Healthy Snacking for Kids: Seeds and Nuts

When your kid rides the bench at a Little League baseball game, he may be getting something out of it that you never expected: nutrition. Those sunflower seeds your little slugger is spitting out with his teammates are a nutritional hit, packed with potassium, iron, calcium and good carbs.

Mix up your kids’ sack lunches and after school snacks with a selection of seeds and nuts. Pistachios, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews – even peanuts in the shell – are a fun way for them to eat healthy. Most kids, at least those without nut allergies, like the taste of seeds and nuts. They add nutrition to your child’s diet without the “yuck factor” many kids associate with healthy foods.

The tiny sunflower seed, plentiful in Little League dugouts across America, scores higher than any other nut on the ANDI index, a popular system used to measure the nutrient density of foods. ANDI, short for Aggregate Nutritional Density Index, is a score assigned to whole foods that measures not just vitamin and mineral content, but also the phytochemical content of foods. Basically, foods that have the most nutrients per calorie rate the highest.

Whole Foods Market has adopted the ANDI as a nutritional measurement tool in its stores. Sunflower seeds pack a walloping score of 78 on the ANDI. The following is an ANDI ranking of the most nutrient-dense seeds and nuts, in order of highest nutrients per calorie:

Sunflower seeds

Sesame seeds

Flax seeds

Pumpkin seeds







The latest trend in seeds and nuts is “sprouted” varieties, which some nutritionists believe to be highly healthy because of added enzymes. When sprouting occurs, a plant is at its nutritional peak. Check out your local health food store (sprouted beans, nuts and seeds are available at Whole Foods and Sprouts Markets) and sneak in some sprouted beans, nuts and grains on salads or for a snack. If nothing else, stick with the old-fashioned bagged sunflower seeds on the dugout bench.

Whole Foods Market

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