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Fall picks: 3 family worthy power foods

fall ingredients

Thanksgiving. Cozy sweaters. Soup simmering on the stove. There is just something about fall that screams comfort and family, and the season's nutrient-packed produce plays perfectly into both.

Culinary Arts

This year, ditch the fatty food. Pile the kids in the car and head to an orchard or farmers market. Let the little ones help you select and prepare the food and activities that lay the foundations for healthy eating and fond memories. Not sure where to start? Here are three of our favorite fall foods, chosen for both their nutritional value and kid-friendly potential.

Fall produce: 3 kid-approved faves (really!)

Apples

If fall had a taste, it would most assuredly mimic apples. In addition to being high in fiber and vitamin C, apples contain phytonutrients that help regulate the blood sugar. Translation: apples satisfy your child's sweet tooth without sugar highs (and crashes). Apples are widely available in grocery stores, but bringing your kids to a local pick-your-own orchard or a farmers market is a great way to emphasize the benefits of eating locally and seasonally.

Apples make a great side for your child's packed lunch, but don't underestimate their culinary potential. Think: almond butter and apple sandwiches, homemade apple sauce, baked apples stuffed with walnuts and raisins, and apple-stuffed pork tenderloin. Let the younger kiddos wash and polish them and teach older children how to use kid-safe peelers.

Winter Squash

Butternut. Acorn. Pumpkin. Winter squash is a nutritional powerhouse: the flesh supplies powerful antioxidants like alpha- and beta-carotene while the seeds provide healthy fat, including omega-6 fatty acids. Grocery stores carry an increasingly diverse variety of squash, but farmers markets, produce stands and pumpkin patches yield fresher fruit.

Skip the pumpkin pie. Instead, roast and puree squash for soup or stuff squash with apples and walnuts for baking, or use spaghetti squash in lieu of your usual pasta. Scooping out the flesh and separating the seeds for roasting is messy fun for kids of all ages.

Beets

Never served your kid a beet? It's time to reconsider: beets are an excellent source of fiber, iron and potassium, and may even prevent cancer. Choose fresh beets over canned whenever possible--you'll likely find them at your grocery store or local farmers market. Beets are also easy to grow yourself.

Kids love unusually colorful food, and beets take advantage of that in the most nutritious way. Pureed beets pink-up baked goods (try pancakes) and make dinner plates or mixed salads pop. You can also sneak them into the occasional chocolate dessert. Your kids can help by cleaning and preparing beets for cooking, and slipping roasted beets from their skins.

Locavores-in-training

The advantages to using seasonally, locally-grown produce means fresher ingredients and a decreased impact on the environment. Additionally, you are supporting community farmers. Check out the National Resource Defense Council's snazzy produce finder to know what is in season near you.

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            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
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            L'Ecole Culinaire , Kansas City
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