Do you know that it’sbetter to feed your kids vegetables instead of ice cream? We’re allaware that making sure your kids get the right nutrition isimperative to their overall development.
But, what are thehealthiest foods for kids and how do you get them to actually eatthem? Are all nutrients equally important? Or are some proteins,fibers and multivitamins for kids more beneficial at this age? Hereare some things we should keep in mind to ensure a balanced diet forkids.
WhatAre the Key Nutrients for Kids?
The right balance ofessential nutrients helps children with their physical as well asmental development. Getting the right dose of proteins helps build,maintain and repair muscle tissues, while a fiber-rich diet can helpwith digestion and healthy bowel function.
It is important tokeep in mind that while words like fats and carbohydrates are oftenconsidered taboo in healthier diet plans for adults, for kids, theyhave numerous benefits. Especially omega-3, omega-6 and fatty acids.
Carbohydrates derived from natural sources provide kids with all the energy they need to get through their day. With school, homework, sports, extracurricular activities and hobby classes, they need the right amount of energy to keep them going.
Here are some examplesof:
|Foods high in protein||Foods high in fiber||Foods high in healthy carbohydrates||Foods high in healthy fats|
|Almonds Oats Chicken breast Milk Yogurt||Vegetables Nuts and seeds Grains and cereals Fruits||Quinoa Sweet potato Beans and lentils Whole wheat bread Pumpkin||Cheese Whole eggs Fatty fish Avocado Dark chocolate|
WhatAre The Most Important Vitamins For Kids?
Getting a grasp on theABC of essential vitamins is simpler than you think. But let’s justsay it’s more of an ABCDEK:
Vitamin A is the eyedoctor. It improves eye health. Some other benefits includeinflammation reduction, improved immunity and better-looking skin.It’s found in colorful vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes,spinach, squash, kale, cantaloupe, apricots, red bell peppers,broccoli and mangos, helps with improving vision, bone strength, hairgrowth, nails and skin health, and boosts immunity against commoninfections.
Vitamin B is more of agroup of essential vitamins rather than being a single one. Likedifferent members of a rock band, each of them plays a key role. Thisgroup includes Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5,Vitamin B6, Vitamin B7 and Vitamin B12. Together they improve yourchild’s metabolism and help produce red blood cells. Grains likewheat and oats, meat and fish, eggs, milk, yogurt, leafy greenvegetables, beans or green peas come packed with these. If your childisn’t too fond of these, please ask your doctor which multivitaminsfor kids can supplement their Vitamin B intake.
Vitamin C is theBand-Aid of the vitamin family. It helps repair red blood cells, boneand tissue, speeds up the healing of cuts and wounds, and improvesthe health of blood vessels and gums. Guavas, oranges, strawberries,pink grapefruit, cantaloupe and mangoes are a great source forVitamin C for kids.
Vitamin D is thesunshine vitamin. Because soaking in some sun is the best way toabsorb this vitamin. It helps the body absorb calcium and isimportant to build strong bones and teeth. After all, stronger bonesmake stronger kids. On days when it’s too hot to go outside,salmon, mackerel, egg yolk, yoghurt, orange juice, milk or cheese canbe good alternatives to get the daily required dose of Vitamin D forkids.
Vitamin E is the forcefield vitamin. It’s commonly found in nuts and seeds like almonds,sunflower seeds or peanuts, and helps prevent infections and booststhe body’s immune system in the fight against germs. So, you don’thave to prevent your kids from playing and occasionally getting theirhands dirty.
Vitamin K is theWolverine vitamin. It keeps the platelet count up in your children –in simple terms: it helps the blood clot quickly when they fall andcut themselves. Eggs, meat, fish, liver, leafy green vegetables suchas spinach and kale, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus and cauliflower areexcellent sources of this vitamin. Together, they keep kids active,energetic, more immune to common infections and diseases, sharper,more alert, and less likely to be cranky.
Whyis Iron Important For Kids?
Iron is one of the most important nutrients for a growing child. Low levels of iron in the body can often lead kids to feel lethargic, low on energy, and in some cases anemic.
One of the key benefits of iron is that it helps produce hemoglobin, which carries the much-required oxygen throughout the body.
Another one of the important iron benefits is that the right iron-level in the body aids with the development of the brain. Foods such as fish and red meat are most easily absorbed by a child’s growing body, so a healthy, balanced diet for kids should include at least one serving of meat or fish per day.
Between the ages of 1to 3, children can be rather fussy about what they eat. So, ensuringthat they get their daily dose of iron can be difficult. This iswhere iron supplements come to the rescue.
Anyone who’s evertried to feed a child (something other than cereal or ice cream)knows that they don’t always eat what you want them to. It’sstressful trying to figure out what to make to nourish their tinybodies.
Plus, just because itgets served doesn’t mean your kids will eat it, despite that, kidsneed nutritious food-healthy fats for their brains, calcium for theirbones, and all the vitamins and minerals vegetables offer-and more.
These 10 foods are not only super-healthy for your kids (and for you!), but are also versatile and easy to prepare:
One cup of berries has4 grams of fiber and is high in vitamin C and other antioxidants likeanthocyanins. Blueberries, blackberries and strawberries are alsolower in sugar than many fruits.
Fresh berries make anexcellent snack for kids or a great topping for yogurt. If berriesaren’t in season, buy unsweetened frozen berries and mix them into ajar of overnight oats or a smoothie.
“Yogurt is awonderful option for breakfast, a snack, or even a dessert but youhave to watch the added sugar content,” says Katie Andrews,M.S., R.D., a childhood nutrition coach and owner of Wellnessby Katie. “It’s a healthy, filling snack that checks theboxes on protein and vitamin D, a nutrient many kids lack in theirdiet.” Yogurt also delivers probiotics, good bacteria that areimportant for maintaining a healthy gut.
An easy way to pickout a healthy yogurt? Buy plain Greek yogurt, which has zero addedsugars plus twice the protein of regular yogurt.
Most yogurt that’sflavored has added sugar; some new products are flavored with justfruit, but plain is always a safe bet. It’s easy to add flavoryourself by adding berries and sprinkling a whole-grain cereal on topor creating a fun parfait with fruit.
Short on time and needsomething nutritious? Wash a sweet potato, poke some holes in it andmicrowave it for 3-5 minutes (depending on its size). Slice itlengthwise, let it cool, then scoop onto your child’s plate.
Whether your kid is 6months, 6 years old or 16 years old, sweet potatoes are appealingacross the board (because they’re sweet!). They’re packed withvitamin A (over 300 percent daily value for an adult), fiber andpotassium.
Limiting salt andincreasing potassium keeps blood pressure and hearts healthy.
One large egg has 6grams of protein and delivers vitamin D, vitamin B12 and iron. Someeggs are also fortified with omega-3 fatty acids, which aid in kids’brain development. Don’t worry about the cholesterol-saturated andtrans fats have a bigger impact on raising bad cholesterol than eggs.
At breakfast, skip thepastries, fried foods and processed meats and scramble some eggs foryour kids instead. If your kids aren’t fans of scrambled, trydifferent presentations like egg salad or egg casseroles.
Eggs also make a greatstarter food for babies. Doctors used to recommend not giving eggsuntil babies were 12 months old, but research now shows thatintroducing allergenic foods between 6 and 12 months might helpprevent food allergies.
Beans are a humblesuperfood. They’re loaded with protein and fiber, plus they’re cheapand take little time to prepare. Buy low-sodium canned beans such asblack beans, chickpeas or kidney beans.
Simply open the can,rinse them to remove extra sodium and add to any dish. “Replacingground beef with beans in a quesadilla or tossing beans with pastahelps maintain high-quality, lean protein while adding a keynutrient: fiber,” says Andrews.
There are pastas madefrom beans too, look for brands like Banza, Pow and Tolerant Foods.“Kids ages 4 to 8 need around 25 grams of fiber a day, and mostproducts marketed directly to kids, like fruit snacks and cheesecrackers, contain little if any. Fiber helps promote healthydigestion and helps your kids feel fuller, longer, so they aren’tasking you for a snack 5 minutes after dinner ends,” saysAndrews.
Milk helps buildstrong bones because it’s full of calcium and vitamin D. One 8-ounceglass is also high in phosphorus, vitamin B12 and potassium, and has8 grams of protein. Babies shouldn’t have cow’s milk until age 1.
Offer whole milk untilage 2 but keep it under 32 ounces for the day or they might be toofull to eat their food. After age 2, kids can drink low-fat milk witha goal of three servings of dairy per day-yogurt and cheese counttoo. If your kid doesn’t like cow’s milk, there are a variety ofalternatives on shelves today.
But check thenutrition labels and choose unsweetened or plain varieties for yourkids. Plain may have some added sugar to match the sweetness of dairymilk, which may be more palatable to tiny taste buds.
Every alternative milkhas a slightly different nutrition profile; soymilk has the mostprotein. And you’ll get the same calcium and vitamin D benefit aslong as the milk is fortified.
