs chopped chicken breast to skillet with fajita seasoning. After a few minutes, flip the chicken and return veggies to skillet. Add lime juice and fresh cilantro. (Want to take it up a notch? Add chopped purple cabbage to your veggie mix!)
Toss the tortillas. Romaine leaves are bounding with folate, so consider just sticking with the greens–especially since some people find corn inflammatory and wheat can be fortified.
Substitute “riced” cauliflower (just tiny chunks of the veggie in fresh or frozen form) instead of the classic variety to add to your fiesta!
- Say Yum to Squash:
Butternut squash a winter squash which is higher in folate than the summer varieties like zucchini and yellow squash. Other winter squashes include pumpkins, acorn squash, delicata, carnival and spaghetti squash.
Yum Cinnamon Squash: Skip the peeling and seeding by opting for the pre-cut variety for this warming side of cinnamon butternut squash. Toss cubed veggies in 2 tablespoons coconut or avocado oil, 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon and a ½ teaspoon of salt. (Optional: 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup.) Add to a (foil-lined if you’re concerned) pan and bake at 400 F for 20 minutes, flip and return for an additional 10-15 minutes.
Butternut Squash Rotini and Dairy-Free Cheese: Move over, Mac. Skip the fortified pasta and use squash that has been crinkle cut to resemble rotini. It can often be found in the refrigerated section by other cut and packaged veggies. The “cheese” come from the powdered nutritional yeast. (Trader Joe’s is a good place to find both the butternut squash rotini and nutritional yeast.)
In a blender, combine 1 cup of soaked cashews (let ‘em hang out in a bowl of water overnight, then drain), ½ cup nutritional yeast, ¾ cup unsweetened coconut or almond milk, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon turmeric and ½-1 teaspoon salt. Blend. In a skillet, melt ¼ cup ghee. Add 1 package of shaped butternut squash. Let cook for three minutes. Add “cheese” sauce and cook until warm.
Autumn-Inspired Butternut Squash Rotini: Alternatively, you can skip the cheese sauce and just saute diced apples, celery, onions and chopped spinach in the ghee. Got some prepared ground turkey? Throw it in too.
Add cinnamon for a sweet taste or freshly minced garlic for something with more kick. Or just use garlic powder. Combine squash and other veggies in the skillet. Cook together until squash is soft.
- Buy Fruit and Veggie Pouches Higher in Folate:
Got a little tyke who can’t get enough of those squeezable applesauce pouches? Swap their tried-and-true apple-only kind for one containing spinach, too!
Ready for the next level? Beets which are just teeming with folate! Varieties that also contain other flavors like a banana with the beets will be sweeter and thus less likely to be thrown on the floor in protest or smeared on the wall as finger paint.
What if you buy it, try it, and it’s a no-go? Squeeze drops of the fruit and veggie pouch on a piece of wax paper that can easily be transferred to the freezer. Offer them as tiny frozen fruit-and-veggie bites instead.
At a standstill? Add the contents in a smoothie for your lil’ one…or for you!
- Hide and Seek:
Your mission, if you choose to accept it is to seek out ways to use nutrient dense folate-rich foods as often as possible!
(“Hide, really?” I hear you. There’s totally value in having conversations and ensuring sure we teach children the value of the foods they’re eating and how the nutrients contribute to their overall health. Maybe not approach is so much as “pulling the wool over their eyes” but rather “I’m modeling how to prioritize optimal nutrition…and we’re gonna squeeze it in any way we can!”)
Here’s an easy option: Anything involving ground beef, chicken or turkey can also involve hidden greens! Just throw in a few handfuls of spinach as you brown your meat. The greens magically cook down to almost nothing so pre-chopping isn’t necessarily. They may be none the wiser.
- Include your Little Helpers:
Sometimes, kids are more willing to try to foods if they are a part of the process. Enlist your kiddo’s help in actually prepping and cooking the dinner. Can they help you wash veggies in a strainer? Put clean veggies on a baking sheet? Use a crinkle cutter (a special not-really-sharp knife designed for kids) to chop veggies? Water a basil plant and pick the best leaves to add to dinner? Maybe let them wear that apron you never use.
- Go Nuts (and Seeds and Legumes…Maybe) :
Nuts, seeds and legumes can offer heaps of folate, but beware. These types of foods can cause an inflammatory response in some people.
Try these folate options only if you tolerate these foods:
- Hummus with fresh cauliflower florets
- Sunflower seed butter with apple slices and carrot sticks
- Lentil or black bean pasta
- Quinoa in place of rice with a chicken and asparagus stir fry
- Crunchy green peas or chickpeas roasted in avocado or olive oil
The tricky thing about food intolerances is that the symptoms vary and can be popup anywhere from a couple of minutes to a couple weeks after ingestion. Some people experience bloating and digestive issues, hives or rashes, headaches or runny noses just to name a few. Tracking and be tricky and often an elimination diet is helpful in determining how individuals respond to unique foods. Looking for more guidance? A functional medicine practitioner can help you discover your best eating plan and the next steps for your health journey.
- Think about a folate-rich food your kid already eats regularly. This week, when he or she is happily munching away on it, give ‘em a high five for awesome folate fuel! (Mini-nutrition lesson optional)
- Look at the folate food list. What food(s) are you and your family already consuming?
- Pick one new folate-rich food for your family to try this week. (Find recipe ideas here.)
Are your favorite little humans getting enough folate? Discover How to Get Your Kids to Eat more Folate (at Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner)