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How I Got My Kid to Like Walnuts

A mother shares her secret for getting her daughter to eat walnuts. Plus healthy, yummy ways to use this nut.
By Monica Kass Rogers
WebMD Magazine - Feature

Felice Bogus is used to the vagaries of childhood tastes. Her 9-year-old daughter, Margalit, is open to foods such as kimchi-flavored seaweed while rejecting kid-meal mainstays like hamburgers. But that can flip-flop from one day to the next.

"I've learned not to make any assumptions," says Bogus. So when she packed a walnut-heavy trail mix into her daughter's lunch, she watched to see what would happen. Unfortunately, the walnuts came back -- three times. "Once was, ‘Just didn't feel like it.' Twice was, who knows? But after three walnut rejections, I thought, ‘Yeah, this is just not working.'"

Bogus didn't give up, though, because she values walnuts' nutritional benefits. She dug deeper for another solution. "When Margalit was little, one of the first solid foods she loved, and never stopped loving, was pesto," says Bogus. "So that was the logical entry point." Bogus replaced the traditional pine nuts with toasted walnuts. Happily, Margalit has given walnut pesto a thumbs-up every time. "It's especially good served with any kind of grilled or sautéed fish," Bogus says.

Healthy Benefits of Walnuts

Ancient Greeks believed walnuts could heal everything from baldness to burns. Some of that was bunkum, but scientists today tout a host of benefits the Greeks didn't even suspect. For starters, the walnut has significant amounts of ALA -- plant-based omega-3 fatty acids (2.5 grams per 1-ounce serving), which can help reduce "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and cut the risk of heart disease.

Walnuts are also good for the brain. Researchers at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich., recently showed that walnuts boost cognitive function. An ounce of walnuts provides 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and high levels of antioxidants. Walnuts are also high in "good" fats (1 ounce has 13 grams of polyunsaturated fatty acids plus the ALAs).

Toasted Walnuts

Walnuts' strong flavor can take a little taming for some palates. That's partly due to the thin "skin" -- the pellicle -- around the nutmeat, which contains tannins, another good nutrient for heart health. Try toasting the nuts, which mellows the taste, adds crunch, and enhances aroma. Preheat your oven to 350°F and spread 2 cups nuts in a single layer. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Mix into smoothies; sprinkle on cereals, yogurt, and salads; or grind to use as a crust for fish or poultry. For a tasty alternative to peanut butter, put 2 cups toasted walnuts in a food processor and pulse until paste-like. Add a pinch of salt and slowly add 2 tsp walnut oil until the butter binds together

Pesto, Presto!

Fresh and beautifully bright green, this is the walnut pesto that won over Bogus's daughter. Drop 3 unpeeled garlic cloves in boiling water and cook 45 seconds. Drain water; peel and mince cloves. Combine garlic with ¼ cup toasted walnuts, 2 cups mint leaves, 7 tbsp olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt in a food processor. Grind until smooth, stirring in ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese at the end (substitute crumbled feta cheese, if you like). Serve over grilled fish or toss with whole wheat pasta.

Reviewed on February 01, 2012

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