Children’s nutrition requirements simulate, for the most part, the same principles as adult’s nutrition. All people require the same nutrients like protein, fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals. However, hungry kids require different amounts of certain types of nutrients at different ages.
Your nutritional choices for your child are important. Good nutrition is crucial for your child’s development and good health. And, the American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to consider their decisions on nutrition as “health decisions.”
So, what health decisions should you make to feed your child’s development and growth? Here are 10 recommended nutritional food choices for children.
Protein helps build cells in your child’s body, fight infection, break their food down into energy and carry their oxygen. Choose high-protein foods like:
- Dairy products
For meats, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends lean cuts of meat (90 percent lean or higher), including:
Eggs are good food for your child’s brain. One study indicates offering your newborn child eggs beginning at six months old leads to higher blood concentrations of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and choline, along with other choline pathway biomarkers. Choline is an important nutrient. It performs in various roles ranging from learning to cell structure. On the contrary, DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that correlates with infant development and healthy aging, especially with neuronal and immune functions.
Greens like kale and spinach are full of vitamins and folate. They’re associated with lowering your chances of dementia later on in life. Kale is loaded with antioxidants and other things that help grow new brain cells.
Salmon and other fatty fish are good sources of the EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids — both important for brain function and growth. Research recently shows individuals consuming these fatty acids are doing better on tests for mental skills and have sharper minds.
5. Yogurt and Milk
Milk, yogurt and other dairy foods are loaded with B vitamins and protein — both important for brain tissue growth, enzymes and neurotransmitters. Yogurt and milk both offer more carbohydrates and protein which is the brain’s preferred energy source.
Infants under one year old need a minimum of 400 IU per day of Vitamin D, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics report, while adolescents and older kids need 600 IU a day. Vitamin D is essential to your overall human cell life cycle and neuromuscular system.
Children need fiber to fill them up and keep them regular. Furthermore, when your child eats a fiber-rich diet, it protects them from a number of potential future chronic disorders. Even though the recommendation is 19 to 25 grams of fiber per day for children, you may still want to go by the “rule of five.” This is where you add five grams to the age of your child to ensure they achieve their minimum daily gram goal. So, according to Parents magazine, if a child who is 4 years old requires a minimum of nine grams of fiber daily that would equal:
- A half cup of strawberries
- Two whole-grain bread slices
- A half cup of brown rice
Children need fats for energy and their bodies store it easily. Fats also help your child’s body use up its other nutrients properly as well. High-fat foods include:
- Whole-milk dairy products
- Cooking oils
8. Fruits and Vegetables
Motivate your kids to eat their fruits and vegetables by making it fun. Give them healthy ingredients to work with and allow them to prepare their own food based on their skill level and age. By doing this, your kids may just try foods they wanted nothing to do with in the past. Here’s a fun idea:
Since children often love dipping their food, cut up some vegetables for your child and make a quick dip out of yogurt and garlic, herbs or other seasonings. Serve the dip with raw veggies like carrots, cauliflower or broccoli. You can also serve chunks of fruit with a vanilla or cinnamon dip made with yogurt.
Go with whole grains like:
- Whole-wheat bread
- Wild or brown rice
Limit your child’s refined grains like pasta, rice or white bread.
Grill up some kabobs with veggies and beef chunks for dinner. A stir-fry is another good idea to make with veggies and beef. While your child doesn’t necessarily need to be a vegetarian, you may also wish to grill up some soy burgers and top them with a tomato slice or salsa. Or, have them indulge in a spinach salad with strawberries and mandarin oranges so they get their Vitamin C.
Remember, you’re the role model. What your children see you eat will be what motivates them to eat. Therefore, if your child sees you munching on a bag of chips, they’re likely not going to reach for the plate of raw veggies. Try and steer clear of processed and pre-packaged food as much as possible. Opt for more natural food and beverages. Also, since children love to snack, make sure you leave out healthy snacks for them and ditch the sugar — cookies, chips and soda.
You can check with your child’s pediatrician if you have concerns about your child’s nutritional needs.