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Top 10 Nutrient Rich Foods


When people talk about the nutrient density of food, they are considering the amount of nutrients, divided by the total calories.  A food with excellent nutrient denseness would have loads of nutrients for very few calories.

Since our little ones don’t consume a large  number of calories, we should be sure the calories they are getting are dense with nutrients!  Of course the most nutrient dense foods are… VEGETABLES!  Each individual nutrient is packaged in a vegetable with other nutrients that allow them to work synergistically, giving us maximum benefits.

So, what are foods are the most nutrient dense? Here are the top 10 (from WHFoods)  Considering micronutrients to total calories (and eliminating calf liver.. cause I just didn’t want to count it …Bleehhhh)

  • 1-Spinach  (We are good with this one… especially spinach salads we love)
  • 2-Swiss Chard (Honestly, have not tried)
  • 3-Crimini Mushrooms (I love all mushrooms… my kids won’t touch them…Yet)
  • 4-Asparagus (My kids favorite way to eat Asparagus requires just a little brown sugar, but it’s so delicious!)
  • 5-Broccoli (Check-they will all eat Broccoli now.  Cooked or raw)
  • 6-Romaine Lettuce/ Salads (No problem)
  • 7-Collard Greens (Haven’t given this a good try yet, but I’ve purchased it a few times- it ended up going bad)
  • 8-Kale/ Mustard Greens (Ditto to Collard greens)
  • 9-Tomatoes (The kids can be picky about tomatoes. They are limited to eating it as a dip like salsa, or other bean dips)
  • 10-Brussel Sprouts (Haven’t tried these either)

Next week I’ll try to make something with the vegetables we’ve never tried for my kids.  We’ll see how they react.  I can already tell you Collard Greens might start a fight.

When it comes right down to it, getting your kids to not only eat their vegetables, but like it too is going to give them a healthy advantage.

I’ve been wanting to spend more time on this blog diving into fruits and vegetables exclusively.  So, I was thrilled to find this site: Today I Ate A Rainbow! I love it!!!

We eat 6 out of the 10 (60%).  How is your family doing on the top 10?

Natalie Monson

I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.

Learn More about Natalie

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long question for you! my kids have nut allergies and my daughter developed pollen food allergy this year, which means she is allergic to many raw fruits and veggies (hers is birch tree pollen allergy which is, of course, a huge list of things that may trigger her allergies!). if the trigger foods are cooked, that will break down the proteins, so the reaction doesn’t occur, but even so, she is reluctant to try fruits and veg. so, i feel frustrated b/c she’s not eating very much healthy stuff at all! meanwhile, brother will only eat fruit and veg! they are like jack sprat and his wife! so, any tips or ideas on this theme?

It makes me feel a lot better to know that even you haven’t tried some veggies and that once-in-a-while you let some healthy stuff go bad! 🙂 Thanks for being honest and for trying to help us all eat a little healthier!

Thanks for the list! My son is pretty good about eating several of these veggies, my twin 2 year old girls not so much! A tip for brussel sprouts: I buy the petite frozen ones – not as bitter. I’ve roasted them with olive oil, and sauteed them with a little butter and garlic, then you can add toasted pine nuts – yummy! ?You can also saute and add a little dijon to the pan at the end. I can even get my husband who clims to not like them to eat them!

My son (6yrs) eats 6/10 on the list. Brussels sprouts are his all time favorite for dinner and cold in his lunches at school. My daughter (9yrs) only 4/10. I’ve been trying to find a way to cook Swiss Chard so they’ll eat it.

Thanks for the list. I’ll have to work harder on the ones they don’t eat.

9/10 here – using a CSA helped us try veggies we normally wouldn’t have thought of. I don’t like mushrooms, and I’m guilty of not buying them/having my kids try them. I’ll have to work on that. Greens are great chopped and mixed into vegetable or grain salads or pasta. Brussels sprouts are awesome tossed with olive oil and salt and roasted. My son gobbles them up and then steals any that are left on my plate.

We LOVE brussells sprouts! Shred them like cabbage or slice in half and then roast them just like broccoli. It is so good! The only addition necessary is a little sugar to help take out the bitterness in the brussells sprouts, and I also add a splash (like 1 tsp.) of vinegar to help balance the bitterness. It is so good!
And swiss chard is really good if you add it to soups, chopped up. It wilts a little, but still holds some shape. It’s part of the Olive Garden Zupa Tuscano soup recipe I have. But I’ve also heard you can saute it, like asparagus.

Amy, I am growing collards in my garden and we have a jungle if you ever want to come pick. Also, I have a yummy Brazillian way to make them that you could try. Kids may or may not like it, but worth a try.

I recently posted a recipe that you could easily experiment with some collard greens. Also mushrooms- chop them and mix them in something and they just may not know. I have made a spinach and tomato pizza where I did that and am actually going to be doing yet another post with chopped mushrooms- my kids (or husband) didn’t even notice. I have never had brussel sprouts therefore, unfortunately, my kids haven’t either. Other then that we mix our stuff in smoothies or even grilled cheese sandwiches.

