Articles


Taco Salad the Kids Will Love


 

PHOTO BY CHRIS XAVER

When the temps rise, the last thing I want to do is heat up the kitchen. In fact, hot food doesn’t appeal to me at all. But a cool, crisp salad does. And my little ones like salad, too, especially when it’s topped with taco fixings. But while most of the items in a taco salad can be “healthy,” the hidden sodium in most packets of taco seasoning makes this potential health food disastrous. Depending upon the brand, sodium in packets of taco seasoning range from 240 to 830 milligrams of sodium per serving. A serving is two teaspoons, which flavors two tacos.

My version drops that sodium right down to size: 180 milligrams of sodium in a more flavorful and cheaper alternative. Make this taco seasoning and you’ll find you use it on more than just tacos. It’s delicious rubbed on steak or chicken, and even sprinkled on eggs.

What you do next depends on your family, your tastes and your eating philosophy. I have the kids help me wash and toss the lettuce. If you have a salad spinner (and you should), make sure to rinse the lettuce well and let the kids tear it into bite-size pieces.

The lettuce you use makes a big difference in nutrition. In my house, I tend to use baby spinach as “lettuce” because spinach has a whole suitcase full of health benefits over iceberg lettuce. Think two times as much calcium, iron, niacin and vitamins A, B, C and B-12. Plus, baby spinach has protein, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. So, if you and your family like spinach, make that the base of your salad. If you don’t, pick your lettuce. Remember, the darker the color, the more nutrients.

On top of my green base, I allow the kids to add their own ingredients. What we have to choose from is typically shredded carrots, corn, grape or cherry tomatoes, black beans and shredded cheddar cheese. I also like to add sour cream or Greek yogurt, but the kids don’t seem to like that as much. No worries, that topping can be reserved for the adults.

While I like avocados, I have yet to convince the kids they’re yummy. But I keep trying. And having them watch as I cut them open and take out the stone really helps. The kids really like the stone and want to play with it. One of these days, they’ll take a bite of the fruit. Avocado is filled with healthy fats, so if your kids (or you) like it, please add slices.

Research is showing that eating avocados with your salad helps you absorb more beta-carotene and lycopene than if you ate the greens without the fruit. The reason is simple: Those two antioxidants are fat-soluble. And the healthy fats in avocados help break down the pair and allow us to reap all the more health benefits.

That leads me to another health update: More and more we’re hearing that certain fats are good for us. I am now adding healthy fats to my diet to take advantage of the benefits. And what I’ve found is that the more I add fats like avocado to my diet, the more full I feel. I have been adding healthy fats such as coconut, avocado and nuts to my diet, and I’ve lost 10 pounds over six months without making any other changes. It’s because I’m not hungry. When I was eating a fat-free diet, I always joked I was hungry every three hours (I was on a baby’s feeding schedule).

Now, I am satiated between meals. And I find the kids are, too. No more searching the pantry trying to find something to munch. So, I’m off my soapbox, but I hope I have intrigued you enough to do some research and to consider adding a few avocado slices to this salad.

 


Chris Xaver, Ph.D., is a local TV and radio personality with three children and five grandchildren. Her healthy lifestyle show, The Sweet Life, is airing on public television stations nationwide.





© Family Times: The Parenting Guide of Central New York