I haven’t always been a huge fan of tomatoes. Don’t get me wrong. My dad’s spaghetti is one of my favorite meals of all time, and it’s usually the first thing I cook when I’m feeling homesick. In the past, however, I always picked the tomato slice off my hamburger or asked the waitress to ‘hold the tomatoes’ on my salad. I didn’t mind eating them cooked, but raw was another story. It wasn’t until I started growing them in our garden that I made myself eat them raw – I couldn’t pass on the fruit of my own labor! Over time, I really did start to love them. And they are a good food to love. There are so many varieties of tomatoes to try, and they offer incredible heath benefits whether eating them raw or cooked. Let’s take a look closer at this lovely red fruit (yes, it is a fruit!) Hello, tomato…
Tomatoes are a super-food. They are a natural source for essential vitamins, minerals and cancer-fighting antioxidants whether consumed raw or cooked. Eaten raw, they are a great source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, & Vitamin K as well as potassium, which is good for your heart! Their high levels of Vitamin C help your body absorb iron, an essential mineral that helps transport oxygen throughout your body. This makes them a great addition to any diet, especially pregnant women, who need even more iron. When tomatoes are cooked, they are a great source of lycopene, the antioxidant that gives the tomato its rich, red color. Studies have found that lycopene helps to prevent certain types of cancer and heart disease. Detailed nutritional data can be found here.
AT THE MARKET:
Tomatoes comes in dozens of varieties and colors, although red is the most common. Don’t be afraid to try a new type! Look for bright colored, unbruised fruits that are firm but slightly give when you feel it. They should have a light, sweet fragrance to them.
IN YOUR KITCHEN:
Tomatoes are best stored on the counter and out of direct sunlight. If they aren’t fully ripened, put them in a brown paper bag with a banana to help speed up their maturation. Unless they are about to spoil, don’t refrigerate your tomatoes. If you have to refrigerate then bring them to room temperature before using to retain their taste.
The easiest way to preserve tomatoes is to freeze them. To do so, simply place into plastic bags without any excess air, seal and freeze. You don’t have to peel beforehand because the peels will slip off easily once thawed. Also, if you want to try your hand at canning, this looks like a good visual tutorial to walk you through that process.
INTRODUCING TO BABIES:
It is recommended to wait until baby is around 10-12 months before introducing tomatoes, and even then to make sure they are cooked (not raw). They have a high acidity that may cause tummy upset or a red rash around the mouth. We actually experienced this when serving a simple spaghetti sauce to Remy when he was around the recommended age. The rash lasted a few days, and I waited to serve them again for a couple of months. It wasn’t a problem when re-introuced. As always, talk with your pediatrician about what is best for your baby.
INVOLVING YOUR LITTLE SOUS-CHEF:
*Tomatoes are a GREAT vegetable to grow at home! Even if you don’t have a full garden, you can buy a few single planters and let your little one help you start small tomato plants. They will love being a part of the process – watering, watching them grow bigger and helping you harvest once the fruits start to grow! Check your local farmers market in the spring when small plants will probably be available for purchase.
*Do you have a picky eater? On your next library visit look for the book “I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato” and perhaps your picky eater will be inspired try something new, like tomatoes!
*Set aside a pizza-making night on the weekends: let everyone help make their own pizzas by spreading on the sauce, placing toppings on top and sprinkling the cheese. Pizza can be an fun and healthy meal if you choose quality ingredients.
RECIPES + IDEAS:
I’m trying to get into the habit of adding tomatoes to our diets every day. Because there are benefits to eating them both raw and cooked, there are serval ways to include them with at least one meal a day (breakfast included). One thing to keep in mind is that lycopene, the antioxidant mentioned above, is fat soluble. This means that its more easily absorbed when used with healthy fats, like olive oil or real butter. You can throw a few chopped cherry tomatoes into your morning eggs cooked in butter, add tomatoes to your salad (with an olive oil vinaigrette) or add a home-cooked spaghetti to the menu one night each week. Here are some other kid-friendly ideas I found that looked delicious…
Tomato Sourdough Soup
The Easiest Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (for family pizza night!)
Lentils & Goat Cheese Salad with Roasted Beets & Tomatoes
Tomato Basil Mozzarella Salad
Classic Tomato Spaghetti
Shakshuka (a traditional Israeli dish typically served for brunch; it is delicious)
Creme Fraiche Galette with Heirloom Tomatoes
I’ve also been pinning other recipes and ideas if you want to join me over there! Do you have anything interesting to share about the tomato? What is your favorite way to enjoy this healthy yet delicious fruit?
February 17, 2015
*A note on introducing solids to babies: Did you know The American Academy of Pediatrics issued new guidelines in regards to infant feeding and switching to solids? In the past, it was advised not to introduce certain foods out of fear they may cause allergic reactions; however, they didn’t find enough evidence to prove that when you offer a new food makes any difference as to whether or not the baby will have an allergy to that specific food. The AAP recommends “exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby’s life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complimentary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.”
**Any information or opinions provided in this post are based on my own research and is not meant to be used as medical advise or in lieu of treatment from a doctor. Please consult your primary physician and/or pediatrician for what is best for you and your baby.