Avocados are an easyway to get healthy fats into your child’s diet. They are high inmonounsaturated fats, which decrease inflammation and keepcholesterol levels healthy. Fat moves through the digestive tractslowly, so it keeps kids full longer. But the best part of avocados?
Their versatility. Youcan eat them with a spoon, mash on toast, throw into a smoothie, mixinto chicken or tuna salad, or make a pasta sauce like avocado pesto.Avocados also make a great first food for babies.
8.Nuts & Seeds
Swap the low-fiber,crunchy kid snacks (you know the ones that are practically air) fornuts and seeds to deliver a healthful trio of fiber, protein andhealthy fats. Mix it up by offering cashews, walnuts, almonds,pecans, sunflower seeds, chia seeds and more. If your child has atree nut allergy, seeds may be a safe choice and a good way to getimportant nutrition.
Nuts are high inmagnesium, a mineral that’s crucial in bone development and energyproduction. Walnuts, pecans, chia seeds and flaxseeds are high inalpha-linolenic (ALA) acid, a type of omega-3 fat that the body can’tmake (so you have to eat it). Offer nuts alone or with dried fruit,throw flaxseed into smoothies, sprinkle chia seeds on peanut buttertoast, use sliced almonds to “bread” chicken instead ofbreadcrumbs, or make your own granola bars.
Kids and adults alikedon’t eat enough veggies. If you can get your kid to eat anyvegetable-kudos! However, the more color and the greater the varietyof vegetables, the better. Each color delivers different nutrients:leafy greens like spinach and kale are high in vitamin K, orange andred vegetables have vitamin A, peppers are packed with vitamin C, andcruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower containcancer-fighting compounds and feed good gut bacteria.
“Really it isabout taking the ‘fear’ away from veggies-while a slice of pizza isvery approachable, a stalk of broccoli can seem intimidating,”says Andrews. “So make veggies easy and accessible. Wash and cutcelery, carrot and cucumber sticks and keep them in the fridge forsnacking. If you have some green space available, plant a smallgarden with cherry tomatoes and sweet baby peppers; when kids growtheir own food they are proud of the results, and therefore morewilling to indulge in the bounty.”
Don’t give up afteroffering a vegetable a few times. It takes repeated exposure.Switching up how you serve the vegetables can help too. Some kidswon’t eat raw tomatoes but will eat cooked diced tomatoes in a pastasauce.
Whole grains deliver anutrient seriously lacking in most kids’ diets: fiber. Fiber keepsthem full and regular. Kids need about 25 grams per day, but manysnacks only contain 1-3 grams per serving. Look for 100-percent wholewheat or whole grain in the ingredients list (don’t be fooled byfront-of-pack marketing) and at least 3-5 grams of fiber per serving.
Easy whole-grain foodsfor kids include oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta (try half whole-wheat,half white if they won’t tolerate all whole-wheat), brown rice, andwhole-wheat tortillas and bread. You can also use whole-wheat flouror white whole-wheat flour when making pancakes, cookies or pizzadough.
Tipsfor Getting Your Kids to Eat Healthy Foods
How can you actuallyget your kids to eat more of these super-healthy foods? Try theseideas.
- Aim to make half of their plate fruits and vegetables, one-quarter whole grains like bread or whole-wheat pasta, and one-quarter protein like eggs, meat, cheese, beans or nuts.
- Get your children involved in the cooking and they’ll be more likely to try the food.
- “Be a healthy-eating role model,” Fogt also recommends. “Kids are watching your every move! For example: Sit down with your kids, eat every 3-4 hours yourself, enjoy healthy snacks and meals, make mealtimes fun and relaxing, play games at mealtime, get chatting, get rid of phones at mealtimes, take the pressure off the food and make it a time to connect. Because in our busy lives this downtime is sacred and it’s not about the food.”
- Take off the pressure. Research shows that kids who were forced to eat certain foods as kids often grow up to dislike or avoid those foods as adults. Coercing kids to eat foods makes mealtime stressful for them and you. “Keep calm and carry on,” says Fogt. “It’s a long process-I hate to say it, but often can be years-as parents. You have to be so ‘chill.’ No pressure on the child to eat and no pressure on you to force-feed.”
- Remove negative language from the dinner table, says Andrews. “Saying ‘you’re probably not going to like it but give it a try’ tells a child that the food isn’t worth trying!” she says. Introduce new foods along with those with which they are familiar.
- Remember you’re not alone. Seek help if needed! Registered dietitians, pediatric psychologists, pediatricians and feeding specialists can help.