Why Chicago parents should add some color to their diets

After the darkness of this year’s brutal winter, we welcome the first bright burst of spring and look forward to adding color back to our wardrobes. It’s also a good time to colorize our diets.

Salad in a Jar

gseServes 4


  • ¼ cup walnut oil
  • ¼ cup cranberry juice
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. agave nectar (light or dark)
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • ¹/8 tsp. salt
  • ¹/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 head radicchio, sliced crosswise into ribbons
  • ½ head red leaf lettuce, chopped

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, cranberry juice, mustard, agave nectar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Place the beans in the bowl with the dressing, stir to coat, and set aside.

Place ¼ cup of the bean mixture in the bottom of a tall mason jar. Follow with 2 Tbsp. feta, 1 tsp. cranberries, one-quarter of the radicchio, and one-quarter of the red leaf lettuce. Repeat with the remaining jars.

Nutrition per serving: 330 calories, 32 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 9 g protein, 18 g fat (4 g sat fat), 17 mg cholesterol, 428 mg sodium

Used with permission from Eating in Color: Delicious, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Family, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2014

But how exactly is that done without breaking the bank and spending loads of time on cooking? What are the myths about eating the colors of the rainbow?

“White foods aren’t good for you” and other myths

For years we’ve heard the message to eat the colors of the rainbow. But where does that leave white and brown foods?

“While it’s true that deeply pigmented produce is especially healthy, there are plenty of foods that aren’t colorful in the traditional sense that are still incredibly good for you,” advises Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, author of Eating in Color: Delicious, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Family.

She points to black and tan ingredients “like chia, hemp and flax seeds, as well as barley, coconut and chocolate” as being healthful. White foods such as cauliflower, onions and mushrooms also hold incredible nutritional power.

You can still add color to your family’s diet while staying on a budget. Don’t forget frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at the peak of freshness with a nutritional value just as good as fresh. Largeman-Roth, a mother of two (with one on the way), recommends CSA shares to obtain lower cost, high quality local fresh produce.

Isn’t it time-consuming to cook healthy? Not necessarily. Largeman-Roth suggests making a weekly date with your kitchen.

“If you’re ready with ingredients and have blocked out time in your calendar, you’ll find that you can prep enough food for three to four meals plus snacks,” she says.

Picky, picky, picky

Playing up the fun factor of colorful and nutrient-packed foods can help kids with even the most discerning palates dig into what’s good for them.

Even picky eaters can be tantalized with beautiful-looking food. And don’t be afraid to serve veggies with cheese on top or with a dip. A little bit of extra flavor can go a long way toward encouraging little ones to try new things.

Vibrantly colored foods found in nature can be healthful and taste yummy, too. So add a pop of spring color not only to your wardrobe this month, but also to your family’s meals.

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