As a mom, I'm always searching for simple ways to improve my family's diet. I've certainly had my share of epic mealtime fails — the time I served beef stroganoff over green spinach noodles springs to mind — but I've also discovered several more successful ways to boost my family's nutrition without traumatizing their picky palates.

One of my favorite easy methods for boosting nutrition without compromising flavor? The versatile and increasingly popular flaxseed.

The Nutritional Benefits of Eating Flax

Flaxseed, which can be consumed whole, ground, or as an oil, is an excellent source of high quality protein, soluble fiber, and the omega-3 fat known as alpha linolenic acid. In fact, just 2 tablespoons of flaxseeds contain almost 200% of the required daily value of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower cholesterol and promote cardiovascular health.

According to AskDrSears.com, flax also has many health benefits for children. The fatty acids in flaxseeds are important for growing brains, and flax supplements are even thought to boost immunity as well.

"One study showed that children supplemented with less than a teaspoon of flax oil a day had fewer and less severe respiratory infections than children not supplemented with flax oil."

Cooking with Flax: Tips and Recipes

Flax is a versatile food that is easy to incorporate into many of your family's favorite recipes. If you want to try cooking with flaxseeds, here are a few helpful hints.

  • Whole flaxseeds need to be ground before consumption for maximum health benefits, so purchase ground flaxseed meal to avoid the extra step.
     
  • Keep a shaker of ground flaxseeds in your refrigerator, and then let your let kids "sprinkle" it on their oatmeal, yogurt, or applesauce.
     
  • Flax has a mild, nutty flavor, so a few tablespoons in anything from meatloaf to muffins to smoothies aren't likely to be detected. Ground flaxseed can be added to breading for chicken or fish, and also makes a great addition to granola and pancake batter.
     
  • Some families prefer to use flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil can be taken by the spoonful, or mixed into condiments like ketchup or mayonnaise.
     
  • Use a mixture of flaxseed and water as an egg substitute when baking. This is a common practice in many vegan recipes.
     
  • Drinking flax milk, which is similar in flavor to almond or soy milk, is another way to consume flax. Good Karma's Original and Vanilla Flax Milk both taste delicious over cereal, and add an extra hint of sweetness when used in recipes like Cinnamon Vanilla French Toast.
     
  • Some cereals and multigrain pastas can be a good source of flax, but read labels carefully.
     
  • Visit websites that feature a variety of flaxseed recipes or read The Flax Cookbook to learn even more about cooking with flax.

Disclosure: I received samples of Good Karma's Unsweetened, Original, and Vanilla Flax Milk. The Vanilla flavor was the overwhelming favorite in our house, though we prefer using it over cereal or in recipes to drinking it plain.