Amy, thanks for your great blog! This is unrelated to veggies but I’m hoping you will still know the answer. I have a recipe that calls for agave nectar, I don’t have any on hand but I need to make it – today! Is there something I can sub in for it?

You always have great ideas. I’ll let you know how the brussel sprouts goes over.. and PS. You can have Joel’s calculator back! Chem is over!!

We have tried 9/10 (collard greens are the only things we haven’t eaten, and we are from the South)! We eat about 7/10 pretty frequently. Have you tried kale chips? My girls really liked them, I loved them! Brussel sprouts are delicious roasted-even my girls eat them. I have cooked swiss chard in a quinoa pilaf before but I really don’t like quinoa (and I have tried it a million ways). I guess I should give the swiss chard another chance minus the quinoa!

9 out of 10. And it will stay that way. I hate mushrooms, and my son detests them as well. I fine with that though.

We eat nine out of ten but we just can not do brussel sprouts. I can’t think of a food that my husband and I detest more and since we are so crippled by our disgust, we have never served them to our girls. They will have to try them some place else I suppose!

Right after I gave birth to my twins, a friend brought over a huge pile of collard greens cooked in canola oil with LOTS of garlic, black-eyed peas, and some salt. It was so simple yet incredibly delicious. That’s the only way I prepare them now. (I suppose you could substitute the canola oil for another kind and it would still taste good.)

I make a smoothie every morning with kale and spinach in it! I got the recipe from Whole Life Nutrition. I’ve adapted my smoothie (6 strawberries, 1 nectarine, 1/2 c of yogurt, 1/2 inch of ginger, 5 spinach leaves, 5 kale leaves, and 1 cabbage leaf, splash of juice, juice from half a lemon/lime, and handful of ice). You really can use whatever fruit and greens you have in your fridge. The strawberries are a great way to go b/c the smoothie will be red, and you can get your kids and hubby to drink it when it isn’t so green! I also love a rachel ray recipe with asparagus, its lemon & chives spaghetti.

We’re at 8/10. I’ve never tried Collard Greens or Kale. Brussel sprouts are my 12 year olds favorite veggie. I steam them and eat them plain, but the kids like them with a little butter and salt. We’re actually having them with dinner tonight.
The smaller ones taste the best.

Try kale in your green smoothies. Collard greens are good sauteed and spritz with a little apple cider vinegar. (kind of like cooked spinach).

I really am enjoying your blog! What great ideas. I need to get my boys on a better eating plan! Will be reviewing more of your ideas!!! ~Kimberly

What a great list!! Thanks. I ditto almost exacltly what you say about if we like them or not. I put kaler or collard greens in our green smooties. And also my kids love brussel sprouts!! I get them with bountiful baskets!

There’s a great way to make kale – our family cannot get enough. You take a bunch, toss it w/ a tbsp olive oil and a shake or two of seasoned salt (we like Tony Chachere’s) and then bake it at 350 for 15-20 minutes until it’s crispy. It’s SOOOOO good! We do broccoli the same way! My girls don’t really like squishy things so we make our yummy stuff crunchy!

we’re 10 for 10. great reference to the all the nutrient dense foods. sorry to see so many references for sugar…will make the kids “demand” that sweetness going forward. my kids got in a habit of demanding mayonaise from their grandfather’s style of eating brocolli and it was a hard habit for me to break of theirs.

good call on smoothies. couple other ways for chard, kale and collard greens. the kale chips (oven recipe) is a winner but you can saute them also, as with the brussel sprouts. for kale and swiss chard, cut away the center stem and cut to 1″ by 2″ or 3″ strips (they shrink during cooking). put in a touch of olive oil (easy though each spoonful is 120 empty fat calories) and saute for a while till they wilt, and even after that. it brings out the natural sugar in the veggies. you can add sea salt or kosher salt to taste/remove bitterness and italian seasoning or other seasoning your kids like. saute them with mushrooms, onions, garlic and/or eggplant for a nice side dish. i’ve found for my kids as soon as you start with the garlic or onions in the saute pan, and the kitchens just smells “yummy”, they always ask, what’s cooking and are predisposed to liking it because of that nice smell of the saute.

for brussel sprouts, cut in half and follow above recipe. i’ve read on others adding a bit of bacon fat or small pieces of bacon in the saute. i’ve have not tried it that way but have heard of good successes.

ditto of collard greens but you can also make that the first layer inside a wrap. for really healthy one, try ezekiel sprouted grain wrap (nice nutty flavor) with collard green (2″ by 6″ strip), then hummus, cucumbers, tomatoes or whatever the kids like.

the last way i’ve seen for kale, collard and chard that works is cutting to smaller 1″ squares and putting into soups and/or pasta sauces. they cook at low temperatures in the soup or sauce, keeping all the nutrients in the soup/sauce and just go “down the pipe” with the rest of what’s in their mouths and often they don’t even know they’re getting energized nutritionally.

We are 6/10 as well. But last night was so awesome… my daughter (18 months today!) gobbled up her broccoli. Kept wanting more and more. She usually eats it but last night she was loving it more than ever. Really cute and funny.

My daughter loves brussel sprouts… she loved cabbage already. I personally prefer cabbage since brussel sprouts seem stronger.